How to Choose An Egg Donor & What to Expect Along the Journey Ahead
The egg donation process & timeline
Egg donation is a process where a person (the donor) donates their eggs to the intended parent(s) (the recipient) to allow them to have a baby. As noted by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), although the person carrying the baby “is not biologically related to the child”, they will be legally and in every other way, the mother (this of course excludes surrogacy agreements, like mine where I as the intended parent then became the legal parent). With that said, let’s go into what you can expect during an egg donation cycle:
Match with an egg donor
The first step is to find your egg donor. At GoStork, we can help you find your ideal match. Our egg donor database includes thousands of egg donor profiles combined from 20 different egg donor agencies, with many donors from different races, ethnicities and nationalities, and many with proven fertility (you can see if the donor had a previous successful pregnancy and if they have already donated eggs that resulted in a successful pregnancy, including the number of eggs their cycles yielded). You can also learn all about their health and medical background as well as their family’s background. And - if this is important to you, you can filter egg donors by education level, making it easier to find egg donors with a college or postgraduate degree. Your personal GoStork Concierge can also provide you with one-on-one support as you research your options.
Timeline: As much (or as little) time as you need
Fertility clinics follow a rigorous screening process when it comes to clearing egg donors. Prior to starting the egg donation process, the egg donor undergoes a thorough medical screening to ensure that they are fit to receive the stimulation medication required. Their egg reserve is assessed, and their her medical history as well as family and genetic history are evaluated. Blood tests are done to check for undiagnosed medical conditions or infectious diseases. The donor also undergoes genetic screening to assess the risk for hereditary diseases or genetic abnormalities that could affect the baby. It’s good to point out that this screening does not evaluate the entire genetic code of the donor. The screening minimizes the risk of passing a genetic disease but does not totally eliminate it. As a Certified Genetic Counselor, Meaghan here at DNAide can provide you with a more thorough understanding around this topic.
Timeline: 4 - 5 weeks
Once a decision is made to move forward and you’ve signed the agency agreement, the intended parents and the egg donor sign contracts ensuring both parties are aware of the details of their agreement as well as receive important protections. Learn more about what is included in these contracts and why they are so important here.
Timeline: 2 - 4 weeks
Medications and Egg Retrieval
Once cleared by the clinic, the egg donor is given a cycle schedule and starts hormone medications to stimulate ovulation and the production of multiple eggs. Once the eggs have matured, they are retrieved. The egg retrieval procedure takes around 30 minutes. The next step is fertilization with sperm from the intended father or a sperm donor, through a process known as in vitro fertilization (IVF). The resulting embryo(s) can be transferred immediately, in which case the intended mother is prescribed estrogen and progesterone to build up the uterine lining and prepare it for implantation, or can be frozen for a later transfer. At this stage, you can choose to screen your embryos for chromosomal abnormalities (PGT-A). As Meaghan notes, just because the egg donor underwent genetic testing doesn’t mean that there’s no need to genetically test the embryo: “genetic tests done before IVF, like carrier screening, are not looking for the same thing as PGT-A”.
Timeline: 1 - 2 months
Finally, the best embryo is transferred to the uterus using a thin catheter. This is followed by the two week wait, until a pregnancy can be confirmed. Throughout this process, the intended mother or gestational carrier continues their medication (progesterone). If the transfer has been successful, ultrasound scans will be carried out in the following weeks, after which you’ll follow regular antenatal care.
Timeline: 9 months
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re about to start a unique family building journey, one that’s equal parts exciting and challenging. Coming to terms with using donor eggs can be hard emotionally, especially if you’ve been struggling to conceive for a while. However, egg donation can provide that missing link between you and your future family. As a father of two amazing daughters through egg donation (and surrogacy), I know there are specific difficulties - but I also know how beautiful the result can be. I’ve learned a lot along the way and my experience inspired me to create GoStork, a fertility marketplace where intended parents find, compare and connect with top fertility providers (including a database of over 10,000 egg donors!).
