How to Become an Egg Donor
The Egg Donor Program
By becoming an egg donor, you are helping make it possible for a family to achieve their dream of having a baby. Your generosity will enable others to make their dream of becoming mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers a life-changing reality.
Why are Egg Donors Needed?
Egg donation frequently benefits women who cannot use their own eggs for various reasons, including ovarian failure, avoiding congenital anomalies in the fetus, advanced age, and more.
- 1 in 8 couples (or 12% of married women) have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy. (2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth, CDC)
- 7.4 million women, or 11.9% of women, have ever received any infertility services in their lifetime. (2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth, CDC)
The decision to use donor eggs often comes after multiple failed attempts at pregnancy using the woman's own eggs. Others have suffered the heartbreak of miscarriages . Whatever the root causes may be, it's important to understand that no one takes donor eggs—or egg donors—lightly.
Egg donation can be used for women who have had problems getting pregnant and for LGBTQ couples or individuals. Good candidates who may need a donated egg include women who:
- Don’t ovulate, have diminished ovarian reserve or premature ovarian failure (the group most likely to need egg donation)
- Are in menopause (including from removal of the ovaries, chemotherapy and radiation)
- Have medical or genetic issues they would not like to pass on to their child
- Have poor quality eggs or embryos as indicated in previous attempts at IVF.
What is Egg Donation?
Egg donation is when a woman gives her eggs to another couple or individual with the hope that they achieve pregnancy. This is done during an office procedure where the donor is asleep or sedated through anesthesia. The donated egg will be fertilized by the male partner’s or donor sperm in the IVF process. The resulting embryo will be implanted in the womb of the woman receiving the egg to hopefully establish pregnancy for a successful birth.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , in 2019 the average transfer success rates resulting in a live birth for women using donated eggs was about 51 percent, with the average age of an egg donor being 26 years old.
Potential egg donors are thoroughly screened to ensure that their eggs will have a good chance of resulting in a pregnancy. Egg recipients will also be evaluated to make certain they are good candidates for a pregnancy with a donated egg.
It’s important that both egg donor and egg recipient completely understand the process and what is required of them. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine the time required to be an egg donor is about 56 hours.
Who is Eligible to Become an Egg Donor?
Positive Steps Fertility is looking for healthy women between the ages of 20 and 29 to include in our egg donor database. Donors must not use drugs, smoke or be a carrier for cystic fibrosis, sickle cell or other major known single-gene diseases.
To become an egg donor you must meet the following criteria:
- Between 21 and 29 years of age
- In good health (healthy weight and a non-smoker)
- Have no family history of serious hereditary diseases
Once you have completed the initial application process, you may be asked to complete a second form asking for more details.
If the information you provide indicates that you would be a good candidate, you will be invited to Positive Steps Fertility clinic for a day of tests, which includes a nurse consultation, physical exam, ultrasound, blood work and a psychological screening.
Egg donors screening process includes:
- Physical exam
- Sexual history evaluation
- Review of personal and family medical history
- Alcohol and drug use history
- Psychological history
- Screening for infectious and communicable diseases
- Motivation assessment.
Once the evaluation is complete, a profile is created for each donor listing interests, education and physical traits a recipient may desire in a possible future child.
Positive Steps allows the donor to be known or to remain anonymous. Known egg donors that are familiar with the recipient and by legally established agreement may remain a part of the child’s life, if both parties so agree.
With an anonymous egg donor, both the donor and recipient generally remain unknown to the other party, though this too can be altered by legal arrangement. Of note, while Positive Steps Fertility follows HIPAA regulations for privacy, it is possible that with advances in technology through genetic testing, you may be able to guess donors’ identities.
What is the Egg Donation Process?
Once you have completed the initial application process, you may be asked to complete a second form asking for more details. If the information you provide indicates that you would be a good candidate, you will be invited to a Positive Steps Fertility clinic for a day of tests.
