Are You Considering Using Donor Eggs? Tips and Shared Experiences to Help You On Your Journey

For some couples, the need for a donated egg is a given, such as when a male same-sex couple decides to use surrogacy to build a family. For others, the decision may come at the end of a long road of infertility diagnoses and treatments. As with any other choice, whether to proceed with egg donation is highly personal and can be just as much of an emotional journey.

Why would you wish to use a donated egg and how do you discuss the need with your partner, family, or others? Why would egg donation be your best option and what are the experiences of other women?

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Why Do Couples Seek Egg Donors?

As we mentioned above, egg donation is somewhat necessary for a male same-sex couple. But why would a woman seek or require a donated egg?

For women over 40, the chances of becoming pregnant naturally begin to shrink. As you age, the number and quality of the follicles within your ovaries begins to decrease. Also, the quality may be poor, so you may have plenty of eggs, but they will not result in a viable fetus.

Other women of any age seek donor eggs because they are unable to conceive due to the effects of illness or disease such as cancer, or failed in vitro fertilization procedures using their own eggs.

Anonymous egg donors are in their 20s which is prime child-bearing years. They are in good health and have chosen to donate or sell their eggs so that another couple can have a child. Over the past few years, the success rate of pregnancy using frozen eggs has continued to rise, easing the problem of finding a donor who is ready when you are.

Discussing Egg Donation

If you have a partner, the discussion of whether to use a donated egg should be approached in the same way your conversations about other fertility treatments. Egg donation can include fertilization with a male partner’s sperm or donor sperm. That is a decision you must make with your partner.

Each of you may have very different feelings about using a donated egg from a stranger, which must be resolved before you proceed. Some feel that a child born from a donated egg isn’t truly theirs because it doesn’t share the same genes. Others are concerned they won’t know the health history or the physical traits of the resulting child.

To put your mind at ease, understand that many egg donors include a health history and physical description, just as with sperm donation. The thoroughness of the records can differ from one donor to another.

You should also consider how (or whether) you wish to disclose to others your choice to use a donor egg. Some people have strong opinions about it and can make you feel uncomfortable in your choice. Others may not know how to react to your decision, once you make it known.

Selecting an Egg Donor

A donor egg can come from someone you know, a friend or family member, or you can select a donor from a list. It’s been compared to using to find a mate but perhaps more intense.

One woman said she and her husband spent three months combing through donor lists trying to decide what would be more important: appearance close to theirs or someone who looked like a movie star; GPA and SAT scores; or personality and preferred hobbies.

It came down to deciding what mattered most. In their case, it was someone who was “cheerful, athletic, and goal-oriented.” The woman felt she could relate to the donor and it made the selection easier.

You may find that some detail speaks to you and leads you to choose one donor over another.

Sarah’s Experience

Sarah Kowalski wrote in Harper’s Bazaar last year of her journey through infertility treatments and her final decision to seek a donor egg.

As a woman whose “baby lust” awakened when she was nearing 40 years of age and had no partner, she understood the need for sperm donation. She assumed she would have no trouble becoming pregnant with artificial insemination. After all, plenty of other women her age and older seemed to get pregnant whenever they wanted.

Unfortunately, her OB/GYN, like many doctors, didn’t discuss the decreasing chances of natural pregnancy as a woman ages. She also was not aware that Assisted Reproductive Technology such as in vitro fertilization cannot overcome age-related limitations.

Sarah then learned that nearly 11% of all IVF cycles were performed using donor eggs in 2015. As she came to accept the need for a donor egg, she decided she desired a mother-child relationship more than a genetic link. She now says she couldn’t love her baby more, however it was created.

A Contributor’s Experience

A woman and her husband assumed they would have no problems becoming pregnant. After a year of trying, she learned that her eggs would never result in a viable embryo, although she was just 38.

When her physician said she would need a donor egg, her husband became inconsolable. However, with time, he determined that his fear of not being able to love their children as much was unfounded. For her part, she felt resentment and despair that she was unable to do what others seemed to do effortlessly.

In the meantime, neither of them recalled hearing about anyone using donor eggs to conceive a child.

It was rarely mentioned in any story of IVF or infertility. Even celebrities never mentioned using donor eggs, leading many to believe the pregnancies were a result of the individual’s own egg. But considering the age of the people involved, it’s much more realistic to think that donor eggs were probably used.

Rather than continue to undergo the expense and discomfort of further IVF procedures, she and her husband embraced finding a donor egg to fertilize with the husband’s sperm. After all, she would still participate in the pregnancy, so she wasn’t entirely left out. She supplied the uterus if not the egg.

Want to learn more about egg donation? Take our egg donation myths quiz »

Tips for a Positive Donor Egg Experience

• Ask experts for guidance. Egg donation is complicated. You need help with matters from legal to donor screening.
• Take your time. Accept the circumstances that led you to seek an egg donor before you begin your selection process.
• Keep your expectations realistic. Differences in reactions to medications, changes in travel schedules, and the quantity and quality of eggs retrieved all have an effect on the result of the process.
• Follow your own judgment, not everyone else’s. Just because others disagree with your choice doesn’t mean you are wrong for making it. This is your pregnancy and child. You and your partner have the only opinions that matter.

Seeking egg donation can feel like one more trial in a journey fraught with emotional upheaval. Give yourself time to grieve that you must consider this course of action if you need. Come to an understanding with your partner if you have one. And then look forward to new hope.