Donor Egg.. What is it? How does it work?


When a couple is struggling to conceive, the first trip to a fertility clinic can be an overwhelming experience. It can be encouraging to learn, however, that today there are more ways to treat infertility than ever before. Using an egg donor to help grow your family, for example, could seem downright futuristic to the uninitiated, but it’s a lot less complicated than it may seem.

We have prepared this introduction to donor egg IVF to help you gain a better understanding of the process.

What to Expect in a Donor Egg IVF Cycle

There are many reasons why the use of a donor egg may be recommended to treat infertility. Some women are unable to become pregnant using their own eggs due to advanced maternal age, genetic disorders, premature ovarian failure, or previous medical treatments that affected egg quality. Assuming these patients are otherwise in good health, they may have success using a donor egg.

Some families are in the fortunate position of having a close friend or family member who is willing to serve as a donor.  Others may elect to choose an anonymous donor from a pool of candidates, either locally (fresh eggs) or nationwide (frozen eggs).

In an IVF cycle using a fresh egg, the donor must first undergo a screening process to ensure there are no underlying illnesses or genetic abnormalities that may affect egg quality. Next, the menstrual cycles of both the donor and the recipient are matched up through the use of fertility medications. Each woman’s body is also prepared for either egg retrieval or embryo transfer, depending on their role in the process. The timing must be quite precise to ensure that the recipient’s body is the right stage of her cycle for implantation.

When it works, it’s great, but due to the need for cycle synchronization, unforeseen circumstances like illness or family emergencies (on either the donor’s side or the recipient’s) mean that the process is often subject to delays.

In an IVF cycle using a frozen egg, the donor screening and egg retrieval process has already taken place, which means that there’s no need to synchronize cycles. When choosing to use a frozen donor egg, the eggs are ready for immediate selection and can be fertilized and implanted almost immediately, or at any time that is convenient for your family.

Is it Safe to Use a Frozen Donor Egg?

Whether the eggs are fresh or frozen, and whether they are coming from a close friend or an anonymous donor, the same rigorous screening is required. Prospective donors undergo a thorough physical exam and provide a detailed medical and social history. Genetic testing can help to identify over 102 genetic diseases to ensure the best possible outcome for those undergoing donor egg IVF.

Donors also receive psychological counselling to ensure that they understand what’s involved for them, both at the time of donation and in the future. In short, the interests of both the donor and the recipient are protected during donor egg IVF treatments.

Nobody should have to sacrifice their privacy to treat a medical condition -- and make no mistake, infertility is a medical condition. When selecting a frozen egg donor, many companies provide an online database of donors that you can view from the privacy of your own home. This is a very important decision, and choosing your donor outside of a clinical setting can help you to feel more comfortable about the process.

Unless using a known donor, it’s understandable that that you might feel an element of uncertainty in the donor selection process. Detailed profiles allow you to have a glimpse into your donor’s life. You’ll learn about her medical history, her hobbies, her education and her motivation for being an egg donor. At Donor Egg Bank USA, we also provide pictures of donors as children, so you can even get a sense of what your baby might look like.

Donors come from all walks of life, and most are at least partially motivated by a desire to help couples struggling with infertility achieve their dream of having a child. However, egg donors are also compensated for their time and effort in the egg donation process.

Are Frozen Donor Egg IVF Cycles Successful?

The field of reproductive medicine is an ever-evolving one. There are frequent announcements about new treatments that give hope to couples struggling with infertility. Until relatively recently, the use of frozen donor eggs was considered an experimental treatment. However, as more and more couples have been helped by this process, it has gained mainstream acceptance. Today, the successful pregnancy rates achieved by using frozen donor eggs are catching up to those of fresh donor eggs.

After the cause of infertility is discovered, choosing from the various treatments that are available today can seem like a big decision to take on. Ultimately, you need to make a choice based on your doctor’s recommendations and your highly personal needs. We’re here to help answer any questions you may have, no matter what course of treatment you choose.

Prepared by Heidi Hayes, CEO, Donor Egg Bank USA (