Infertility. A feared diagnosis, seemingly final and absolute. It carries with it a certain level of stigma, as if it is somehow the fault of the patient, rather than the result of random circumstance. But with assisted reproductive technology, we haveprogressed to a point where infertility is not necessarily a permanent obstacle, but merely a small stumbling block. With cutting edge techniques such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), egg freezing, and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), it is possible to overcome infertility with donor egg IVF.
What Is a Donor Egg?
Donor eggs are obtained from young, healthy women who are thoroughly screened before donation. The eggs can be fresh or frozen; both boast similar success rates, but there are distinct benefits to using frozen donor eggs. With fresh donor eggs, the menstrual cycles of the donor and the recipient have to be synchronized. This requires a large amount of medication and time, and the two women must be in the same geographical area during the transfer. All this adds up to additional costs. Using frozen eggs is more cost-effective as there is no need for synchronization of menstrual cycles or travel, and procedures can easily be fit into an already busy calendar.
Donor Egg Advantages
For many women diagnosed with infertility, IVF is certainly an option. However, this procedure can only be successful if the eggs themselves are healthy to start with. As a woman ages, not only does her number of eggs decrease, but so does the quality of the ones that remain. There is an increased risk of chromosomal abnormalities, and the chances of a successful pregnancy are still slim, even with IVF.
IVF using donor eggs has success rates up to three times higher than traditional IVF for women over 40, and it is even more effective for younger women. In addition to being ideal for women with low egg quality or quantity, donor eggs can be a great alternative for women who have experienced prior miscarriages and women who want to avoid passing a genetic disease onto their children.
Beginning the Process
There are numerous donor egg banks throughout the United States, and even some who partner withselect fertility clinics. Most egg banks have an assortment of financial plans available and a fewoffer money-back guarantees, making the use of donor eggs financially attainable and an enticing option.
After clients register with a donor egg bank, they are free to browse the donor profiles to choose their perfect match. Some clients look for characteristics they feel are valuable or advantageous, while others look for traits matching the mother’s, so the child will ultimately bear some physical resemblance to her. Once an egg donor is chosen, the eggs are sent to the client’s fertility clinic where they remain frozen until needed.
To prepare the uterus for a potential implantation, the egg recipient takes fertility hormones(progesterone and estrogen) for about 4 weeks. The frozen eggs are thawed and fertilized with the father’s sperm (or donor sperm), using a process called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). This process inserts a single sperm into each egg to ensure fertilization.
The newly fertilized eggs are allowed to develop and divide under the care of an embryologist, who observes the growing embryos and chooses the most favorable ones for implantation. On day 5, genetic analysis can be performed to look for any chromosomal defects. A catheter is used to insert one or two embryos into the uterus, where they will hopefully implant into the uterine wall. Roughly two weeks later, a blood sample is taken to test the levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), the hormone indicating pregnancy.
The Changing Face of Infertility
There were once limited options for a woman faced with infertility, the most common being surrogacy or adoption. With education and professional support, along with ongoing advances in reproductive technologies like donor egg IVF, hopelessness is being replaced with optimism. Women have a greater likelihood of experiencing pregnancy by taking advantage of the benefits of using donor eggs. They can look forward to carrying and delivering their child, savoring all the joys that new motherhood has to offer.