If you’ve decided to use an egg donor, you’re not alone. More than 11 percent of all high-tech fertility treatments now involve donor eggs.
In 2007, (the most recent numbers published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) over 10,000 in vitro fertilization (IVF) attempts were made using donor eggs. With an average live birth per transfer rate of 50 percent, that means more than 5,000 babies are born each year as a result of their mothers using donor eggs.
While there are many reasons why a couple might decide that using a donor egg is their best choice for becoming parents, the mother’s age is often the determining factor. Few women younger than age 39 use donor eggs, but the use increases sharply afterwards. By the time a woman is older than age 45, more than three-quarters of all ART (assisted reproductive technology) cycles use donor eggs.
For women younger than 39, a variety of medical conditions may lead to the donor egg option. Younger women who might choose to have a child using donor eggs include women born with poorly functioning or non-functioning ovaries, women with premature ovarian failure (which means they cannot produce usable eggs), women who had their ovaries removed as a result of cancer treatment, and women who know they could pass along a genetic disease to a biological child.
Friend or Stranger? The First Choice in Selecting Donor Eggs
Once you’ve decided to become pregnant using donor eggs, how do you actually go about finding the donor? A handful of people use someone they know—either a family member, a good friend, or even someone they’ve met through a support group. Susan*, for example, is using someone she met at an infertility support group who could easily produce eggs but not carry a child. Susan already has one daughter through an open adoption, which, she says, makes it easier for her to deal with the fact that another woman may also love her child. “We see my [adopted] daughter’s birth mother regularly and it doesn’t bother me a bit to see them kiss.” Her egg donor has twins through a gestational carrier, so Susan is confident that the donor and her husband know what’s involved in the egg donation process—both mentally and physically. “Because of that, I’ve agreed to go into this relationship with them,” Susan says.
Using someone you know has certain benefits, says Andrea Mechanick Braverman, Ph.D., director of psychological and complementary medicine at Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey in Morristown. “You know what kind of a person she is and what kind of family she comes from. No matter how detailed a history form you get on an anonymous donor, you’ll never learn as much as you would if you actually know her.” Using a known egg donor also means that if her medical history changes in the future, you’ll know about it. And, if all parties are amenable, your child will someday be able to meet the donor/biological mother.