Sometimes the media would like us to believe differently, BUT there is no question – as a woman ages, her fertility declines, regardless of her overall health. Certain lifestyle choices like poor diet, smoking or excessive alcohol or drug use as well as some environmental factors like radiation exposure or chemotherapy can certainly expedite the decline, but so far, science has found no way to delay or halt it. By the time a woman reaches her late thirties, her chances of a natural conception drop dramatically, and her chance for miscarriage rises significantly.
A Little History…
Prior to the 1980’s thousands of women with certain infertility diagnoses like Premature Ovarian Failure (POF), poor egg quality, Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR) or Advancing Maternal Age (AMA) had only one option for starting or growing their families; adoption. The possibility of conceiving and giving birth to a child was essentially non-existent.
Then, in 1983, physicians at the Marsh IVF clinic in Australia and at Harbor UCLA medical center in the United States announced pregnancies achieved using the oocytes from a woman who was NOT the woman carrying the pregnancy. The birth of those babies also represented the birth of oocyte (egg) donation. And with that, the doors of opportunity and hope OPENED for thousands of women.
The concept of using donor oocytes is pretty simple; take the eggs from a young healthy women, fertilize them in the laboratory with sperm from the intended father or another donor source and then transfer the resultant embryos into the hormonally prepared uterus of the intended mother. The specifics of how all of that works will vary from program to program and from patient to patient, as will the success rates of using donor ooctyes.
Success Rates for the Donor Egg Program at Carolina Conceptions
Donor egg cycles tend to have the highest success rates for clinical pregnancies and live births compared to any other group of patients being treated for infertility. Carolina Conceptions has one of the most active donor oocyte programs in North Carolina.
In 2013, our donor egg program boasted an almost 75% live birth rate and was ranked “one of the Best IVF Clinics In the United States For Egg Donations Using Fresh Embryos,” based on 2013 SART (Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies) IVF live birth data. [Since it takes 9 months to determine if a live birth occurred from a recorded pregnancy, success rates cannot be accurately reported and analyzed for fertility clinics until well over a year after a positive pregnancy test is recorded. The most current information available from SART at the time of this article is from 2013.]
Pregnancy rates from fertility clinics can be reported more quickly than live birth rates. In 2015, Carolina Conceptions ended the year with a pregnancy rate of 70% from couples who chose to use egg donors.
Choosing An Egg Donor
Egg recipient patients at Carolina Conceptions can select a donor from our private egg donor database via a unique password after their cycle deposit has been paid. This gives the recipient the opportunity to view photos of potential donors, review their medical history, as well as read a little bit about how the donor views herself. Recipient patients have the luxury of selecting the donor they feel is the best match.
What Happens After a Patient Chooses a Donor?
Once a recipient decides on a donor, we do our best to get things moving as quickly as possible. Our donor coordinator will gather all the necessary information from both parties and will prepare a treatment calendar outlining exactly what will happen when. She will then get everyone scheduled for the appropriate appointments.
Recipients begin their donor cycle with a DONOR EDUCATION CLASS. During the class, recipients will review the treatment dates, be instructed in the use of medications, review and sign consent forms. While the donor begins injections to stimulate her ovaries, the recipient will take medication to build the lining of her uterus to prepare her body for embryo implantation.
Both the donor and recipient will be monitored via labs and ultrasounds in our office. The donor will have more frequent monitoring and the recipient will be updated with the donor’s progress each time she is seen. When the donor’s follicles have reached a mature size (generally after 7-12 days of stimulation medication), it is time to schedule the donor’s egg retrieval surgery and the intended father’s semen collection. After the donor’s retrieval, the recipient will be notified how many eggs were retrieved. We will call the recipient the following day with fertilization results (how many embryos developed) and schedule an embryo transfer for the recipient.
How Long Does the Process Take?
From the time a donor is chosen by the recipient through embryo transfer usually takes approximately 8-10 weeks. Occasionally the process may take longer depending on various factors like where each woman is in her menstrual cycle, or if the intended parents have chosen to do preimplantation genetic screening on their embryos prior to transfer.
Does the Egg Donor Have Any Legal/Parental Rights to A Future Child?
No. Anonymous gamete donors, be they egg or sperm, sign away any rights they may have had to any resultant offspring when they consent to be a gamete donor. We make every effort to protect the anonymity of both our donors and our oocyte recipients.
Learn more about our Egg Donor Recipiency program. If you or someone you know is interested in becoming an egg donor, please review our list of qualifications and application. Or, contact our Donor Oocyte Coordinator, Ellie Downs, for more information.