Egg donation is an extraordinary life changing gift that offers hope to woman who previously thought they could never have children. But what is the process of receiving donor eggs and the legalities involves? Here egg donor expert, Jenny Currie from baby2mom answers your questions and clarifies the concept of egg donation explained.
What are the chances of a successful pregnancy when using a donor egg?
Egg Donation Programmes have a success rate of about 48%; however this figure can vary depending on sperm quality and uterine readiness. Embryos are individual beings, so even with perfect conditions, they may not actually develop into a baby. Egg donation is about giving a chance where there is no chance with the recipient’s own eggs.
Is there a waiting list for donor eggs?
Depending on the specific egg donor agency with whom recipients are working, there should not be a waiting list for egg donors. The norm is that egg donor recipients are provided with immediate online access to a donor database of egg donors, with options to consider elements such as race, physical traits, reproductive information and personality traits. It may be that there is a waiting period for a specific profile of egg donor. E.g. in some countries there may be a scarcity of egg donors of a particular race group.
Is there an age limit to be a donor egg recipient and if so why?
South African guidelines for egg donation emphasise that special consideration should be given to couples where the female recipient’s age is greater than 50 years. For this reason some clinics enforce a cut off age of 50. This is to protect the health of the woman as she may not be medically suitable to carry a baby after this age, compromising her overall health.
How long will it take to plan my donor program and what should my first step be?
Typically, a two month period is required to plan a donor program. As menstrual cycles can be manipulated, the timing can really be planned to the recipient’s specifications. Usually donor programs are planned within a three month period, but with the consent of all parties, planning can extend beyond this time frame. So after the egg donor’s screening, recipients can be given exact dates to allow appropriate planning arrangements to be made. During the egg donor program, egg donation explained is made clear to persons involved and they are kept abreast throughout.
Is egg donation expensive, what are the costs for egg donation and what does this cover?
In addition to a regular IVF fee, additional costs for egg donation include screening assessments (psychological and medical) for the egg donor, ultrasounds for egg donors to assess egg development (this is in addition to the uterine assessment scans performed on the egg recipient), donor donation (which in South Africa is a fixed amount paid via the fertility clinic), possible donor travel costs (depending on the donor’s situation) and donor agency fees (to facilitate the egg donor program). Essentially egg donation in South Africa is a very viable, feasible and affordable solution.
Do I need to be medically confirmed to receive donor eggs and if so where do I go to get the required tests?
To optimise the process for egg donation, women as recipients of donor eggs should have necessary medical tests. Men, whose sperm will be fertilising the eggs, should also have specific tests done. Recipients can submit required medical results to fertility specialists in person or online to confirm that that their body is in an optimal space to receive donor eggs.
Do I need to worry about the legal requirements and contractual obligations in the donor process?
No, a professional egg donation agency will take care of any such details and ensures compliance with the legalities of the country as well as any governing guidelines.
I’ve read online that I need to match my blood group to that of the egg donors, is this correct?
No, matching of blood types does not influence the outcome at all. Blood groups are really provided for information purposes so that recipients have access to all information.
Is egg donation governed in South Africa?
Yes, ethical guidelines exist in South Africa to govern the process of egg donation. Recipients of donor eggs are recommended to only work through reputable and professional egg donation agencies that are in compliance of the requirements of the
South African Society for Reproductive Medicine and Gynaecological Endoscopy (SASREG). These specify certain work ethics, such as the number of donations, information that needs to be provided to be egg donors and recipients, screening processes of egg donation, advertising for egg donors as well as the egg donor donation.
Will I meet my egg donor?
No, egg donation in South Africa is completely anonymous and confidential, for this reason South Africa is a highly sought after destination for egg donation worldwide. There is no egg donor registry, so egg donor recipients are fully empowered to keep the decision of egg donation completely confidential. The egg donor will not be able to trace the egg donation. In keeping with the anonymity, only childhood pictures of the donors, up to the age of 10 are provided. Unfortunately some egg donors do not have access to these, so no pictures will be available. The egg donor’s responsibility and participation ends on the day of egg retrieval with the full understanding that no further involvement is required and that children conceived of her egg donation cannot look her up in any way. The egg donor agency is happy to facilitate this interaction, as long as it is anonymous.
What screening is carried out on an egg donor, are there both physical and psychological tests?
Full psychological assessments, blood tests and an internal ultrasound are performed. Hormonal blood levels are tested to confirm the egg donors’ suitability to produce good quality eggs, in addition HIV status is also checked. If a recipient elects for a donor to be tested for other aspects these can be undertaken. Professional egg donor agents do not recruit donors to their database if they have a medical history of predisposition to genetic disorders such as club foot, haemophilia, bipolar illness, etc.
How do I select an egg donor, what should I be looking for, can I get help with this?
Refer to the online egg donor database and consider what is important to you. For some recipients physical match is important. Other recipients elect to match personality, interests, academic, religious or other aspects. At the end of the day this is a personal decision and recipients are encouraged to be guided by their heart to select the right egg donor. The egg donor agent should be willing to assist with recommendations.
Will my child take on my traits with donor eggs?
From conception and throughout life a child witnesses their parents’ behaviour and therefore your own traits and mannerisms will be visible in your child. Aspects that are genetically influenced will stem from the egg donor and not the recipient as the latter does not influence the genes of the child in any way.
Will I be able to breastfeed if I receive donor eggs, there is conflicting opinion on the internet?
Of course recipients can and are encouraged to breastfeed. Other than the recipient’s ovary not producing the egg, all aspects about the pregnancy are the same. Breastfeeding actually encourages further bonding and provides the new infant with all required nutrition to start life.
Should I select an egg donor with proven fertility, i.e. a donor who has donated successfully before and/or has children of their own?
A careful screening of the ovarian reserve of the egg donor is more important than their fertility history. It is not necessary to select an egg donor who has a history of fertility, these facts are provided for information only. Every woman is different and every cycle is different. Egg donors may respond differently to artificial stimulation than to natural fertility.
What happens if my egg donor is found not suitable?
It may happen the egg donor is declined psychologically and or medically and these aspects can only be confirmed at the time of such professional assessments. These screenings are controls to give the recipient the very best of chance of conception with donor eggs. In the event of the donor not being advised to proceed, the egg donation agency will assist you in finding a new egg donor or you as the recipient can select a new egg donor from the database.
Would my egg donor donate continuously, is there a limit or can they donate as many time as they wish?
No, egg donors donate a maximum of 6 times or to the extent that 6 children are conceived of egg donation.
Jenny Currie is the founder and owner of dynamic egg donation agency baby2mom.