Egg Donation is a process that is most commonly used when the patient is unable to produce her own eggs. This type of infertility is often associated with older maternal age, when the ovary’s store of follicles is beginning to run out. The tell-tale signs are irregular – and even absent – periods, which are often a prelude to the menopause. In normally ‘fertile’ women this can happen in their late 30s and early 40s, but there are also unfortunate younger women who are found to have a ‘premature’ menopause. This can happen in women as young as 20 or 30.
For assisted reproduction purposes, egg donation typically involves in-vitro fertilization technology, with the eggs being fertilized in the laboratory; more rarely, unfertilized eggs may be frozen and stored for later use. Egg donation is a third party reproduction as part of assisted reproductive technology (ART).
This scientific breakthrough changed the outlook for those who were unable to have children due to female infertility and for women who are at high risk for passing on genetic disorders. As IVF developed, the procedures used in egg donation paralleled that development: the egg donor’s eggs are now harvested from her ovaries in an outpatient surgical procedure and fertilized in the laboratory, the same procedure used on IVF patients, but the resulting embryo or embryos is then transferred into the intended mother instead of into the woman who provided the egg. Donor oocytes thus give women a mechanism to become pregnant and give birth to a child that will be their biological child (assuming that the recipient woman carries the baby), but not their genetic child.
Some patients, particularly the younger ones with premature menopause, consider donor eggs from a friend or family member. This type of ‘known donation’ can be quite reassuring for the patient, who is secure in her knowledge of the donor’s identity. However, such ‘intrafamilial’ donation can raise ethical questions and counseling is always essential.
Image Source: donateeggs.org