An egg donor is a person that gives their eggs to a patient or couple that is experiencing difficulty conceiving. People who use egg donors may have low quality eggs or experience early menopause, or may be in a couple without a person with eggs. Egg donation is used as a part of IVF, with the doctor removing eggs from the donor before fertlizing them in the laboratory.
Egg donation is a process where a donor provides oocytes (unfertilized eggs) to a recipient for the purpose of getting pregnant using in vitro fertilization. In some cases, the recipient is the intended parent, and in other cases, the recipient may be a surrogate.
Patients who choose to receive an egg donation often do so because they’re experiencing poor egg quality, have very few viable eggs left, or have a genetic condition they do not want to pass on to their children. Couples who do not have a partner with ovaries, such as gay couples or couples with a transgender partner, may also benefit from egg donation.
Because egg quality is higher when a person is younger, egg donors are usually between the ages of 21 and 34. Potential egg donors must undergo a series of genetic, psychological, and physical screenings before being accepted as an egg donor. Donors are tested to be sure that they're not carriers of the single-gene disorders, such as cystic fibrosis, and that they’re not positive for sexually transmitted infections or other infectious diseases.
The egg donor screening process may require several office visits, over the course of a month or more. If a woman is accepted as an egg donor through an agency, she’ll then wait to be chosen by a set of intended parents.
Egg donors may be anonymous or known to the intended parents and their future offspring. Egg recipients working with an agency or clinic may choose an egg donor that matches the physical or ethnic characteristics of their family, or may narrow down possible egg donors by medical history, personality or skills, religion, and more.
An egg donor is first given injectable fertility hormones to stimulate their ovaries to grow several eggs at once. This can take 8–14 days. During this period of time, donors can expect to make frequent office visits so their medical team can monitor their ovaries' response to the medication via ultrasound and bloodwork.
Once the eggs are developed enough, a physician can remove them from the donor’s ovaries in an outpatient surgical procedure called an egg retrieval. A transvaginal ultrasound probe is used to visualize the ovaries, and then a long needle will be guided into each follicle to drain the fluid that contains the egg. Finally, the egg will be combined with sperm from an intended parent or sperm donor to facilitate fertilization and the creation of an embryo.