30 May 2012 Egg Donation: A major role in treating infertility
In approximately 12 percent of all Assisted Reproductive Technology, or ART, cycles performed in 2009, 17,697 cycles used donor eggs or embryos to conceive according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Egg donation is the process in which a willing participant (donor) gives her eggs to another woman (recipient) to create a pregnancy using in vitro fertilization (IVF). This process may be used to impregnate an infertile mother or a surrogate. Egg donation helps conceive a child who is genetically linked both to the donor and the recipient parents (assuming the recipients contribute sperm for the IVF cycle).
Over the past 25 years this ART method has risen to the infertility challenge. Egg donation still comes with psychological and physical risks for donors and recipients; however, the wealth of information gained through clinical trials and advancements in technology have allowed specialists to create a smooth process for all parties. Agencies like Growing Generations act as a liaison for donors and recipients. They collect the information necessary from donors and deliver it to prospective recipients. This connection is the first step for recipients seeking a donor.
Many recipients don’t consider egg donation until it is suggested by a fertility physician. Recipients may learn they are unable to conceive due to conditions such as early menopause or ovarian complications. Recipients like Joyce McFadden give up hope after seemingly endless runs with natural conception and IVF attempts. Egg donation offers them the possibility of carrying a child with a genetic link to their partner. McFadden recalled:
“I stopped counting surgeries and procedures after the seventh in vitro. And still, 104 times my period came… As my chances of conceiving continued to fade, I spent a couple of those years reluctantly contemplating the idea of donor eggs, and weighing my ambivalence about carrying another woman's baby against never having the chance to carry one at all.” (www.huffingtonpost.com/joyce-mcfadden/donor-egg-love)
Ultimately, McFadden elected to look into the donation process and work through her ambivalence. She was pleasantly surprised with the donors available, selected an anonymous donor, and conceived with the aid of a donor egg.
Egg recipients and donors alike face a unique blend of physical and emotional trials. They must consider up front what type of donor-recipient relationship is best for them and their families—a “known” or “anonymous” donor agreement. A “known” donor is someone you would like to meet, speak with, or have the option of contacting in the future. An “anonymous” egg donor agreement indicates no future contact between the recipient and donor. Either way, expert legal counsel is strongly recommended to ensure all the details and contracts are properly executed. (www.fertilityauthority.com)
Today, donors attend multiple medical appointments to evaluate their psychological, physical and gynecological standing to be accepted. Things like medical and family history, laboratory screenings for infectious diseases or hereditary conditions, and psychological exams are common, so that the recipients gain a full view of the donor’s past and possible genetic permutations after conception. Many agencies also gather information about the donor’s educational achievements, musical abilities, athletic talents, and physical appearance to ensure a good fit for the recipient family. While these traits may not be hereditary, they may be indicators of the psychological nature of a person.
After a donor completes the initial screening process and is selected by a recipient, the final treatment for donation begins. Medication is used for a few weeks to temporarily halt the donor’s ovaries from functioning. A “fertility drug” is then used to stimulate multiple eggs in a single cycle; the eggs are removed from the donor, evaluated by an embryologist, and used to help the recipient conceive through in vitro fertilization (IVF). Donors may face physical risks like hot flashes, fatigue, sleeping problems, mood swings, headaches, or ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome (OHSS) and are advised to keep regular contact with their physicians and the donor agency during the egg donation process. (www.health.ny.gov)
Physically, the task of removing the eggs seems trivial when compared to the goal of helping an infertile couple build a family. Donors are generally driven by the prospect of aiding couples that have lost all hope of having a child naturally or through other ART procedures. Egg donation is expensive because donor selection, screening, and treatment add additional costs to the IVF procedure. However, the relatively high live birth rate for egg donation, over 50% nationally, provides many couples with their best chance for success. Many specialists and physicians agree, “Oocyte and embryo donation are here to stay and will continue in a major role for treating intractable fertility problems.” (www.SART.org).