Egg Donation Fact Sheet

This fact sheet provides basic information about egg donation.

What is egg donation?

Egg donation is a process when one person (donor) provides eggs to another. The person who accepts the donation (recipient) uses the eggs to conceive a baby and may be a surrogate, carrying the baby for another person or persons, or may intend to parent the baby. Egg donation is regulated by both the state and federal government in order to protect both the donor and any future recipients.

To donate eggs, the donor must be given medications that will cause multiple eggs to develop during a single cycle. The eggs are then removed from the donor during a surgical procedure that includes aspirating (suctioning) them from the ovaries. Once the eggs are removed, they are evaluated in the laboratory, after which they may be frozen for future use, or used fresh. Sperm from the partner or a sperm bank is placed around, or injected into, each egg to allow for fertilization (one sperm entering one egg) to occur. This process is called in vitro fertilization (IVF).

How is the recipient prepared for the embryo transfer?

The embryos resulting from IVF will be implanted into the recipient's uterus (womb). If the transfer is going to be done with fresh (not frozen) embryos, the recipient's uterus must be synchronized with the donor's stimulation so that they are ready at the same time. There are several ways to achieve this. If the recipient still has regular menstrual cycles, a medication is often used to suppress the recipient's ovaries and menstrual cycle. Once the donor starts the medication to stimulate their ovaries, the recipient begins taking estrogen to promote uterine lining development. Around the time of egg retrieval, the recipient will begin taking progesterone to enable implantation of the embryo (fertilized egg).

For frozen embryo transfer, the process is the same, but coordinating the timing is not necessary since the embryos are ready to use anytime.

The embryo(s) will be transferred to the recipient's uterus three to five days after fertilization (either frozen or fresh). Hormonal medicines continue to be given until the pregnancy test. If the test is positive, the medicine is continued during the early part of the first trimester of the pregnancy.

Who should consider using an egg donor?

Egg donation is used for a person who wishes to have a child but cannot get pregnant with their own eggs. This may be because they were born without ovaries, is in menopause, did not respond adequately to hormonal stimulation of their ovaries in the past, or has had poor egg or embryo quality with previous IVF attempts. People may also choose to use a donor if they have a genetic disease that they do not want to pass on to their children. Male couples or single males who wish to have a child may also use donated eggs.

Who can become an egg donor?

Egg donors are people usually between the ages of 21 and 34, who are willing to provide their eggs to a recipient. They may be known or unknown to the intended parents. Unknown donors are recruited through egg donation programs or agencies and are not known to the recipient. However, some couples find donors through advertisements. Recipients should be cautious about recruiting donors without the use of an intermediary to screen the donors and should strongly consider seeking legal counsel. Known (also called directed) donors are generally, though not always, a close friend or relative of the recipient.

What tests are performed on the donor?

The donor is tested for infections such as HIV, Hepatitis B and C, gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis. New York State requires reproductive tissue banks to establish criteria for genetic testing based on racial or ethnic background. All donors should be tested for the cystic fibrosis gene to determine whether or not they are a carrier of the gene. Some programs perform chromosome analysis and test for Fragile X syndrome. Other genetic testing should be performed based on the donor's history and ethnic background. Psychological testing is often done as part of the mental health screening. The donor also must disclose certain personal and medical information as well as medical history information of family members prior to donating eggs.

What else must a donor do?

Before becoming an egg donor, a person must give their informed consent. Informed consent means that the donor understands the process and any risks involved, and the conditions of donation. Potential donors must consent of their own free will, without any coercion. Depending on the circumstances, a donor may wish to remain anonymous or agree to be contacted by future offspring. This must be indicated in the consent document. A physician or staff member of the facility where the donor is having eggs retrieved should explain the entire process and answer any questions donors may have, prior to beginning any treatment.

What is the chance that a donor egg cycle will result in pregnancy?

The success of egg donation depends on many factors but is not considered to be related to the age of the recipient. Success rates compiled by the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) and by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for the year 2014 show an average birth rate per embryo transfer of 53.6% for all egg donor programs using fresh eggs.

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What is the NYS Egg Donor Registry?

Recent changes in NYS law created the NYS Egg Donor Registry. A donor may voluntarily join the registry to allow the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) to collect data on egg donations in the State. If a donor chooses to join the registry, NYSDOH may request records from the tissue bank handling the donation, but the tissue bank will not share information that would identify the donor.

Egg Donation Overview

Donor Screening

Potential egg donors undergo genetic, psychological, hormonal, physical and other screenings before being accepted as an egg donor. This screening process may involve several office visits over a month or more to assess these factors.

Ovarian Stimulation

Fertility drugs are used to stimulate the ovary to grow several eggs at once. Over 10 days or so, they grow to full size. Monitoring of your ovaries' response by ultrasound is important. A typical pattern of office visits is shown below.

Egg Retrieval

A transvaginal ultrasound probe is used to see the ovaries and the egg-containing follicles within the ovaries. A long needle is guided into each follicle and the fluid is drained out. The fluid contains the egg.

This completes the process of egg donation. About two weeks later your next period will begin.

Use of Eggs

To create embryos, sperm will be placed with or into your eggs. The resulting embryos will be frozen or transferred into the uterus of a recipient, either that of an intended parent or a gestational carrier. Extra embryos may be frozen for later use. In some cases, the recipient is not yet identified at the time your eggs are removed; in those cases, your eggs can be frozen and stored to be used later for others to have a baby in the future.