“You may have to opt for donor eggs”.
If this is a sentence you’ve heard from your healthcare provider, or if you’ve been offered this as an option, for you, it’s a new chance at starting a family.
On the other hand…
“I want to be an egg donor”
If you’ve ever thought of this, or heard about this, then this is a process that you consent for, where you donate your eggs, to help a patient in need, going through IVF.
Regardless, egg donation is a form of fertility preservation.
It helps families who are trying to conceive, helps donors who want to help others (while making a bit of money!), and helps further research in reproductive science.
But, how exactly does it work for you as a patient? Or a donor?
Let’s find out.
In this article: 📝
- Who is an egg donor?
- How does egg donation work?
- How much do you get for donating eggs?
- How many eggs can a woman donate?
- What are the chances of getting pregnant with donor eggs?
- What are the disadvantages of egg donation?
Who is an egg donor?
An egg donor is a person who voluntarily provides their eggs to be used in fertility treatments.
These embryos are then transferred to the recipient’s uterus to implant and grow into a baby.
Donor eggs are recommended for women undergoing IVF who have:
- Premature ovarian failure (caused by genetic issues such as Turner’s syndrome, autoimmune disorders, previous surgeries, or chemotherapy)
- Maternal genetic issues
- Advanced maternal age (which affects the quality of the oocyte (egg) — the greater the age, the greater the risk of genetic defects in the egg)
- Repeated IVF failures
In some rare cases and post-donor and lab consent, some donor eggs are also used for research purposes.
How does egg donation work?
it all starts with an initial screening test.
Once approved, the donor moves on to ultrasound monitoring, egg retrieval, then recovery and payment for the procedure.
On the clinical side of things, the eggs are frozen after the retrieval.
Once a recipient (the person who will be receiving the donor eggs) is matched, the eggs are warmed and used for IVF or ICSI.
If the recipient’s mid-IVF cycle, then the donor egg retrieval is timed and used for the recipient cycle accordingly.
How long is the egg donation process?
The egg donation process takes anywhere from four to six weeks, depending on your clinic, and after your screening process.
Here’s a breakdown of how long each process takes:
1. The screening test
This may take anywhere from a week to a few weeks.
An application form is to be filled, post which the donor’s medical history is reviewed.
After checking for eligibility, the donor can proceed to the next step.
2. Ultrasound monitoring
This is the start of the egg donation cycle, where the donor’s current egg growth is monitored.
As a donor, you may be put on fertility medication such as oral contraceptives, or gonadotropins to regulate and grow multiple follicles that house eggs.
Over a period of two weeks, you will have to inject medications and undergo regular visits to the clinic, until the final trigger to mature the eggs is given.
3. The egg retrieval process
This is the final stage of the egg donation cycle, and is done 36 hours after the trigger, and done in half a day.
The donor is administered general anesthesia and the gynecologist performs the egg retrieval process.
This usually takes a day or two for egg donors.
Then they’ll receive their agreed compensation and can go back to their normal activities.
Will my baby have my DNA if I use a donor egg?
An embryo that is made from donor eggs and partner semen, will have donor DNA and the paternal genetic material.
So your baby will not have your DNA if the maternal part is contributed by a donor egg.
How much do you get for donating eggs?
There are different amounts of compensation depending on where you’re based.
So let’s break it down:
According to Egg Bank America, the egg donor fee ranges anywhere from around $5,000 to $10,000.
The amount can be higher if someone has a track history of good-quality egg donation.
On top of that, all egg donor expenses are paid, including medical expenses, egg donor insurance, attorney fees, and travel expenses (hotel, transport, and up to $100 per day for food, etc).
In the UK, egg donors can receive a compensation of up to £750 per donation cycle to cover their costs.
Each donation cycle includes the process of retrieving and donating eggs.
The pay for egg donors can also depend on whether additional costs such as travel, and accommodation are provided for, by the clinic.
How many eggs can a woman donate?
As the number of eggs retrieved each cycle may vary, egg donors are limited to 6 cycles per donor.
