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IVF with Donor Eggs

Lesson 8 of 13

Directed or Nonidentified Donors

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In many countries, an egg donor must remain “anonymous” to the recipient, but in other countries, the intending parents and donor can have a pre-existing relationship. Egg donors who remain anonymous are referred to as nonidentified donors while those whose identities are known are called directed donors.

It’s common for intending parents to consider approaching a sister or cousin of the intending parent who’s not providing sperm. The alternative is to be matched with a donor by a 3rd party, like a clinic or agency. In some countries (U.K.), intended parents can have a known donor donate into the donor pool, which bumps the intended parents up on the donor waiting lists.

Below are the high-level trade-offs as most experts see them. To the positive, working with a Directed Donor means you know this (pivotal) person well and don’t need to rely on a third party to characterize them for you. If the person is a relative, it can allow more intending parents to have a genetic connection to the child. Finally, you’ll remove fees to the donor and agency, which can be sizable, and shorten what can be a protracted search process.

To the negative, if the relationship with a donor deteriorates for any reason, it can create enormous complexity. For this reason alone, many intending parents hesitate to ask a family member or the family member declines. However, even if both parties agree, there’s no guarantee this person will provide as many eggs as a more-vetted donor. The intending parents will need to pay the costs for an egg retrieval (costs vary by country) and need to wait until that person is ready and cleared for the retrieval. For these reasons, if intending parents can find great candidates through a third party, many are happy to go this route.

Generally speaking, we tend to see intending parents gravitate towards looking into “directed donor” options if they have a sturdy relationship with a good donor candidate, if they’re a gay male couple pursuing surrogacy, or if their specifications on race, heritage, or complexion aren’t being met by agencies.

The Importance of Health and Family History

It’s often assumed that a directed egg donor is someone the intended parent or parents know well, thus lowering the chances of health conditions, but that's not necessarily true. In fact, we don’t always know the full medical background of our relatives and acquaintances. Checking the donor's own health history and the family's history (going back three generations) can help find out about diseases that could run in the family. A directed donor should go through the same tests as a nonidentified donor. Besides questioning the donor about diseases in family members, the donor will have expanded genetic carrier screening for recessive diseases.