The Process Behind Choosing an Egg Donor: What to Know and How It Works

When certain fertility challenges are present, egg donation may be the best option for a woman to get pregnant. Egg donation can give a woman the chance to experience the joys of pregnancy and give birth to a beautiful healthy baby herself. The process behind egg donation and choosing an egg donor is simpler than many people realize.

Who does egg donation work best for?

One of the biggest complications with fertility is that a woman’s reproductive life is limited. There comes a point in a woman’s life when she goes through menopause and she runs out of eggs. The average age of menopause for a woman in the United States is 61.5 years old, but when a woman experiences it early—perhaps due to leukemia, chemotherapy, or a hormone imbalance—it can be very devastating.

When a woman’s reserve of eggs has been totally depleted, they can’t be replaced. And it’s a very difficult problem to treat if her eggs aren’t frozen in advance. The eggs have to come from somewhere, and that’s where egg donation comes in. For women who have lost the function of their ovaries or who no longer have viable eggs, egg donation is a wonderful opportunity because there really is no other option; we have to have eggs to fertilize and implant in order to achieve pregnancy.

Where do the eggs come from?

Once we decide that egg donation is the best (or only) option for a woman to conceive, there are two options for obtaining eggs.

One possibility is using eggs donated by a family member, whether it’s a sister, cousin, or other relative. With this route, the genetics stay within the family, because the genetics are the same as (or similar) to the woman’s. When a family member has been selected, they are meticulously screened to make sure they themselves are healthy and that their eggs will produce a healthy pregnancy.

The other option is using an anonymous egg donor; because it’s anonymous, both the donor and recipient are protected. At the Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, we have a pool of young donors who have been thoroughly screened to make sure they’re healthy and don’t carry any diseases or conditions that could potentially be passed on or transferred during the egg donation process. In the case of an anonymous donor, we can match the characteristics of the woman who needs the eggs as closely as possible, including height, weight, hair color, eye color, ethnic background, and even interests and education.

How does it work?

The egg donor goes through a process that is standard with in vitro fertilization. After screening, the woman goes through a short treatment of hormones, and then a procedure is done to retrieve the eggs. Once the eggs are retrieved, the donor’s part is done, but we will follow up with them afterwards to make sure their cycle is back on track and that they’re on appropriate birth control.

For the recipient couple, the process is very simple. We follow them through their cycle, until the embryos are created and then implanted. The embryos can be implanted immediately during a fresh cycle, or later if the embryos are frozen until the couple is ready. The receiving woman simply needs a short cycle of medication, and then comes into the office for implantation—a procedure that feels comparable to a pap smear. Once the recipient is pregnant, we follow them for a while to make sure everything is going smoothly, and then they’re referred to their obstetrician for the remainder of their pregnancy.

Is it safe?

Once the egg donor has been chosen, we bring them in to our center and do a full physical work up and screening which is actually mandated by the FDA. We check to make sure the donor is healthy and doesn’t have any problems that could potentially be an issue for the pregnancy, patient, or baby. Because we use young, healthy women as donors the chance of having a healthy baby is much higher than it would be with an older woman using her own eggs. The risks of down syndrome and miscarriage are substantially lowered.

Egg donation is a wonderful way for a woman to experience pregnancy and a couple to have a baby when other options have failed. To make an appointment and learn if egg donation can help you, visit Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility online or call us at 520-326-0001.