The egg donation process is an increasingly popular option for couples and women struggling with infertility. 93% of fertility clinics in the United States offer egg donation services, and Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility is no exception.
While the egg donation process certainly has its merit, aspiring parents mustn’t get swept up in the promises of egg donation without fully understanding their options. This is why the science behind the egg donation process is the driving force behind the way Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility consults its patients.
In this guide, readers can expect the following:
We debunk the three common myths associated with the egg donation process.
We dive into the 5-steps behind the egg donation process. This covers everything from legal considerations to scientific procedures.
Debunking the Myths of Egg Donation
First thing is first, let’s debunk a few myths about the egg donation procedure. After all, a lot of fertility clinics take a business-first approach to consulting their patients, which is often to the detriment of aspiring parents who happen to be in a vulnerable place in their fertility journey.
Myth #1: The egg donation process is at least $20,000-$30,000.
The cost of egg donation can reach as much as $30,000, but as you’ll see in the following sections, many variations within the egg donation process can inflate or deflate the total cost. This primarily includes determining the source of the egg donor, and the logistical variables like location and travel costs that come with that person.
Myth #2: If you’re struggling with getting pregnant, an egg donation is your only option.
At Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, we exhaust all options before advising that patients seek a third-party donor. We don’t assume that age or a decreased ovarian reserve negates the ability of a woman to use her eggs to get pregnant. We like to discuss with patients IVF treatments that use your eggs first, before even discussing an egg donor.
Myth #3: There are a lot of legal processes involved in egg donation.
This is not necessarily true, as often the legal work is already taken care of at the point of donation. You’ll see as we get into the process how the legal aspect of egg donation often takes care of itself regardless of the option you select.
The Complete Egg Donation Process
At Arizona Center for Reproductive Infertility and Endocrinology, we take a science-based approach to working with our patients. You’ll never see our clinic recommending gimmicky procedures to vulnerable patients. We take a science-based approach and lean on clinical trials to guide our recommendations.
To that end, Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility leans on a five-step process for egg donation.
Step 1: Initial Screening
In the beginning, Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility likes to determine conclusively that an egg donation is truly necessary. It doesn’t need to be stated that most aspiring parents want to be able to have their “own kids,” meaning the pregnancy occurs from their biological eggs. Therefore, Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility wants to exhaust other options before turning to a third-party egg donor through the IVF process. This all gets done at the initial screening and consultation.
Step 2: Source the Donation
If IVF with a patient’s eggs proves to be unsuccessful, and it’s determined that an egg donation by a third party is necessary, a patient’s options as far as sourcing the egg donation then become a personal, financial, and logistical decision. In the opinion of Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, there are three primary sources of egg donation.
Option #1 – A Known Donor
A family member or close personal friend can be an egg donor. A key advantage to having a relative donate their eggs is that it can help lower the cost of the overall procedure if they choose to waive a donation fee. For reference, at Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, our IVF procedure is a $5,300 fee not including the costs of the egg donor, the donor’s medication, logistics related to any travel, and agency or donation bank markup. With a known donor, it stands to reason that a family member might simply offer the eggs for free, taking much of the financial stress off of the situation.
Furthermore, a family member possesses many of the same genes, meaning the baby will likely inherit many of the traits that it would had it been your eggs in the pregnancy. Financially and scientifically speaking, this option is desirable because from a family member you will be able to receive all the eggs from the donor’s cycle, unlike an egg bank’s frozen eggs (more on that below). If you have someone in your life willing to donate their eggs, Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility will bring them in for a screening, and hopefully, as a team takes as much stress as possible out of this delicate process.
Option #2 – An Anonymous Donor:
At Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, we regularly meet with donors who are screened for family history, and any history of disease or drug use. Just like how we do with sperm donors, we screen and clear our egg donors, and from there try to match them with those receiving the donation with as many physical traits as possible (if desired). As with a known donor, a patient will receive all the eggs from an anonymous donor’s cycle to boost the number of eggs, increasing the odds of a pregnancy. However, this option usually incurs a fee on top of the base $4,500 IVF fee, making an anonymous donor a mid-tier option cost-wise.
