For anyone who’s thinking about using donor eggs, there’s of course lots of focus on the odds of success. But some of you may also be thinking, is it even safe to use donor eggs in the first place?
You may wonder if there is anything about this process that could possibly put you, your partner, or your baby at risk. And these are important questions to ask! However, rest assured, every step of the donor egg process has been carefully thought through with the egg donors’ and the recipient’s health in mind.
Egg donor screening
First, your egg donor agency or bank will ask many questions and conduct extensive testing before considering a potential donor. Egg donation is not something that just any woman is eligible to do.
The United States Food and Drug Administration has established eligibility requirements for anyone who wishes to donate tissue. This includes those donating eggs.
Egg donors must demonstrate that they are free from any communicable diseases. A clinic will test potential donors for infectious diseases and for a variety of bacteria and viruses. These include chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis B and C, HIV, and HTLV-1 (a virus that has been linked to some cancers). This process helps ensure that there are no infectious diseases associated with the transfer of an embryo made from a donor egg.
There are also many other requirements for egg donors, according to the guidance of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
The donor must:
- Provide a detailed medical and psychological history about themselves and any close relatives. The potential donor disclose alcohol and drug use; some programs even conduct random drug tests.
- Undergo a physical exam, as well as a pelvic examination. She’ll also do an ultrasound and bloodwork to evaluate her ovarian reserve (egg supply).
- Provide a detailed medical history for herself and her close family members. This will help identify any serious genetic conditions that could run in her family. The clinic will screen her for family history of birth defects or required surgeries like a heart defect, a cleft lip, or a spinal condition. The clinic may also perform genetic carrier screening. Their goal is to identify if she is a carrier for genetic diseases such as Tay Sachs Disease, Sickle Cell Anemia, or Huntington’s Disease. If your partner or sperm donor is a carrier of a genetic disease, you will want to make sure that your egg donor doesn’t carry the same disease.
- Undergo psychological screening to ensure that she is truly a good fit for egg donation. In some programs, psychological tests will also be part of the process.
All of this will help to ensure that using an egg donor is as safe as possible, with the donor free of diseases and also in good physical and psychological shape.
You and your partner will be evaluated as egg donor recipients as well. Before you can begin, you will both need to give an extensive medical history. Your doctor will test for things like blood type and RH factor. They will also screen for any sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, hepatitis, and HIV.
Both you and your partner may meet with a mental health counselor. This will help ensure that using an egg donor is right for you.
Your doctor will perform an analysis of the sperm you intend to use. The quality of the sperm may help to determine the technique the lab will use to fertilize the eggs. Also, genetic carrier screening to assess for any recessive genetic diseases.
Meanwhile, the person planning to carry the pregnancy will need to undergo some testing. First, she will have a complete examination of the uterus to help ensure the inside of the uterus is normal. This may include a saline ultrasound or a hysteroscopy. The doctor will look to see if there are any fibroids or polyps in the uterus that may get in the way of implantation or safely carrying a pregnancy to term.
If you are over age 45, you may undergo a more extensive evaluation. This may include a consultation with a maternal fetal medicine specialist, an evaluation to make sure that the heart is functioning properly, an evaluation of blood pressure and other exams to ensure that there is minimal risk of any pregnancy-related diseases.
Older recipients may also be advised to find an obstetrician who specializes in high-risk pregnancies, who can help ensure that all proceeds smoothly.
When deciding whether to move forward with the donor egg process, discuss any safety concerns with your doctor and ask questions. The more you know about the process, the more confident you are likely to feel.