If a woman cannot use her own eggs to become pregnant, a couple may choose to use donor eggs, which can be fertilized with the male partner’s sperm and transferred to the female partner’s uterus. Egg donation has made carrying a pregnancy possible for couples that would not have otherwise been able to.
A woman’s eggs may not be viable due to age or presence of a genetic disease. Women in their later 30s and early 40s experience a decline in their ovarian function, which reduces egg quality and fertility. Other women may experience a significant decrease in egg number or quality earlier in life. Some women may use donor eggs because they are at risk for passing on a life-threatening disease to their potential children.
The infertile couple, in consultation with the fertility center, can choose an egg donor. It is not current practice to freeze and quarantine eggs, as is done with donated sperm, so both the egg donor and the female recipient undergo fertility treatments to synchronize their cycles for optimal embryo transfer.
The egg donor must undergo ovarian stimulation and egg retrieval, as in the initial step of IVF. This requires more time and impacts the donor’s life more than sperm donation, so in the United States, egg donors generally receive payment for their assistance. The couple seeking assistance usually is responsible for payment.
While the donor undergoes ovarian stimulation, the infertile woman who will receive the eggs takes hormone medications in order to prepare her uterus for embryo implantation. The male partner gives a semen sample, which will be combined with the donor eggs for fertilization, and one or more healthy embryos are then transferred to the recipient’s uterus. The male partner will be genetically related to the baby, and the female partner will carry the pregnancy and be the recorded birth mother.
Egg donation produces the relatively high birth rate of greater than 50 percent nationally and often offers infertile couples the best chance of pregnancy. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, nearly 10 percent of assisted reproductive cycles in the United States use donor eggs.
Seeking professional counseling is recommended when considering egg donation. Talking with a trained professional who is familiar with the complexities and lifelong implications of using donor eggs can be very helpful in determining the final decision. In addition, most IVF practices recommend (and some states require) having an attorney file egg donation paperwork with the court after the couple and the egg donor have spoken with a counselor and the attorney.
The fee for a first time egg donor could be in the range of $4,000 to $6,000, in addition to donor selection, screening and treatment costs added to the IVF procedure price. The infertile couple pays these fees since insurance doesn’t include egg donation. Exact costs may vary depending on if the donor has previously donated or has had eggs that have already been used in a successful pregnancy.