12: How to choose an egg donor
Many couples think the value of their egg donor is the genetic material she provides for your surrogacy procedure. They choose an egg donor with physical characteristics that they desire, such as hair or eye color. In reality, choosing your egg donor is a far more crucial component on the success of your procedure.
Some people choose an egg donor who is a family member or friend; other people choose to work through their agency or fertility clinic, which usually can pair an egg donor with you and your surrogate.
A good egg donation will mean the difference between a successful IVF procedure or a heartbreaking disappointment. Success of your egg donation is measured in the number and quality of the eggs provided — and their ultimate ability to result in a successful pregnancy. Here’s why…
The probability of success for any surrogacy procedure ranges from 65% for high-quality fresh embryo transfers to 45% for medium quality embryos. Even among the world’s best clinics, it is not certain that your first embryo transfer will be a success. Therefore a successful pregnancy depends upon being able to repeat your embryo transfer, with multiple high-quality embryos, perhaps several times. The more high-quality embryos you have, the more opportunities you have to repeat the procedure, and the greater your chance of success.
An average egg donation will typically result in 12 to 14 eggs, which become 10 to 12 viable embryos. Of these, perhaps 2 to 4 will be high quality (enough for only one or two good embryo transfers). Obviously the goal of any IVF and surrogacy procedure will be to have as many high-quality embryos as possible. For this, you will need to choose an egg donor that will provide at least 14 or more eggs. Less than this, and you may not have sufficient high-quality embryos to repeat your embryo transfer procedure and ensure a successful surrogacy.
A young and fertile donor with good fertility history can produce up to 20 or more eggs per donation. This is enough for 4 or 5 transfer attempts, and an excellent likelihood of an eventual successful pregnancy.
When you choose an egg donor, it is important to work closely with your agency, ask questions about the fertility history of each candidate, and pay attention to fertility indicators including age and previous pregnancies. We have excellent relationships with many egg donation agencies, and can help you work with them to find suitable donor candidates.
Among the most critical factors in choosing an egg donor is the woman’s age and her previous fertility history. Young donors (between 20 and 28 years) respond more predictably to fertility treatments, and will provide a greater number of healthy eggs. A proven history of fertility (previous pregnancies and children) shows that the donor not only can provide eggs, but healthy, fertile eggs.
What to look for when you choose your egg donor
Here is the list of criteria to look for when you choose an egg donor…
1. Has she donated before, and how many eggs were retrieved?
2. Has she donated too recently? Be sure she has donated in at least the past 3 to 4 months.
3. Are her eggs fertile… which means does she have children or have previous donations resulted in pregnancy?
4. Her age? In general younger is better, and women in their early 20s give the best results.
But balance this with the fact that most young women don’t have a fertility history yet, so a very young donor may not have the information to answer questions 1 to 3 above.
5. Does she have lots of Siblings? Some people may conclude that if her parents were very fertile, so will she.
Finally…. don’t choose just one donor candidate. You should make a list of your top 5 and then let the clinic run evaluations as to who is fertile at the moment. Women’s fertility fluctuates from month to month, and someone who is the excellent choice today may not be the best choice next month.
If you are planning to have a friend donate eggs for you, they will need a series of blood tests (and possible ovarian scan) to qualify as a donor. The clinic or your agent can explain exactly what is needed, and when they should be taken. Read about the requirements to qualify as a donor.
Collect the egg donor’s medical records and recent test results (as described elsewhere in this Guide) and provide them to the IVF clinic. If you are working with a donation agency they will manage this. Otherwise your surrogacy agent can assist you in managing the paperwork.
Based on the date that you have set for your sperm donation and desired IVF, the clinic will define a complete procedure calendar. The detailed calendar includes the egg donor’s fertility treatments and clinic appointments, the surrogate’s treatments, your donation, as well as the dates for the egg donation, IVF procedure, embryo transfer and pregnancy test.
If you are not working with a egg donation agency, you and your donor will need to coordinate all of her treatments and tests with a local fertility specialist. The treatments are not over-the-counter, and will require a doctor’s oversight.
Options for choosing an egg donor
If you need to choose an egg donor, here are the possible sources you can consider. The option you choose will depend on your personal preference and cost.
1. Choose an egg donor through the local agency and/or clinic. This is the least expensive option, however the limitation is that local donors are always the ethnicity of the local population. For some couples it is important their donor “look like them”, meaning be Western or Caucasian. But if you don’t mind that your child may be partially Asian or Eastern European, then a local donors is often an excellent option. The cost of local donor is typically quite low becasue cost of living in most overseas destinations is lower than in the US, and the donor will not need to travel.
2. Choose an egg donor through an international donation agency. International agencies have donors of almost any ethnicity, and they are generally the most thoroughly screened and evaluated donors available. The cost of a donor is about $14,000 to $20,000 USD. This cost includes her travel expenses to the overseas clinic for the stimulation and donation (which is about 15 days).
Your agent should work with a few excellent donation agencies, and they will make that introduction and then facilitate the donation process. Part of the agent’s responsibility is to make sure that you get an excellent donation, which will be critical for the success of your surrogacy program.
3. Have a friend or family member donate for you. Not many people choose this route, but it’s an option. If you know someone who is willing to donate, she should first have a series of basic fertility tests to make sure she’s fertile. She will then need to spend 15 days at the overseas clinic for the stimulation and donation process.
Regardless of where your donor comes from, the cost of your IVF & Surrogacy program is generally unchanged. Your clinic should include the cost of the donation procedure in the standard IVF package. You only need to pay for the compensation to your donor, the costs of her travel, and any fees to her representing agency.
About Anonymous Egg Donors Overseas
By law, egg donation in many countries is 100% anonymous. This means that parents are not allowed any personal information when they choose an egg donor other than her medical history. They are not given any name or even a photograph. When you consider a local donor you will need to base a decision solely on the medical evaluation of the woman. Once you choose a profile that meets your needs, the clinic can send a photograph of the woman, but without identifying details. At that time, IPs can refuse the woman based on her physical characteristics, and then can look for another anonymous profile.
Anonymous egg donor services work like this… You will fill out an egg donor request questionnaire. In this document you can specify your personal criteria, including the physical characteristics. Based on this information your clinic will provide a collection of profiles that meet the criteria. Once you choose an egg donor you like (and usually make a down payment) the clinic will send a photograph of the woman. If you do not like the photo, you have the option to refuse that donor and select a new one.
All of the egg donor profiles provided by Sensible Surrogacy have been evaluated by our clinic, and all have had previous successful donations (resulting in a pregnancy). So we are very confident in the quality of our local egg donors. In addition, before starting stimulation treatments on your donor, the clinic will provide a follicular scan for your donor, which will allow the doctors to see the number of follicles she has to be retrieved. If there are fewer than 10 to 12 eggs, the clinic will recommend that you choose a new egg donor.
If you choose a donor from an international agency, you will have more information about the donor, including her photos and some personal information.
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