In this article, we’ll review the egg donation process as well as the factors to consider in your search for your ideal egg donor, in the hope that it helps inform your own potential journey ahead.
Factors to consider when selecting an egg donor
Choosing your specific egg donor is one of the most personal and important decisions you’ll make. To make the process easier, GoStork allows you to compare egg donors side-by-side then connect directly with the agencies of your favorites. Our goal is to help save you time, effort, stress and confusion - while feeling supported and making more informed decisions about your family’s future… all in one place!
When reviewing egg donor profiles you’ll find the donor’s appearance and physical attributes, education level, medical and fertility history, as well as family medical history, among other elements such as ethnicity and religion. Undeniably, you are presented with a large amount of information, but in this case, the more information the better! To get started, you’ll want to decide what characteristics matter personally to you. Here is a list of criteria you’ll be able to consider before you make this important decision:
Age – Donor must ideally be between the ages of 21 and 30 but if you prefer one on either the younger or older end of that spectrum, that’s a valid decision
BMI – Donors must have a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) between 18-27, but as far as the donor’s specific weight – that may be a consideration that’s important to you.
Medical History – Personal health history (ideally, a non-smoker, non-drug user and non-alcohol dependent, has no STDs, and is not undergoing treatment for depression or anxiety – these elements are pre-vetted and indicated for you to consider), family health history (ie. you would be looking for egg donor profiles with a low risk of passing on a genetic disease, paying attention to the disorders that are of highest concern to you)
Reproductive history – If applicable, you’ll see information about ‘proven fertility’ in egg donor profiles, ie. a previous successful pregnancy shows that the donor has the potential to provide healthy eggs. You may also learn that the donor has donated eggs prior that resulted in a successful pregnancy - and you’ll see how many eggs prior cycles yielded.
Appearance – You’ll see the donor’s photos, (ideally current as well as from childhood) and when available, videos as well, natural hair color, eye color, height, and, as already mentioned, weight. Many intended parents are interested in donors with similar physical features to themselves or their partners, while others are interested in dissimilar features. Again, these are personal decisions and any preference is valid.
Personal & Educational Background – This can range across heritage, religion, characteristics, level of education achieved, career, and even criminal record. This is obviously a wide range of criteria – so just to explore one example; a donor with a graduate degree or high test scores may be someone you’re ideally looking for – so you could, as a starting point, filter your options through the lens of your desired standard of education. Also, many intended parents look for egg donors with a similar heritage or religious background as themselves.
Compensation - The Egg Donor’s fee can range from $2,500 to $30,000 – and even upwards. Donors may charge more when they have proven fertility or a higher level of education, among other factors. If you are pursuing egg donation in Canada the donors are not compensated but will be reimbursed for expenses.
Location – An egg donor close to your IVF clinic can help save you money in covering their travel costs. That said, this may not be your most important criteria – in which case it’s totally up to you to prioritize other factors over where the donor lives, in order to open up your search.
Ultimately, the process of identifying the ideal egg donor for you is a highly personal one. We hope that this article helped provide some clarity on what to expect in terms of the timeline as well as the factors to consider. If you have any further questions or would like to learn more about egg donation, I’m here to help. You can schedule a one-on-one call here. Take the time and get the support you need as you work towards selecting an egg donor and navigating this journey. Good luck!
About Eran Amir, Founder and CEO of GoStork
With more than 20 years of experience, Eran Amir has worked as both a software development and product management executive in Israel and New York. GoStork combines his professional skill-set with a personal mission. After undergoing a long, difficult, and costly process to expand his family via surrogacy and egg donation, Amir vowed to help other intended parents avoid the complexity and confusion he experienced. His passion led to the creation of the first ever fertility marketplace where intended parents can find, compare and connect with fertility providers. GoStork proudly names his four-year-old daughter as its co-Founder.