Navigating through infertility can be upsetting very difficult journey for couples. From the disappointment in your body to the isolation many people experience as they receive baby shower invites and new baby announcements, the number of emotions you feel may be comparable only to the number of treatments you’ve tried or considered trying. Intrauterine insemination, in vitro fertilization, and ovulation drugs, oh my!
If you have stumbled upon the website for an egg donor bank, looking with trepidation at the donor profiles and wonder if maybe an egg donor could be your solution, here is some information about why couples choose egg donor IVF and how the process works. Knowledge is power, after all.
In the UK, getting married later in life is very common. The average age to get married is around age 30 for men and age 29 for women. While a marriage certificate is certainly not required for procreation, many couples prefer the legal status of marriage prior to starting a family for the benefit of the children. Therefore, delayed marriage often means delayed childbearing. The extra child-free years are great for college-educated career women, but unfortunately, it’s not so great for their eggs.
Eggs do not care that you are building a strong foundation for your future family by advancing in a stable career or waiting for the right partner to become a parent. Eggs ripen and release each month regardless of whether you plan to use them. Additionally, because women are born with a set number of eggs—not reproduced continually like sperm—the eggs we have age right along with us. Forty may be the new thirty, but forty-year-old eggs are not helpful for women who are trying to get pregnant. In fact, it is estimated that there is only a five percent chance of becoming pregnant naturally each month after age 40, and the eggs have a larger chance of having a chromosomal abnormality.
Age is not the only factor that may lead couples to consider donor eggs. Medical treatments, such as certain kinds of cancer treatments, can also leave women unable to conceive with their own eggs. Other women simply have a low ovarian reserve or hit menopause early in life.
If, after working to determine the cause of your infertility, your doctor believes that the number or quality of eggs is the culprit, it could be time to let modern technology assist you in delivering a little miracle.
So, back to those profiles on the egg donor bank websites. First, you will select an egg donor who fulfills your wishes for everything from background to education to aptitude. All frozen egg donors have already passed a vigorous screening, and they have already gone through the process of retrieving the eggs, which means your selected eggs are already frozen and waiting for you.
This is one reason that using frozen eggs has an advantage over using fresh donor eggs. Unlike the near-immediate availability of frozen donor eggs, when a woman chooses fresh donor eggs, she has to use medication to align her cycle with the donor’s, and wait for the donor to take medicine to produce and retrieve the eggs. This can take several months. With frozen eggs, on the other hand, it generally takes about two weeks from the time of selection for the eggs to be delivered to your fertility practice.
Those who have been in your shoes know the importance of choosing a quality facility. Nowadays, the best egg banks use a flash-freezing process called vitrification to preserve the eggs—this process minimizes damage to the eggs during freezing, which means that the eggs have a better chance of surviving the thaw process and going on to produce a viable pregnancy. That said, it’s wise to ensure you choose a clinic that has experience and a good success rate with thawing vitrified eggs.
Once your eggs have arrived, the process is very similar to traditional IVF. You will have already taken medications that prepare your body to give the soon-to-be embryo a place to live. The doctor will fertilize the donor eggs using your partner’s sperm, or donor sperm. After the embryos have cultured a couple of days, the doctor transfers them into your uterus while you enjoy some mild sedatives.
Then, cross your fingers, pray or visualize—because soon you can take a pregnancy test to find out if your dream of starting or building your family is just that much closer to coming true. And those feelings of hope and joy, so elusive during the ups and downs of infertility, may finally regain their rightful place at the forefront of your life.