INFORMATION FOR PROSPECTIVE EGG DONORS
Women consider using donated eggs to achieve a pregnancy for a variety of reasons. Some women have ovaries that produce few or no eggs. Others may be at risk for passing on a genetic condition to their children. For these women, the option of using donated eggs gives them the chance to experience pregnancy and have a healthy baby.
Since 1996, GENESIS has been helping women to conceive using donated eggs. Our donor egg program meets the highest standards and criteria set by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Egg donation is a special and generous gift. There is some financial compensation, but the primary benefit is the great satisfaction of helping a couple have a baby. There is no cost to you for any of the procedures, and the process is completely confidential.
The first step toward egg donation is understanding the process. We hope this information will help you decide whether you would like to be an egg donor for our program. If you would like more information, please contact our coordinator Katherine Mah at 718-283-6588.
Who can donate eggs?
Egg donors are healthy, non-smoking women between the ages of 21 and 33. To be an anonymous donor for our program, you must live locally in the New York area. Although the donation is completely anonymous, some information about the donor is provided to the recipient couple, such as height, hair color, eye color and ethnic background. However, no identifying information or photographs are ever provided to the recipient couple. By the same token, you will not know the identities of the recipient couple, and we will not tell you whether a pregnancy was achieved after the donation cycle is completed.
Some egg donors are chosen by a recipient couple and their identities are known to one another. Sisters, cousins, and other close relatives often agree to donate eggs. Known private donors receive the same screening that an anonymous donor receives. If you are a known private donor, we can make arrangements to coordinate testing in your local area.
What is the screening process?
Becoming an egg donor can take several months. To apply to our program, please contact our coordinator Katherine Mah at 718-283-6588. Katherine will mail an application to the program to you. Once your application has been received, Katherine will review it and contact you to schedule your screening appointments.
Screening involves meeting with our egg donor coordinator, our physician, and our psychologist. Our coordinator will review the procedures, risks, and time commitment involved in an egg donation cycle. She will also review your family history to assess any potential risk for genetic conditions. Our physician meets with potential donors to discuss the procedures, medications and risks associated with an egg donation cycle. You will also receive a physical examination and an ultrasound examination. Potential donors have a psychological evaluation with our psychologist who has experience counseling egg donors and infertility patients. Our psychologist will talk to you about some of the complicated issues surrounding egg donation and give you a standard MMPI psychological exam. Finally, donors have blood drawn to test for infectious diseases, hormone evaluation, and some genetic conditions.
If the screening results indicate that the potential donor would be an ideal donor, we attempt to match up the donor to a recipient couple. This part of the process can take some time and depends on the particular needs of our recipient couples. After the match is determined, the egg donation cycle can begin.
The Egg Donation Cycle
Overview: Egg donation involves taking injectable medications for approximately one month to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. Donors meet privately with one of the nurses at GENESIS to learn how to administer the injections. The overall concept of egg donation involves suppressing the donor's own natural cycle and administering injections of natural hormones to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. It is important to suppress the donor's own hormone levels so that the physicians can carefully control the amount of hormones affecting the donor's ovaries during the egg donation cycle. Through careful monitoring, the physician can determine when the eggs look ready to be retrieved. The eggs are retrieved just before ovulation, using a surgical procedure. A more detailed description of the procedures involved follows.
Medications: Donors start by taking a medication called Lupron to suppress the natural cycle of egg development in their ovaries. Lupron is taken for approximately one month via a morning injection. During the last half of that month, donors also take gonadotropins, natural hormones that stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. Gonadotropins are taken for about two weeks via an evening injection. The last medication taken is called human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG. This injection is taken at a specific time, approximately 36 hours before the egg retrieval procedure. The most common side effects of these medications are headaches, bloating and moodiness. The main risk of these medications is ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, or OHSS (described below).
Monitoring: Throughout the egg donation cycle, and especially while donors take gonadotropins, the ovaries must be monitored carefully with ultrasounds and blood tests. Donors must come into the office every day or every other day for monitoring while taking gonadotropins. Monitoring hours are between 7am to 9am on weekdays and 7am to 8am on weekends and holidays. Ultrasound examinations use sound waves to visualize the ovaries. To perform an ultrasound, a small probe is placed inside the vagina. The process takes a few minutes and is not painful. The blood tests measure your estrogen level, which is another way to determine the progress of egg development.
Egg retrieval: When the developing eggs look ready to be retrieved, our physician and anesthesiologist work together to perform a surgical procedure which takes place in the operating room in our center. You will receive anesthesia so that you sleep comfortably during the procedure. A needle is inserted through the vagina into the ovaries, and the eggs are retrieved. The procedure takes about fifteen minutes. Afterwards, you'll rest in our recovery room until you are ready for your friend or partner to take you home. You will rest for the remainder of that day. You may have light vaginal bleeding and some abdominal cramping. A heating pad or acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help ease this discomfort. Approximately two weeks later, you would return for a follow-up visit for an examination with the physician and to receive your compensation.
Compensation: During the last follow-up visit after the egg retrieval, donors receive $7000 to compensate for their time and effort. This compensation is reported to the IRS as taxable income. Due to reasons of confidentiality, we are not able to inform donors whether a pregnancy resulted from their donation. However, donors often feel much fulfillment knowing that they have given an infertile couple the chance to have a baby. Whether or not a pregnancy results, egg donors are greatly appreciated for the very generous gift they are able to provide.
What are the risks?
The medicines and procedures of egg donation are unlikely to affect your future fertility, and it is rare that they would cause any major harm to your health. The risks of the medications can include cysts on the ovaries and a condition called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). In this condition, the ovaries become very large and may cause significant discomfort and fluid in the abdomen. Although mild OHSS is common, more severe cases of OHSS are rare and could require admission to a hospital and careful monitoring.
The risks of the egg retrieval can include infection, bleeding that could require a blood transfusion or major surgery, or a puncture that injures the bowel or the bladder. These are very rare events. To prevent infection, you will take an antibiotic before the egg retrieval.
You should either abstain from intercourse or use barrier contraception, such as a condom, during the egg donation cycle and until you get your period after egg retrieval (usually two weeks after egg retrieval). We also ask that you avoid strenuous exercise while you are taking the gonadotropins. Because your ovaries are enlarged during this time, there is a chance that the ovaries could twist during high-impact aerobic activities.
What happens to the donated eggs?
After the egg retrieval, the eggs are fertilized in the laboratory using sperm from the recipient's husband. This process is called in vitro fertilization (IVF). The fertilized eggs, or embryos, are cultured in the laboratory for a few days. At that point, the embryologist chooses the embryos that appear healthy. Typically, two or three of these embryos are inserted into the uterus of the recipient with the hopes that one will implant and continue to develop. Any extra embryos that appear healthy may be cryopreserved, or frozen, for the recipient couple's future use.