There are a number of groups who can benefit from using donor eggs, and we tend to break them up into three overly-simplified categories:
The vast majority of donor egg recipients have a diagnosis of “diminished ovarian reserve”, as you can see in the data below. Additionally, many egg donor recipients have plenty of eggs, but the quality of eggs may be lower-than-normal, making it hard for them to produce high-quality embryos.
While some associate donor egg recipients with “advanced maternal age”, the reality is nearly half of all recipients in many countries are under the age of 40. As you’ll see in an upcoming lesson, a patient’s age can be a valuable criterion whether to use their own eggs or a donor’s.
What’s more, and maybe most surprisingly, in countries like the United States less than half of all recipients have done a second IVF cycle using their own eggs.
This touches upon an often incredibly sensitive subject: when should patients consider transitioning from IVF with their own eggs to IVF with donor eggs? For many patients, it can feel abrupt when their doctor surfaces the idea, and even for those who ultimately move ahead, many people require weeks, months or years of soul-searching and consideration.
Those who do decide to pursue egg donation are often glad they did—and glad that they waited until they felt “ready” to pursue the option.
Again, in a subsequent lesson we’ll focus on frameworks for those weighing whether to use their own eggs or donor eggs.
Some patients may have no fertility challenge per se, but are carriers for a genetic disorder that has prompted them to do IVF with the sole purpose of testing (and screening out) embryos before transfer.
If a patient creates embryos that aren’t passing the test, or the test itself is unreliable, they may look to acquire donor eggs from a donor who is not a carrier for the genetic condition in question.
For men to pursue the surrogacy process, they’ll need to enlist the help of a donor to procure eggs. We have a high-level tutorial here on the subject where we cover the costs, timelines, and most salient questions for intending fathers pursuing egg donation and surrogacy.
While IVF with donor eggs is effective, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a good fit for all hopeful parents. Some candidates harbor real concern about how they’ll regard the future child (we’ll cover the data on this momentarily), and in the eyes of many experts, this may be an important signal donor egg shouldn’t be pursued at that moment. Depending upon the region of the world where you live, patients weighing IVF with donor eggs are required to see a mental health professional to examine these sorts of issues.
Additionally, some doctors, clinics, and governments have established age caps whereby they won’t transfer an embryo created from a donor egg into a woman’s uterus. Often, those limits fall between the ages 50–55 for the person who’d be carrying. There are three rationales here. First is a fear of complications to the carrier during the pregnancy in the form of developing hypertension or diabetes. Second is a fear for both the carrier and child during the delivery itself. Finally, some worry about an increased risk of a child being orphaned by a parent during a vulnerable and critical stage of their development.
For many individuals and couples this decision is wrought with emotion, particularly for those who have attempted IVF without success in the past. Many patients voice concern over questions like,“Will this child feel like mine?” or express grief that their new child may not look like them. These questions and emotions are incredibly common and are worth exploring with an experienced mental health professional before pursuing egg donation.