You want a baby. Oh, how you’ve longed for those ten tiny fingers to grasp yours and those two little eyes to stare up at you. How painful it is when this desire is thwarted time and again by infertility. But there is still hope. Depending on what you’ve gone through and the treatments that may not have worked, it may be time to investigate . But in the world of infertility, which itself is shrouded in mystery, the practice of using donor eggs for IVF is riddled with misconceptions.
Here are five common misconceptions—and some information to help put your mind at ease if you are considering using donated eggs.
Misconception #1: Using an egg donor is for older women
This is partially true. With each passing month, women lose some of their egg stores. Generally, women are born with close to a million eggs, and by age 30, only about one-eighth of them remain. By age 45, only one percent of women can conceive naturally. On top of that, older eggs are more prone to genetic abnormalities.
However, there are other reasons a woman might need a donor egg. Some women have fought through illnesses, but have impacted their fertility with medications. Others experience decreased ovarian function or even early menopause before age 40. Other women simply experience .
Misconception #2: Anyone can be an egg donor
A common belief is that egg donors are just looking to make some extra cash—and therefore, they must be uneducated and economically disadvantaged. However, almost all egg donors have completed high school or are pursuing or have finished a college degree. While these women are compensated for their time and for treatment, most donors agree that they primarily want to donate in order give parents the chance to experience the joy of having a family.
Additionally, becoming an egg donor is not as simple as filling out a quick application; all egg donors must pass a rigorous screening that includes medical, genetic and psychological testing prior to being selected to donate. Of the thousands of applicants that egg banks get each year, only about 10 percent meet the standards to become an egg donor.
Misconception #3: Frozen donor eggs are riskier than fresh donor eggs
Although using a frozen donor egg to complete IVF is one of the newer assisted reproduction technologies available, the technology is no longer in its infancy stage. Previously, a slow-freeze process allowed ice crystals to form inside eggs during freezing, damaging them and leading to fewer viable eggs after thawing. Now, the most successful clinics use a technique called vitrification to freeze donor eggs by immersing them in liquid nitrogen—in other words, flash freezing them. With vitrification, frozen eggs produce almost the same likelihood of pregnancy as fresh donor eggs.
Misconception #4: Using an egg donor takes a lot of time and coordination
This is really only true for those who choose a fresh egg donor. For a fresh egg donation, the donor and the recipient must both be ready at the same time. The donor has to take medications to stimulate egg production, the recipient has to take medications to prepare her uterus for the forthcoming embryo, and both women have to get their monthly cycles in sync so that when the eggs have been retrieved and cultured, the mother-to-be is ready for implantation. And if the egg donor is not local to the recipient, traveling back and forth to the clinic is another complication. Not to mention, some donors do not respond as well to the medications, and it’s impossible to predict how many eggs a donor will produce.
When using frozen donor eggs, many of these steps are eliminated. Donors have already been through their egg retrieval, and a recipient can simply select a donor who meets their needs and can begin the IVF procedure when the timing is right for them. Additionally, the recipient is informed up front how many frozen eggs they will be receiving.
Misconception #5: The baby won’t look or feel “yours”
It’s heartbreaking to think that this is such a common fear for women who so very desperately want a baby. On the practical side, many couples often choose a donor that looks similar to mom, and use the father’s sperm, when possible, to have a genetic tie. On the emotional side, from the moment that little embryo burrows into the uterine lining to the moment the umbilical cord is clipped, mom and baby will share an unmistakable bond. To have two hearts beating inside the same body, to share nutrition, to feel each other’s movements is to forge a connection that is hard for non-moms to understand. And from birth on, you will have decades more time to connect with this new member of the family—who may inherit more from you than you may think. Genetics, after all, are not the only thing that determines a family.