Let’s talk about oocyte donation!
Oocyte donation is one of the most successful ways to start or complete a family. Over the last 10-15 years, the number of women who are using donated oocytes has increased to over 1000 thawed donor egg cycles in 2012.
For whom is donor oocyte recommended? Patients may have undergone premature menopause as young as 20 or they may have failed multiple IVF cycles related to a low number of eggs or poor quality eggs. Some patient may have a low number of eggs related to surgery from having an ovary removed or multiple surgeries for endometriosis. For others it may be a result of cancer therapy or age or being born with a low number of eggs.
How are women who donate their eggs chosen? These women are usually between the age of 21-30. Most women know someone struggling with infertility and often times this is a motivating factor to donate their oocytes. Donors undergo rigorous screening, from genetic screening, mental health testing, a thorough history and physical exam, endocrine testing, toxicology screening and infectious disease testing. Once they have successfully completed all testing and have been provided informed consent, they undergo in vitro fertilization. In vitro Fertilization involves injectible medications to make multiple follicles which are “the shells that house the eggs”. Once their “eggs” are mature, they are harvested. These eggs are either frozen via vitrification for future use by a patient or they maybe freshly donated to a patient who is already undergoing endometrial preparation to receive the eggs.
What is the difference between using freshly donated oocytes as compared to vitrified oocytes?
In the past, most egg donation cycles were fresh. This meant a donor and the recipient would have their menstrual cycles synchronized and over the next 6-12 weeks the donor would undergo ovarian stimulation while the endometrium for the recipient was prepared for transferred. All of the oocytes created by the donor would be given to the recipient. However, if the oocytes were immature or poor quality or the donor had a complication the recipient would have to choose a new donor and go through the process and the cost again. The cost is usually 1.5 to 2 fold higher for fresh oocyte donation vs frozen oocyte donation. With frozen oocytes, the recipient chooses 6 mature oocytes from a donor of their choice (chosen based upon pictures of the donor as a child or adolescent). As soon as the oocytes are selected, they are shipped to the patient’s clinic and the time from the start of the cycle until the pregnancy test is approximately 6 weeks as the only menstrual cycle to be regulated is that of the recipients. Pregnancy rates are the same between both modalities.
What are egg banks? At the Center for Reproductive Medicine, we are part of a national frozen egg bank called My Egg Bank. The egg bank is a national consortium of clinics who all provide services for donors to donate their eggs but also care for recipients who require donor eggs to start their families. The oocytes or eggs from each clinic are made available to all patients within the egg bank. The advantage to a national egg bank is that there is incredible diversity of donors and there are very high standards for the clinics to maintain to be a part of the egg bank.
Oocyte donation is an incredibly safe and efficient option for many patients. Please reach out to us at the Center for Reproductive Medicine, so that we can provide guidance or information to help you on this journey to parenthood.