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Women who may not be able to get pregnant using their own eggs can look into egg donation as an option to make pregnancy possible, also referred to as oocyte donation.

Who Are Candidates For Donor Eggs?
Any woman desiring to become pregnant has the option of pursuing donor eggs. The majority of women who use donor eggs have significantly diminished egg quality or quantity. The following conditions or situations are typical candidates for donor eggs:

Early menopause or premature ovarian failure (POF)
Extremely poor egg quality
History of genetic disease
Ovaries do not respond to stimulation
Hormonal imbalance
Over the age of 40
How to Select an Egg Donor
An egg donor could be a family member, friend, or someone anonymous based on the characteristics you prefer in a donor. Any potential egg donor should be screened as follows:

History of birth defects or hereditary diseases
Medical and social history
Physical examination
Psychological screening
Testing for sexually transmitted diseases
The Egg Donation Cycle
The egg donor will use the same medications that a woman would use to stimulate her own egg development in planning for in vitro fertilization. Ovulation induction will be done using medications. These medications help stimulate the production of multiple eggs in the ovary and help control proper timing of ovulation. The donor will be monitored through ultrasound and blood work to determine when her follicles have developed. The hormone hCG is then administered and the eggs are retrieved about two days later.

The Recipient Couples Cycle
Ideally, the donor’s cycle and the recipient’s cycle are synchronized. This is accomplished using a combination of two or three hormonal medications (Lupron, Estrogen). Having both the donor and recipient on identical cycles offers the best chance of having the lining of the recipient’s uterus prepared to support the embryo.

The male partner will provide a semen sample on the same day that eggs are retrieved from the donor. The semen and eggs are fertilized in a laboratory using in vitro fertilization.

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Progesterone treatment begins on the day the eggs are retrieved from the donor, and Lupron® injections are discontinued two days before the egg retrieval. The embryo transfer normally occurs five days after the eggs were initially retrieved. 10 days later a blood test is performed to determine if pregnancy has occurred. Donor recipients who become pregnant will stay on both progesterone and estrogen until about 10 weeks into the pregnancy, when the placenta can provide these hormonal needs on its own.

Success Rates of Pregnancy Using Donor Eggs?
The success rate will vary depending upon age of eggs, retrieval process, quality of semen, and the overall health of the women involved. In most cases, younger eggs are preferable.

Risks of Egg Donation (Donor)?
Egg donation involves the same risks as in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer. There is an increased chance that the pregnancy will involve multiples and the same 3-5% risk of birth defect as natural pregnancy.

Side-effects from medications can include hot flashes, feelings of depression, headaches, and sleeplessness.

In rare cases, donors may experience ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome which involves a painful swelling of the ovaries. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and shortness of breath. Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.

Common Questions and Concerns:
How much does the process cost? Total costs typically range from $12,000 to $20,000. It is important to find out what is included and what is not included in the fee structure: donor fees, in vitro fertilization, embryo transfer, medications, embryo freezing, etc.

What are the legal concerns? Laws tend to vary from state to state, but there should be little concern about parental rights. No matter whether the donor is known or anonymous, legal contracts can be written that remove all parental rights of the donor.

How many eggs should be retrieved, fertilized, and transferred? In most cases fertility specialists will remove as many eggs as possible during the retrieval process. This provides the opportunity for additional procedures if the first attempt is unsuccessful. The number of embryos that should be transferred during any single IVF cycle has been the subject of much discussion and debate. Some experts believe that transferring one embryo per IVF cycle will yield optimal results and reduce the risk of multiple pregnancies and other complications. It is important to discuss these and other questions with a fertility specialist.

Compiled by Utah Fertility Center using American Pregnancy Association: www.americanpregnancy.org, American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM):www.asrm.org