Studies suggest that on average, around 10-20 eggs are retrieved per cycle.
So if an egg retrieval cycle results in 10 eggs, the maximum number of eggs that a woman can donate is about 60, in six separate egg donation cycles.
Is there an age limit for egg donation?
Yes there is an age limit when it comes to being an egg donor — typically. egg donors should be between 18 to 35 years old.
This limit is also part of the eligibility criteria for screening egg donors.
Clinics may only allow older egg donors in very rare cases, such as donating to a family member, which is arranged after a screening and a consent form.
What are the chances of getting pregnant with donor eggs?
According to the CDC, the chance of donor eggs and embryo transfers resulting in pregnancy is around 59%, with about 51% resulting in a live birth.
This is because egg donors are (usually) younger and tend to produce genetically healthy eggs, so the chances of getting pregnant with donor eggs are generally higher.
And in a study looking at pregnancy rates in women who used donor eggs in their IVF cycles, the pregnancy rate was also high (although any minor and major complications throughout pregnancy depended on their age).
How common are miscarriages with donor eggs?
As miscarriages are influenced by the genetic material of the sperm and the egg, patients who have been advised donor eggs can see a lower rate of miscarriage compared to using their own eggs for the IVF cycle.
What are the odds of Down Syndrome with donor eggs?
The odds of Down Syndrome with donor eggs are significantly lower than using the pregnant person’s own eggs, because the genetic material is that of the donor, not of the recipient.
So, according to the Washington University Physicians Fertility & Reproductive Medicine Center, if a 40-year-old recipient (with a Down Syndrome risk of 1 in 32) uses an egg from a 24-year-old egg donor, the chance of developing an embryo with Down Syndrome would be just 1 in 1100.
What are the disadvantages of egg donation?
If you’re considering becoming an egg donor, your healthcare provider should make sure you’re informed about all aspects of the egg donation process, along with possible risks and complications.
But some of the more common potential disadvantages are:
- Chance of being exploited by clinics
- Overstimulation during the cycle (Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome, or OHSS)
- It can be stressful
- It’s an anonymous process, so you may not know who gets your eggs or whether they result in a live birth
- Changes to the ovulation cycle for months due to the medication
- Risk of bleeding and infection post-retrieval
There can also be some side effects after the donation cycle, like headaches, mood swings, mild weight gain, bloating, nausea, and temporary stinging where the injections were administered.
Is donating eggs painful?
No, the actual process of egg donation shouldn’t be painful.
General anesthesia should be administered throughout the egg retrieval process, so you shouldn’t feel any pain during the procedure.
(We say “should” here, because we don’t want to dismiss the experiences of the women affected by the lack of pain medication at the Yale Fertility Center in 2020, but we’d like to stress that this is very rare, and is certainly not the norm.)
After the egg retrieval, however, some donors have experienced light cramping and abdominal pain.
If this is the case, your healthcare provider will likely suggest over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to manage the pain or discomfort.
Then, in a few days, you should be back to your normal self!
Is it safe to donate eggs?
Yes, it’s completely safe to donate eggs.
As with every other medical procedure, egg donation is a standardized medical process that comes with its set of side effects.
Most women feel minimal discomfort throughout their egg donation cycle, and any side effects are resolved with over-the-counter medication such as Ibuprofen or tend to resolve after the procedure.
If you’re trying to conceive, whether you opt for donor eggs is a decision that’s up to you, with advice from your healthcare provider, and you could benefit from a higher chance of getting pregnant.
For donors, you get the opportunity to help a family out and get compensated for it, but you’ll also be undergoing a medical procedure, taking on the potential risks and side effects.
But whether you’re looking to become an egg donor or a recipient, egg donation is a big decision.
Either way, your healthcare provider should help provide support and advice to inform of the procedure and the outcomes it may have.
And either way — egg donor or recipient — it takes a lot of courage to do what you have to.
If you’re after support, you can find it on Peanut, where you can join other women who are going through it all right with you.
You’ve got this!