In pregnancy, the formation of an embryo involves the fertilization of a healthy oocyte or egg by a healthy sperm. Accordingly, if either the egg or the sperm has an anomaly, successful fertilization does not occur. However, using a donor egg or sperm can help such couples to achieve pregnancy.
The egg donation process enables a woman who cannot get pregnant with her own oocytes to use an egg which is donated by another woman to achieve pregnancy. The donor is usually known to the woman and in many instances, it’s a close family member or friend who willingly donates one of their oocytes for the procedure.
The ideal candidate for the egg donation process should be between 23 and 33 years of age. She should be able to understand the procedure and knowingly give her consent. Additionally, the donor should not suffer any medical illnesses or genetic disorders like thalassemia. She should also be willing to disclose her entire medical history to the specialist in order for them to assess the donor’s suitability.
The egg donation procedure
The donor is first interviewed to make sure she understands the legal, ethical, physical & social aspects of the donation process. Subsequently, a complete medical checkup is performed to make sure there are no medical problems which might complicate the procedure.
Donors undergo a thorough gynaecological workup to rule out cysts, myomas, polyps and other abnormalities in the reproductive organs. Afterwards, a detailed genetic screening is performed to rule out the possibility of any genetic defects in the donor’s babies or in babies born to recipients of her oocytes. The donor is also tested to confirm she is free from transmissible diseases such as HIV, hepatitis and syphilis. Her blood group and Rh factor are also checked.
The intended mother is treated with hormonal therapy to ensure the uterus is ready to accept the embryo.
The egg donation procedure consists of harvesting and fertilizing the eggs or preserving them. Ovulation induction is used to stimulate the release a healthy egg which is then harvested under ultrasound guidance using special instruments. This process is pain-free and does not require admission.
The semen sample is tested for STDs and the quality of the spermatozoa is assessed before being made ready for fertilization.
The donor eggs are fertilized with the partner’s sperm through in vitro and the fertilized embryo is then transferred to the uterus. However, if the fertilization and implantation process is not performed immediately, the egg is frozen in liquid nitrogen and preserved till it’s needed, whereby it can be thawed and used. Freezing does not cause any damage to the eggs.
The above process is known as ‘donor egg IVF’. It is the preferred type of fertilization process in egg donation as fertilization occurs in a lab environment and is not affected by abnormalities of the ovaries or fallopian tubes of the intended mother.
Donor egg IVF success rates are similar to that of the normal IVF procedure and at times even higher if the couple tried unsuccessfully in the past to achieve pregnancy through conventional IVF.
Donor egg IVF and egg donation is effective in the following cases;
- Women are of advanced age.
- Ovarian failure resulting from menopause, premature ovarian failure or ovarian surgery.
- Poor quality eggs and failure to establish pregnancy through conventional IVF.
- Women whose ovaries are inaccessible for obtaining oocytes.
- Recurrent miscarriages.
- Mothers with abnormal genetic defects which might be passed down to their future children.
Pricing in egg donation
Other than normal IVF procedure costs, there is an additional cost related to the egg donor as well. This additional cost caters to the expenses of the donor who has to undergo rigorous testing and possibly, certain rounds of medication and drugs.