The birth of the first child from egg donation is reported in Australia in 1983 at the Monash IVF clinic. In the United States of America the first report of child born from egg donation was in 1984 at Harbor UCLA Medical Center and the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine. Since then and until today only in the U.S it is estimated that around 50.000 children have been born using this technique.
The egg donor is a woman that:
→ Undergoes her own IVF treatment and produces supernumerary oocytes after ovarian stimulation or
→ Will undergo an ovarian stimulation cycle, motivated by altruism alone, in order to donate all oocytes produced.
Current technology allows the cryopreservation of donor oocytes. However, it is better to use donor eggs in a fresh cycle, when all oocytes are kept in culture and fertilized after egg retrieval.
A woman who receives IVF treatment and has a high number of oocytes retrieved, can decide to donate a part of her own eggs to another woman (anonymous recipient) who needs a donor. Every woman who accepts to donate part of her eggs usually receives significant discount on the costs of her own IVF treatment.
Egg donation is the process by which a woman, anonymous (not known by recipient) or non-anonymous (known by recipient), donates all her oocytes for purposes of assisted reproduction to one or more anonymous or not recipients.
The egg donor receives medication for ovarian stimulation, in order to stimulate the production of multiple follicles and finally collect the oocytes during oocyte retrieval. After oocyte retrieval, all oocytes are donated to one or more recipients.
Depending on the country and the legal status, the donor is compensated for any clinical or traveling expenses, and lost work hours. Compensation for egg donation is not considered as an exchange for or purchase of eggs.
Egg donation models vary significantly by country (.pdf file) from being legal to totally illegal, from anonymous or non-anonymous, to with or without any compensation. As a result of these legal differences, egg donation covers a wide financial range depending on the country. For instance, in the United States (.pdf file) it costs more than 30.000 $. In contrast, in some European countries it costs around 4.500 euros. On the other hand, in the U.S.A. egg recipients can personally choose their donor whereas this is not permitted in most European countries (.pdf file).
Who may benefit from egg donation?
Egg donation program is suitable in cases of:
1. Premature ovarian failure or menopause
2. Reccurent IVF failure
3. Recurrent pregnancy loss
4. History of poor oocyte quality
5. History of inherited or genetic disorders e.g. Diseases of X-Sex linkage, Turner syndrome, Gonadal dysgenesis)
6. Women undergoing chemotherapy
7. Poor response to ovarian stimulation
8. Women over 40.
For these couples, egg donation can significantly increase their chances of pregnancy.
How are egg donors selected?
Criteria, defined by country’s regulations (.pdf file), for becoming an egg donor usually include:
→ Physical appearance: Egg donors that are likely to be chosen for the program, should be under 30, healthy, good – looking with a free medical and genetic history. Physical characteristics (hair colour, eye colour, height, weight) are recorded in order to match each recipient with a suitable donor.
→ Donor’s history: Most programs try to learn all they can about a donor’s past, lifestyle, genetic make-up and educational level.
→ Psychological screening: Egg donors are referred to a psychologist who will evaluate their mental health.
→ Counselling: Egg donors are informed on what to expect during the program, the medications administered, the egg retrieval procedure, possible health risks and current legislation.
→ Medical screening: Egg donors undergo a thorough genetic and blood testing in order to minimize the possible health risks.
Medical screening usually involves:
1. Sexually transmitted diseases (Hepatitis Β, Hepatitis C, VDRL, HIV I&II)
2. Blood type and rhesus (Rh) factor
3. Full blood count
4. β- thallasemia testing
5. Cystic fibrosis testing
6. Hormone levels
7. Thrombophilia testing
8. Papanicolaou test (PAP – test)
9. Finally, egg donors undergo a pelvic ultrasound scan to verify optimal ovarian function.
In general, success rates may reach 60 -70% depending on the donor and the recipient.