Finding an Egg Donor

Where to Look, Questions to Consider, and Whether You'll Meet the Donor

Brown egg with large white eggs
What makes the best egg donor for you? That's only something you can decide. Andy Roberts / Getty Images

Your doctor has recommended egg donor IVF, and you’ve decided to pursue this path to parenthood. But where will you find an egg donor? How do you make a decision?

The good news is that you don’t need to figure this out completely on your own. Your fertility doctor and a counselor familiar with donor fertility treatment should help you work through your options.

Where Will I Find an Egg Donor?

Here are the most common sources for finding an egg donor.

You may look into only one of them, or consider several before you select the option that fits your family best.

Your fertility clinic: the clinic providing your IVF treatment may have a database of donors themselves.

Some clinics will only work with an egg donor already part of their program, and will not allow patients to use an agency.

When using an egg donor associated with your clinic, you may pay slightly less than you would through an agency. However your pool of donors to choose from may be limited.

An egg donor agency: There are a number of agencies whose sole business is finding potential donors and connecting them to intended parents.

An agency may be more expensive than going through your clinic, but your pool of donors is likely to be much larger. They may also be able to help you find someone with specific traits.

An egg bank: Relatively new to the scene in egg donation, an egg bank can offer a slightly less expensive option for egg donor IVF.

With an egg bank, the donor has already gone through the donation cycle, and her eggs have been cryopreserved.

An egg bank is the least expensive option per treatment cycle (excluding using someone you know personally).

However, the eggs are retrieved and frozen far in advance of your cycle. This may or may not impact your odds for success.

Also, the quality of the egg bank and eggs frozen vary widely. Currently, egg banks are not required to publish success rates.

Another infertile couple (IVF Egg Sharing): It’s also possible to have another infertile couple be the egg donor.

In this case, it would be another couple at the same fertility clinic that is going through IVF, but doesn’t have known ovarian fertility factors.

The infertile couple donating their eggs may be able to get a slight discount on their own IVF cycle by “egg sharing” with another couple.

Success rates will vary, and there is a possibility that there will not be enough eggs for both the donor’s IVF cycle and the couple needing the donor eggs. If that happens, the donor gets first priority on the eggs available.

Can My Friend/Relative Donate Her Eggs to Me?

A friend or relative can donate her eggs, if she passes the psychological and medical screening required of all egg donors.

The advantage of having a family member donate her eggs is that the child will still have some genetic connection to the mother, even if not directly.

(Technically the donor could come from the male partner’s family, but many family members would automatically be excluded due to genetic risk and ethical problems.)

Also, if a family member or friend is the egg donor, they can remain in contact with the child. They would not be the child’s legal or cultural “parent,” but they could have a relationship.

However, there are some serious disadvantages of using someone you know as a donor.

  • Possible legal complications, especially if the donor decides to challenge who is the “real parent” or if the intended couple gets divorced
  • Psychological consequences, especially if decisions that normally go to the parents get entangled with the donor’s desires
  • Emotional complications, including possible feelings of resentment, jealousy, regret, or even sadness (if the cycle fails)
  • The donor may not be the best choice in terms of IVF success, when compared to a donor screened by a clinic or agency

Also important to know is that a family or friend doesn’t usually receive an honorarium for the donation. That money comes from the infertile person or couple and not the clinic. (This is also why egg donor IVF with a known donor is less expensive—you don’t have to pay the donor for the time and trouble of donating.)

Before a friend or family member agrees to be screened as a potential donor, they should also know what’s involved before they commit to the process.

What About Placing a Personal Ad for an Egg Donor?

Some couples decide to find an egg donor by placing or answering personal ads. Be aware that this can be risky. There are scammers out there looking to trick intended parents. (There are also scammers looking to trick generous egg donors.)

There are some situations where seeking out an egg donor via personal ads is the best option. Perhaps you are looking for someone very specific: a Jewish-Asian Harvard graduate, for example.

If you’re going to try the personal ad route, proceed cautiously. Consider whether it would be better to hire an agency to find your specific request, instead of looking on your own.

What Criteria Should I Consider When Selecting an Egg Donor?

Deciding which egg donor to select is a personal and sometimes emotional process. The most commonly given advice is to select an egg donor whose profile sounds like someone you would like to be friends with.

But will an egg donor who sounds like the perfect friend lead to a child who is like the donor?

That’s impossible to say. It comes down to the nature versus nurture debate.

Choosing an egg donor who has a perfect SAT score and graduated at the top of her class at Harvard does not mean your donor-conceived child will follow the same path. Not at all.

Some things potential parents consider include:

  • overall health and wellness of the donor
  • physical appearance
  • similar physical appearance to the intended mother
  • intelligence markers (IQ scores, SAT scores, college attended, etc.)
  • athleticism
  • religious affiliation (especially if the intended parents are Jewish)
  • personality and hobby descriptions offered in donor profile

Which criteria are most important to you? There's really no wrong or right answer.

This is a good topic to discuss with a counselor familiar with IVF and fertility issues.

Will We Meet Our Egg Donor?

Unless you’re using a friend or family member, it’s unlikely. But not completely out of the question.

Some clinics and agencies offer “known” or “semi-known” donor contracts.

In these cases, you may meet the donor before your cycle. There may also be the possibility have having some sort of ongoing relationship after the donor conceived child is born. That relationship may only be through written communication or may also include face-to-face connection.

Some semi-known donor contracts allow the donor-conceived child to contact their donor in the future, if they desire. This doesn’t necessarily mean the donor and intended parents will meet or have contact otherwise.

Why choose a semi-known donor?

Later in life, some donor-conceived children (and their parents) wish they knew more about the donor who helped bring them into this world. A semi-known donor contract allows some form of contact.

Important side-note: due to changing laws and private organizations that aim to connect donors with their offspring, there is also a possibility that you or your child can end up meeting or hearing from the donor in the future even if you originally decided to use an “anonymous” donor.

For example, The Donor Sibling Registry helps connect donor offspring to their genetic siblings and even to the donor. This can occur regardless of whatever original contract was signed.

Sources:

Flores Homero, Lee Joseph, Rodriguez-Purata Jorge, Witkin Georgia, Sandler Benjamin, and Copperman Alan B.. "Beauty, Brains or Health: Trends in Ovum Recipient Preferences." Journal of Women's Health. October 2014, 23(10): 830-833. doi:10.1089/jwh.2014.4792.

Keehn J1, Holwell E, Abdul-Karim R, Chin LJ, Leu CS, Sauer MV, Klitzman R. Recruiting Egg Donors Online: An Analysis of IVF Clinic and Agency Websites’ Adherence to ASRM Guidelines. Fertil Steril. 2012 Oct;98(4):995-1000. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2012.06.052. Epub 2012 Jul 27.

Parents via Egg Donation.

Third-Party Reproduction: Sperm, Egg, and Embryo Donation and Surrogacy. American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

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