Egg donor IVF is a fertility treatment option for those who can’t use their own eggs, for whatever reason.
Especially when using a screened egg donor (as opposed to a family member or friend), the success rates for egg donor IVF are good—higher than the average IVF success rates for couples not using a donor.
While egg donor IVF means the intended mother will not be genetically related to her child, the intended father will be. (Unless a sperm donor is also being used.) This makes it more attractive of an idea than embryo donor IVF. With an embryo donor, neither intended parent would be genetically related to the child.
What Occurs During the Egg Donor IVF Process?
Here’s a very condensed and basic explanation of what the egg donor IVF process looks like.
For the sake of simplicity, the below explanation assumes a heterosexual couple is having a child with the male partner’s own sperm, and the female partner is going to carry the child. The below explanation also assumes you’re using “fresh” eggs and not frozen.
Before cycle decisions and logistics
After a reproductive endocrinologist determines that egg donor IVF would be the best option for a couple, the intended parents should meet with a psychologist or counsellor. They can discuss the psychological risks and benefits to egg donor IVF and decide if this is the right path for them.
The intended parents will also likely meet with a financial advisor at the fertility clinic. Egg donor IVF is very expensive, and they will need to 1) be sure they can afford it, and 2) create a plan on how to get the funds they need.
Once the fertility doctor and a therapist have cleared the intended parents, the next step is finding an egg donor.
The process of finding an egg donor requires time and careful consideration. You may spend months on this step.
This is another issue a therapist familiar with donor IVF can help you with.
Once you find and select a donor—and once they are available for your cycle (there may be a waiting period)—you’ll need to attend to a number of legal and financial matters.
Each party should have their own legal representation. It’s worth the extra money for the peace of mind.
Cycle before donation
Once all the legal and financial issues are settled, and the donor and intended mother have completed whatever fertility testing and screening is required for treatment to begin, you’ll start the actual egg donor IVF cycle.
This starts the month before.
The intended mother and donor will need to have their menstrual cycles put in sync.
This way, when the donor’s fertilized eggs are ready for embryo transfer, the intended mother’s uterus will be physiologically ready to accept an embryo.
This means taking birth control pills and usually also injectable hormones that suppress the reproductive system.
Once the donor and intended mother get their periods, the treatment cycle itself will begin.
The donor will be taking injectable fertility drugs in order to stimulate egg production. Her cycle will follow very closely to a conventional IVF cycle, skipping the embryo transfer.
The intended mother will give herself injections meant to suppress the reproductive system (so the doctor can keep the donor and her in sync.)
She will also take oestrogen supplementation. The oestrogen will signal the uterus to create a suitable lining.
When the eggs in the donor’s ovaries look ready, the donor will get an injection of hCG. This is also known as a trigger shot. It will start the last stage of egg maturation.
Around this time, the intended mother will start taking progesterone supplementation. Like the oestrogen, this helps prepare the uterus for the embryo.
The donor will come into the fertility clinic for the egg retrieval. Egg retrieval is done using an ultrasound-guided needle.
After the egg retrieval is complete, the donor’s active role in the cycle is over. She will be given home care instructions for recovered from the egg retrieval, and instructions on what to do if she suspects she’s developing ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).
That same day of the egg retrieval, the intended father will provide a semen sample. (In some cases, the sample may be prepared and frozen earlier. But it’s usually done on the day of the egg retrieval itself.)
The retrieved donor eggs will be put together with the intended father’s sperm cells. Hopefully, some of the eggs will become fertilized.
After three to five days, the intended mother will come into the fertility clinic for an embryo transfer.
One to two healthy looking embryos will be transferred into the intended mother’s uterus. Any extra embryos will be frozen—or cryopreserved—for a future cycle.
The intended mother will continue to take progesterone supplementation.
About ten days after the embryo transfer, the intended mother will take a pregnancy test to see if the cycle was a success.