Egg donation is a type of fertility treatment, which allows women who either have no eggs of their own, or whose Egg Quality is low (see “What is egg quality”) to achieve pregnancy. At the present time, it is most often used for women who fail to become pregnant after multiple cycles of in vitro fertilization (IVF), those with premature ovarian failure or elevated FSH levels, and for those beyond the age of 43.
The basic principle of egg donation is that it is an IVF cycle for two:
The Donor: Undergoes the first part of IVF, including ovarian stimulation and egg retrieval
The Recipient: Undergoes the embryo transfer.
The key is to synchronize the two women’s cycles and this is achieved by a combination of birth control pills and Lupron.
When the cycle begins, the donor uses the usual stimulatory medications used during other fertility treatments, whereas the recipient takes a combination of estrogen and progesterone to prepare her uterine lining for the implantation. When the donor’s eggs are mature, she undergoes follicle aspiration by the standard trans-vaginal ultrasound-guided method under conscious sedation. The recipient’s partner provides the sperm and fertilization takes place in the laboratory as with standard IVF.
Embryo transfer is usually scheduled for day 5 (blastocyst), unless other factors dictate a transfer on day 3. After the embryo transfer is completed, the recipient continues to take estrogen and progesterone through the end of the first trimester of pregnancy. This is because in natural conception, the ovary produces these hormones in order to support the implantation. At the end of the first trimester (13 weeks of gestation age, or about 10 weeks after embryo transfer), the placenta makes all the hormones that are needed and estrogen and progesterone supplementation is stopped.
Other aspects of the egg donation cycle are essentially identical to those of standard IVF. The stimulation of the donor is the same as the stimulation of IVF patients using their own eggs, laboratory procedures are identical, and the same type of embryo transfer technique is used for the recipient.
Egg donation is very clearly the most successful fertility procedure that is available (see Success Rates). This is due to a combination of young eggs, optimal preparation of both donor and recipient, and careful synchronization between donor and recipient.