Considering Donor Eggs and Embryos

Women who have premature ovarian failure, diminished ovarian reserve, or cannot become pregnant for other reasons may consider donor eggs and embryos. Extensive screening and testing are required for both the donor and the recipient, and either fresh or frozen specimens can be used. Keep in mind that the implantation process does carry some risks, and you may be responsible for a good portion of the costs.


Why Would I Consider Donor Eggs or Embryos?

Before the introduction of in vitro fertilization (IVF), women who couldn't produce healthy eggs were basically out of luck when it came to bearing a child. However, as the methods for assisted reproductive technology (ART) have become more advanced, it has given new hope for these women.
If you want to become pregnant but you can no longer produce healthy eggs, using donor eggs or embryos may be a way for you to carry a child. There are other possible reasons that may cause you to consider donor eggs and embryos, such as if you have certain genetic diseases, unexplained infertility, or other fertility problems.
If your healthcare provider has determined that you have certain fertility problems that would prevent you from becoming pregnant using your own eggs, egg and embryo donation may be something to consider.

Who Is a Good Candidate for Egg and Embryo Donation?

The most common use of egg and embryo donation is by women who have premature ovarian failure (POF), which is defined as menopause that occurs before the age of 40. Approximately 1 percent of the female population has POF.
In many cases, premature menopause is a result of disease, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgical removal of the ovaries. Women who have POF no longer produce healthy eggs, and their ovaries cease to function. Although there are many causes of POF, you should receive a thorough medical evaluation to determine if there are any underlying causes associated with your diagnosis.
Others who might consider egg and embryo donation include women who have diminished ovarian reserve but have functional ovaries. Women over the age of 40 generally have reduced fertility and poorer chances for becoming pregnant, even with the use of in vitro fertilization (see The Ins and Outs of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)). This decreased fertility as a woman ages is a direct result of aging of the eggs.
Certain blood tests can be done to determine your ovarian reserve. These tests include checking the levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and/or estradiol levels early in the menstrual cycle (usually on day 2 or 3). If these levels are elevated, it can indicate a diminished ovarian reserve, even in women younger than 40 years old.
Other possible candidates for egg and embryo donation include women who have transmittable genetic abnormalities, which could be inherited by their offspring. Also, women who have had multiple failed IVF attempts, especially when egg quality is poor, may be good candidates for egg and embryo donation. In addition, egg donation is appropriate for women who were born without ovaries.
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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