Egg donation is the process whereby a person has their eggs retrieved and makes those eggs available to be fertilized and then transferred into a different person's uterus.
While the term “donation” implies altruism, in many countries egg donors are compensated as are agencies and intermediaries that introduce “donors” and “recipients”.
As you’ll see in the following lessons, there are countless variants on the IVF process with donor eggs, but at its core, there are five basic steps.
Selecting a Donor: The intending parent(s) will select an egg donor often based upon traits that are personally important to the intending parent(s). The selection process can take anywhere from days to months, and in some cases, years.
Donor Provides Eggs: A donor undergoes a process to grow a large number of eggs (known as a cohort) and have them retrieved. In some cases, the donor may have already had the retrieval, in which case her eggs have already been frozen and are available. For ‘fresh” egg donations, eggs may be available immediately or it may take months before the donor can begin the cycle to have her eggs retrieved.
Fertilization: The clinic will attempt to fertilize the donor eggs using sperm (often from one of the intending parents), and typically 70%–80% of the donated eggs will fertilize.
Embryo Development: The clinic will “culture” the fertilized eggs into embryos. Often this takes 3–7 days, and depending upon a few variables, 40%–80% of fertilized eggs will become embryos.
Transfer: The clinic will transfer an embryo (one per transfer is recommended, as you’ll see in a later section) into another person’s uterus (either that of an intending parent or gestational carrier). In preparation for the transfer, and to improve the odds of success, the intending parent or surrogate will likely take medication. If the transfer doesn’t result in a delivery, and more embryos remain, the intended parents will have an opportunity to attempt another transfer.