Option #3 – Egg Bank:
Much like sperm banks, egg donation banks make it possible to coordinate your donation from anywhere in the world. These egg donation agencies allow aspiring parents to pick and choose the physical traits they desire and have the eggs frozen and shipped to their location for the IVF procedure. While this sounds like an ideal option, keep in mind that these agencies must pay their donors, and markup the services for their own company’s profit. With the potential need to coordinate the logistics of shipping the eggs to your location, the cost can quickly escalate.
From a scientific standpoint, this process also has its drawbacks. Namely, the risks of freezing and shipping the eggs, then having the clinic thaw and fertilize any surviving eggs, and then develop those surviving eggs into embryos and establish a pregnancy leave a lot of room for error. This is evidenced by the fact that only about 50% of these types of donations result in pregnancies. According to Dr. Gelety, the Head Doctor at Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, egg donations from an egg bank are “the most expensive, and the least effective” option.
Step 3: Documentation
Once you’ve selected your donor type, it’s time to ensure that any legal documentation has been taken care of. As we said earlier in the article, the “legal” components of an egg donation are not as prominent as they’re often made out to be (myth #3). Remember the three main sources of donation and ask yourself the motivation for any of them dragging a donation through a legal process:
- A known donor, like a friend or family member, likely won’t require a long legal process. If they do, then they may not be the right family member or friend to have to be your egg donor.
- An anonymous donor, like the vetted, approved donors enlisted through Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility is going to have the legal work already done before the donation.
- An egg bank will also handle the legal aspects of their donors to ensure a smoother process for the recipient.
Regardless, as you’re going through the process, make sure to confirm that no paperwork or legal steps are required by the clinic or agency that you’re working with. By and large, if you’re going through a loved one or reputable donor, this should be a quick check of a box before we get into the procedure itself.
Step 4: Stimulation of the Donor’s Ovaries
Next, the scientific process truly gets to take over. In the case of a donation where a known or anonymous donor is providing the eggs, and the eggs are not being purchased from an egg bank, the woman donating the eggs must be scheduled for ovarian stimulation.
Ovarian stimulation is done with the intent of sourcing multiple, healthy eggs for an IVF treatment. The stimulation process takes place over a few weeks. In the beginning, the donor begins preparing her ovaries for stimulation by taking oral estrogen, or estrogen-progesterone pills. These are similar to what is found in standard birth control pills.
As the donating woman nears her cycle, and at a time specified by the doctor, the donor has FSH and LH injected into her ovaries to make multiple eggs develop. Remember that a woman’s body normally only prepares 1-2 eggs per cycle, so by injecting the FSH and LH you are boosting the size of the follicles to help boost the quality of the retrieval.
While this is happening, the donating woman may be given medication that delays their ovulation, since the eggs being donated must be retrieved before the cycle. This only needs to happen until your follicles have reached the required size, and at which point the donating woman is administered an hCG shot, which is the final medication given that triggers the eggs for retrieval.
Step 5 – Retrieval!
The fifth and final step in the egg donation process is egg retrieval. This is generally done 1.5 days (~36 hours) after the hCG shot has been administered. During egg retrieval at Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, the donor is administered conscious sedation. Once the sedation has been administered, the patient experiences a painless procedure in which a small needle punctures the follicle in the ovary where the eggs are located, and is extracted.
Once this is complete, the woman receiving the donation goes under a normal IVF procedure using the donated eggs.
Although there are a few known side effects to egg donation, this is a safe and common procedure.
Remember, if you are struggling with infertility, the first thing you should do is seek a medical screening to determine whether your eggs are not viable for pregnancy. Only then should you consider alternative options like egg donation. There are a lot of predatory tactics at fertility clinics that put profits before science and offer procedures that have not gone through proper clinical trials or peer review.
At Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, we are committed to helping women and couples who want to get pregnant using a science-first approach, and that starts with looking at your unique case and circumstances.
If it’s determined we need to explore an alternative option like egg donation, we then proceed with the process. If you have any questions, get in touch with us by sending an email to schedule an appointment. You can also follow us on social media.