Being infertile is a study in tumultuous emotions. The anxiety of wanting to know, so badly, whether the next pregnancy test will have a plus sign, paired with the desire to freeze time because the unknown is better than the disappointment of another negative. The feeling of months slipping away into years, all while knowing that your best chances may have been years ago.
IVF has become so commonplace that people assume most twins nowadays are IVF twins, and women with no men in the picture can use sperm donors with few eyebrows raised. But looking into egg donation may be one tactic that’s been overlooked by women, especially those over age 35, who yearn to overcome infertility.
Here are some reasons using a donor egg may work when other methods have not:
- Your body does not make eggs throughout your life; you’re born with all the eggs you will ever have. That means your eggs are as old as you are, and older eggs are unfortunately more prone to genetic issues.
- Your egg stores are also greatly diminished by age 35 and continue to decline through age 40.
- Even with regular periods, you may not beovulating every month after age 35.
- It’s next to impossible to get pregnant with your own eggs after age 45.
- You may have needed medicine, such as a cancer treatment, that adversely affected your egg quantity and quality.
Advanced maternal age can have its challenges; however, women who wait to have children may also be more financially stable and ready to be a parent.
For women who have been through the wringer with infertility, or for those whose maternal instincts kicked in later in life, pregnancy may seem like a mirage, but with donated eggs, women can start their journey anew.
What is the egg donor process like?
Again there are the strong emotions. Many women report needing to grieve that a baby made with donor eggs will not be biologically theirs. It’s hard to accept that conclusion. Yet, the upside is that, unlike other options, donor eggs allow women to experience the miracle of a baby growing inside, to monitor the baby’s development, and even to go through childbirth.
After coming to terms with the emotional and psychological aspects of using donor eggs, the process can usually begin relatively quickly. First, women decide whether to use fresh or frozen donor eggs and who the donor will be.
All egg donors are screened for medical, genetic and psychological issues before being allowed to donate. With frozen donor eggs, the donors have already gone through the process of retrieving the eggs, so prospective moms can simply choose a donor who meets her criteria. There may be certain physical attributes, a particular ethnicity or a desired level of education that are important to the family. Fresh donor eggs are a little trickier as women will need to wait for the donor go through the screening process, then to take medications to produce the eggs, and hope that enough quality eggs are retrieved—all while both the donor and the recipient need to sync their menstrual cycles using additional medications.
After the mom selects the donor eggs, using them is nearly identical to traditional IVF. Once the eggs are at the fertility clinic, the doctor fertilizes them. This step allows dads to contribute to the genetic make-up of the baby, which some couples see as a major criteria in their family planning. But a sperm donor is also a wonderful option. As usual with fertility treatments, the couple of days while the fertilized eggs grow into embryos can be stressful and anxiety-inducing. Will it work this time? How many embryos will start growing? Will they be healthy and robust?
After a few days, the doctor implants the desired number of embryos into the mother, who will have prepped her body with hormones that encourage those little bundles of joy to hang on tight.
And if they do, women who have struggled for so long may finally see that elusive plus sign, that turns into morning sickness, that turns into baby kicks, that turns into the makings of a mother who knows how badly this child was wanted.