Egg (Oocyte) Donation

Egg (Oocyte) Donation

The reasons why a couple may need to use an egg donor are many and varied and are increasing as women attempt to push the limits of their reproductive potential. Women may be born without ovaries or without normally functioning ovaries and never go through puberty. Others may go through menopause as early as age 25 or 30. As women push their childbearing years from their early 20’s into their mid- to late 30’s and early 40’s, many issues arise that affect their ovaries. As a woman ages, the number of eggs that she will produce and the quality of the eggs decrease significantly after the age of 30.

Now that it is quite easy to assess the ovaries with ultrasound and operate on them laparoscopically, many women have had multiple procedures on their ovaries which may reduce the function of their ovaries in a way that they would require egg donation. Many cancers and auto-immune diseases are now treated with chemotherapy and radiation which may damage ovaries to the point that they no longer function. In the case of our single male patients or same-sex male couples, they will need to look at egg donation to complete their families.

Patients who are presented with the challenge of needing an egg donor have many options available to them today.

  1. Known Egg Donation: The Royal Commission on Assisted Reproductive Technologies recommended that egg donation in Canada should be altruistic only. That means that the egg donor or any other third party cannot be paid or benefit financially from the process of egg donation. The advantage of this option is that it is often the least expensive route to go and the intended parent(s) will receive all of the embryos created from an IVF cycle. There is potential that they can complete their family on a single cycle of egg donation. The pregnancy rates with an egg donor cycle are related to the age of the eggs at the time of egg retrieval. Ideally, an egg donor should be 38 years of age or younger but we will accept egg donors up to the age of 40. The most common reason for needing egg donation is advanced maternal age. The people they would approach to be egg donors for them are in a similar age bracket.
    Every attempt will be made to have egg donors and the intended parents come through an Egg Donor/Surrogacy Information Session. Most egg donors have never had fertility issues so the process of IVF is completely foreign to them. Their knowledge level is very different than infertility patients doing IVF to achieve pregnancy themselves. The process also involves one individual producing eggs and the second individual receiving the embryos and carrying the pregnancy. Prior to coming to an information session, an egg donor is screened to ensure that she will produce reasonable numbers of eggs. The person carrying the embryo, whether it be the intended parent or a surrogate, will be screened to ensure that there is no physical barrier to her becoming pregnant. Most information sessions are held on a Wednesday evening; on Thursday, we will see couples at the Regional Fertility Program. They will have an appointment with a physician, the nurse coordinator for the program, and our psychologist. All individuals undergoing third party reproduction, whether it is egg donation, surrogacy, sperm donation, or embryo donation, will see a psychologist in our program. This is to ensure that all parties are comfortable with the decision that has been made.
    We endeavour to do as much of the screening as possible prior to that information session to ensure that this is a reasonable option for this group. If all parties are comfortable and ready to proceed at that time, we will set up their egg donor cycle within the next couple of months. The process, particularly for patients who have not been through infertility treatment before, can be quite confusing and daunting. The information session is meant as an information session and is part of the informed consent for the process. Not all parties are ready to proceed at that time and many decide not to proceed once they have more information.
  2. Vitrified Egg Program: Vitrification is the freezing method used to freeze human eggs. It is a new program which has grown to become a very successful program over the last couple of years. The most common reason for needing donor eggs is age and many couples do not have anybody that they could approach to be an egg donor for them. This has become a very viable and successful option for them and more details on this program are covered under the vitrified donor egg program.
  3. Anonymous Fresh IVF Egg Donation: Some couples may choose to look at a fresh IVF cycle using an anonymous egg donor. The pregnancy rates with fresh embryo transfer using a young egg donor are very high and this will allow them the opportunity of possibly having surplus embryos that have been frozen for future transfers. This is the most expensive option and the costs in the United States can range from $25,000 to $45,000 USD per cycle plus travel. Couples have chosen more distant locations to do their anonymous egg donation cycles as well. We do not offer fresh anonymous egg donation in Calgary.
    The implantation rate, pregnancy rate, miscarriage rate, and birth defect rate will be related to the age of the egg donor, not the person who is carrying the embryo. The recommendations of the clinic with respect to genetic testing during pregnancy will be made based on the age of the egg donor. The cut-off for egg donation in our program has climbed from 45, when the natural successful pregnancy rate approaches zero, to 50, the natural age of menopause. The change has been made because women actually do very well in pregnancy in the 40’s and their life expectancy is such that it is reasonable to expect them to be able to parent the children produced through these cycles to independence.