Egg donation is the process where a woman donates her eggs to aspiring parents who are undergoing an assisted reproduction treatment, like in vitro fertilization (IVF), with eggs that are fertilized in the laboratory. Eggs can also be frozen for later use.
This option is used by male homosexual couples or single parents when they use a surrogate mother, and by women who have low ovarian reserve. The baby will have the genes of the egg donor and/or sperm donor and not those of the intended parents.
Egg donation legislation is different in every country, and even banned in some countries. Patients travel to countries like Spain for a fertility treatment with egg donation. The USA has a very liberal legislation, and egg donation can be anonymous or not, depending on the states. Even with anonymous donors, intended parents are provided information about the physical aspect, the psychological profile and, very importantly, the health history of the donor and her immediate family. This is a big advantage compared to egg donation in European countries, because the intended parents will have their child's background information for possible future health problems.
For the process of egg donation, the egg donors should undergo medical, psychological and genetic testing to ensure that they do not carry genetic mutations, such as cystic fibrosis. Usually a family history covering the last 3 generations is required. Intended parents can select the egg donor in countries like the United States, but it is the sole responsibility of the medical team in other countries like Spain. In countries like Italy or Germany egg donation is prohibited.
Once legal contracts have been signed, the egg donor is ready to start an ovarian stimulation cycle for egg retrieval later. In order to synchronize the cycle of the egg donor with the woman who will gestate the baby (or surrogate mother), both women take birth control pills. Once both women's cycles are synchronized, the egg donor begins to inject hormones for the ovarian stimulation phase, and the recipient woman will also be administered hormones to prepare her endometrium for the embryo transfer.
When the follicles are mature enough, the egg donor begins to prepare for the egg retrieval by injecting the HCG hormone, so that she will ovulate 36 hours later. Egg retrieval is a minimally invasive procedure performed under sedation that lasts for about 20-25 minutes.
After the intervention, the donor may rest in the recovery room, and usually the next day she can go back to her routine.
When is it necessary to resort to egg donation?
When the patient's eggs are not viable. This is determined by the tests performed by the fertility clinic or where there have been recurrent abortions without any medical reason. Sometimes the tests are positive but there are no viable pregnancies. One possible reason is that the eggs are of poor quality.