Assisted reproductive technology (ART), which includes in vitro fertilization, resulted in 65,996 live births and 76,930 live-born infants in 2016. An estimated 75% percent of women over age 45 turn to assisted reproductive technology (ART) as a treatment option using donor eggs or embryos to conceive a child. Each year, this method accounts for about 5,800 babies born in the United States.
Who is a good candidate for a donor egg?
According to the National Infertility Association, the predominant indication for egg donation at most IVF centers has been for women with diminished ovarian reserve but with intact ovarian function. It has long been known that women over 40 years old have reduced fertility in general, and a poorer chance for success after IVF. This gradual, age-related decline in fertility is a direct result of the aging of the eggs.
The fertility evaluation may also uncover evidence of diminished ovarian reserve even in women younger than 40 years, as reflected by elevated FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) and/or estradiol levels early in the menstrual cycle, determined by a blood sample taken on cycle day 2 or 3.
Other potential candidates for egg donation include women who have previously failed multiple IVF attempts, particularly when poor egg quality is suspected, and women carrying transmittable genetic abnormalities which could affect their offspring such as Tay-Sachs disease or sickle cell anemia.
Where does the donor egg come from?
First, you’ll decide whether to use a friend or family member’s eggs, an anonymous donor’s eggs or, if your partner’s sperm aren’t healthy, donor embryos — the combined sperm and eggs of known or anonymous donors.
If you decide on an anonymous egg donor, CFI will assist in this process. You’ll usually be able to choose based on a donor’s physical characteristics, ethnic background, educational record, and occupation. Most donors are between 21 and 29 years old and have undergone psychological, medical, and genetic screening. If you choose to use donor embryos, you can either pick unrelated egg and sperm donors or use a frozen embryo donated by a couple that had extras.
What does the donor egg process entail?
Once you pick a donor, both you and she will take Lupron, a synthetic hormone, or birth control pills to get your reproductive cycles in sync — she needs to ovulate when your uterine lining can support an embryo. She’ll also take a fertility drug to help her develop several mature eggs for fertilization, while you will receive estrogen and progesterone to prepare your uterus for pregnancy. Once her eggs are mature, our doctor will give her an anesthetic and remove her eggs from her ovaries by inserting a needle through her vaginal wall using an ultrasound for guidance.
From here on out, the procedure is just like that of in vitro fertilization (IVF). Your partner’s sperm or a donor’s sperm will be combined with your donor’s eggs in a dish in a laboratory. Two to five days later, each of the fertilized eggs will be a ball of cells called an embryo. Our doctor will insert two to four embryos into your uterus through your cervix using a thin catheter. Although it’s not a common practice, many experts say couples should consider the transfer of a single embryo to avoid the risk of twins or triplets. Extra embryos, if there are any, may be frozen in case this cycle doesn’t succeed. If the treatment does succeed, an embryo will implant in your uterine wall and continue to grow into a baby. In about 40 percent of ART pregnancies using donor eggs, more than one embryo implants itself and women give birth to multiples.
How soon do you find out if you’re pregnant?
You’ll be able to take a pregnancy test about two weeks after the embryos are placed in your uterus Using donor eggs and embryos, you’ll have about a 50 percent chance of giving birth to a child. You can also use frozen embryos, but the birth rates are lower — about 30 percent per transfer. Because donor eggs come from young and fertile women, success rates for donor-egg IVF can be as much as two or three times higher than with regular IVF in women ages 40 and older.
Contact Carolinas Fertility Institute
At Carolinas Fertility Institute, we are dedicated to providing state-of-the-art technologies that maximize the fertility options available to our patients, including the use of donor eggs. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (336) 448-9100 (Triad) or (980) 256-2233 (Charlotte).