Egg donation is often a part of the ART (Assisted Reproductive Treatments) in a situation when a couple might need eggs from female donors for IVF. A woman able to fulfill a normal pregnancy term may have problems in her egg reserve or ovaries that prevent natural conception. The egg collected from the donor is subjected to IVF and the resulting embryo is implanted in the woman’s (or surrogate) uterus for conception.
Why egg donation is needed?
Do you know that every woman is born with a huge egg reserve totaling nearly 1-2 millions in her ovaries? Each egg gets released naturally from the ovary every month ready to get fertilized with the sperm. Then why is the need for egg donation? Things do not work out as it seems to be. Unfortunately, many women cannot conceive despite the huge reserve. The reason – genetics, age and even poor egg quality. This can be frustrating!
The woman or the couple is not left with any choice but to opt for egg donation services. Age is an important factor in women fertility. Women can suffer from diminishing egg reserve. This normally happens after 40 when fertility falls steeply. Often starting family late after thirty reduces the quality of eggs making natural conception difficult. Chances of miscarriages are higher as well.
Nearly 1% of matured females suffer from premature ovarian failure. This means ovaries stop functioning normally at a very early age even before she attains menopause. Cancer and other medical conditions are other factors that affect ovarian functions. Same-sex couples (males) may also seek egg donation services to expand their biological progeny.
This is not all. Women with inherited genetic abnormality may choose egg donation to have a healthy child. After all, it is every parent’s dream to have a healthy baby without any inherited defects.
When to decide to use eggs from a donor?
Only after several failed attempts to achieve pregnancy with the woman’s own eggs, specialists recommend this service. Enduring several heartbreaking episodes of miscarriage is something difficult to cope up with.
Whatever may be the reason nobody takes egg donors or donor eggs casually. Remember, the future baby will have a genetic linkage with the donor which might be tough to accept for many couples. Arriving at such a decision is tough that comes only after serious deliberation.
Eligibility criteria for egg donors
In Ukraine, egg donors should be 18-35 years of age with sound health devoid of any preexisting conditions. Other important criteria are:
- She should have regular menstruation cycles and have healthy ovaries.
- She should not be using any internal contraceptive devices or taking birth-control injections.
- She should be a non-smoker and not be using any psychoactive drugs.
- She should be psychologically strong to go through the entire procedure adhering to the guidelines.
A donor undergoes extensive medical and psychological screening to minimize congenital defects and complications. She is also screened for Hepatitis C, HIV and other infections. Many a time, a donor has to submit a detail medical history of the family. Healthy women having healthy children or with previous experience of successful egg donation are favored.
In a typical egg donation process, the doctor or specialist extracts eggs from the donor and fertilizes through IVF finally transferring the embryo in the recipient’s womb. Not all embryos are used for implantation. Some are frozen in the facility for future use either for implantation or medical research.
The egg donor is selected after a thorough physical and psychological screening. A series of fertility drugs are pushed into the donor to stimulate the ovaries so that multiple eggs are produced in a single cycle. The process is known as Hyperstimulation. The donor will have to self-administer medications through shots.
Donors may experience mild side effects like bruises due to injection, mood swings and tenderness in breasts. Rarely, a donor woman develops severe ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) where too many eggs are produced. This may need immediate hospitalization. Owing to increased fertility, the donors have higher chances of pregnancy before retrieval of eggs. They should abstain from sex or use barrier contraceptives. The donor health will be monitored continuously through several blood tests and ultrasound examinations.
Just before egg retrieval, the donor will receive the final shot to get prepared for the procedure. She will go through a transvaginal ovarian aspiration. The ultrasound probe will be inserted into the vagina and a needle will remove the egg from the follicle. The procedure generally lasts for 30 minutes. The donor will be given sedatives or anesthetics. The process does not require an overnight clinic/hospital stay.
Post egg donation, some women may need few days of rest to recover while others can resume normal activities the next day. The process might have a psychological impact on the donor and she may need bit counseling.
Now, the risk factor. It is relatively low as the procedure and medication are the same for women opting for IVF with their own eggs. The level of risk is also the same in both cases. There might be a chance of bleeding when the needle is inserted into the ovary but damages to other organs are unlikely. If there is any infection, it can be curbed with antibiotics. Other than OHSS, which is also rare there is no such high risk factor involved.
Legal implications and cost
Ukraine allows egg donation but according to the ministry of Health, all egg donors should maintain anonymity. However, for international patients, the identity of egg donors can be disclosed but only under voluntary consent of the donor. Most of the Ukrainian fertility clinics work in adherence to ESHRE guidelines that allows a donor maximum 6 times in egg donation.
The donors need to sign a contract ensuring not to claim any parental right or responsibility of the babies born from the donated eggs. ISIDA CARE takes care of these legal issues making sure the intended couple only gets the parental right. The name of the intending woman will be recorded as the mother of the newborn.
Egg donation is expensive. In Ukraine, the cost is much less than the other European countries. Moreover, expertise and top class facilities ensure full safety of the donors. Donors receive a definite payment for their time and efforts. It is a well-tolerated procedure with appreciably high success rates.