These tests include:
- Nurse consultation
- Physical exam
- Ultrasound and blood work
- Psychological screening
The egg donation process requires the recipient and donor to participate in multiple aspects of the IVF process. Egg donation is often done as a fresh IVF cycle, meaning the donated egg will not be frozen but needs to be transferred in its “fresh” state to the recipient.
The fresh IVF cycle involves synchronizing the egg retrieval from the donor and the lab fertilization process to create an embryo and the transfer of the embryo into the recipient’s womb at the right time in her cycle when her uterus is most receptive to successful implantation for pregnancy. These steps include:
- The donor starts on medication that synchronizes the ovaries so that they are ready to generate eggs.
- After a baseline ultrasound, she starts medications to stimulate the ovaries to produce additional eggs rather than the normal one egg per month. Around this same time the egg recipient will begin taking estrogen to develop the uterine lining.
- Egg development of the donor is monitored by measuring hormone levels and with ultrasound imaging.
- When the eggs are ready, a fertility specialist uses transvaginal ultrasound aspiration. Under ultrasound guidance, a needle is placed through the upper vagina into the ovary to retrieve the eggs.
- Around the time of egg retrieval, the recipient will start to take progesterone to prepare her uterine lining to receive the embryo.
- An embryo is created by fertilizing the egg in the lab using the male sperm (IVF).
- The embryo will be transferred to the recipient’s uterus three to five days after fertilization.
- The recipient will continue to take hormones until the pregnancy test two weeks after implantation. If the test is positive, the woman will continue to take them for the early part of the first trimester.
Anesthesia is given during the procedure, and there is no pain. The procedure typically lasts up to 30 minutes. You will remain in the clinic for two to three hours to ensure your safety and that you are ready to return home.
How Does Egg Donation Work for the Recipient?
The female recipient and her partner (if applicable) should discuss with our fertility specialists options for conception open to them before choosing to receive a donated egg. Once this route is chosen, we will evaluate both the female’s and male’s medical history and test them for sexually transmitted diseases. If medical background indicates potential genetic issues, we will recommend genetic screening.
We will perform a pelvic exam of the egg recipient and evaluate her uterus. If the woman is of advanced age, we may evaluate her overall health prospects for pregnancy such as the condition of her heart. Of note, it is standard to only transfer a single embryo starting at the age of 45 for health reasons, though most recipients of donated eggs get single embryo transfer anyway. We will also test her partner’s sperm, or a donor’s sperm if that is being used for fertilization.
We also recommend counseling with a mental health professional experienced in third-party reproduction. Egg recipients face several emotionally charged issues and decisions that must be made, some far into the future.
For example, she may need to decide years later whether or not to tell her child about the egg donation, who that donor was and if she may be contacted by the child. The counselor can also help the recipient with issues involved in selecting the donor.
We will work with the recipient in choosing a donor from our database. Recipients can view information on the potential donor’s family history, background, medical history, interests and education. Our database includes information on a potential donor’s physical traits such as hair color, eye color, age, blood type, known medical conditions, and frequently a childhood photo for each donor. (We do not provide adult photos of donors in order to maximize their privacy.)
These are important things to consider. A recipient may not wish to use an egg from a donor who may appear to present medical issues in an offspring. Also, the recipient may be looking for a donor physically similar to her or her male partner so that the child is more likely to look like them.
How are Egg Donors Compensated?
At Positive Steps Fertility, we recognize the commitment and time invested in the process of giving. Knowing how much this can take in terms of time, energy and more, we compensate donors a total of $5,000 once they have completed a cycle in which we have retrieved eggs and up to $35,000 in total.
What are the Risks of Becoming an Egg Donor?
Most women produce approximately 200,000 eggs at age 21 and during the donor egg process we harvest only between 9-18 eggs.
The medical risks associated with egg donation are comparable to those linked with IVF and can affect both the recipient and the donor. Both women may have a risk of organ or tissue damage, blood loss, reaction to the medication, risk of infection and emotional concerns.
The donor can also experience ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), which can range from mild to serious cases. Possible symptoms include nausea, bloating, vomiting, abdominal distention and fluid retention.
Prior to donation, our staff will go over possible risks in depth with both the donor and the recipient.