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Donated Eggs Offer Hope for Women With Diminished Ovarian Reserve

Written By: Dr. Jennifer Eaton on December 17, 2020

photo-wifc-two-women-outsideEgg donation is when one woman gives her eggs, either fresh or in a frozen state, to another woman. Our Director Dr. Jennifer Eaton has intensive experience achieving pregnancies for patients using donated eggs.

Donated eggs can improve IVF success rates for many women

One of the things I love about my work is that I get to contemplate the best possible fertility treatment for a patient based on her unique personal history, fertility testing results and the numerous medical solutions available today.

For instance, for female patients who are older or who show evidence of diminished ovarian reserve (a reduced supply and quality of eggs in her ovaries), the treatment option with the highest success rates is likely the use of donated eggs instead of the woman’s own.

This route is also advisable for patients who have previously tried in vitro fertilization (IVF) resulting in a low number of retrieved eggs or poor-quality embryos. Using donated eggs is also an option for LGBTQ individuals and couples.

A sense of hope with donated eggs

Upon hearing a recommendation of using donor eggs, it is common to experience sadness and need time to grieve.

I truly feel the sense of loss for a patient in this situation. Every woman is different. For some, having a genetically related child is of utmost importance. The decision to use donated eggs is a personal one and there is no right or wrong decision.

For patients who choose to use donated eggs, success rates are excellent. Moving on to donor egg IVF can restore a sense of hope for patients who may not have had success with other treatment options.

Who could benefit from using donated eggs?

Patients who would likely need to consider the egg donation process include:

  • Women diagnosed with diminished ovarian reserve.
  • Women of older reproductive age.
  • Women who have experienced menopause.
  • LGBTQ couples or individuals who need healthy eggs.
Related Reading: LGBTQ Parenthood Can Be a Journey of Self-Discovery

Diminished ovarian reserve is the most common condition that warrants donor eggs, and it often presents no symptoms. Women over the age of 35 or who have had certain surgeries or cancer treatment may suffer from diminished ovarian reserve. The condition is diagnosed through blood tests that measure indicators for low anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) or high follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). It may also be diagnosed with a low count of antral follicles on an ultrasound.

It is important for patients who consider donated eggs also to evaluate other family building options, which include fostering or adoption, too. Seeing a psychologist or social worker with expertise in third-party reproduction is always recommended for anyone making these difficult decisions.

What is the egg donation process?

There are two sources of donor eggs: a known or recommended individual donor or a de-identified donor.

When considering an individual egg donor, a patient has two options: working with a woman known to her or using a donor already vetted by the fertility clinic or agency. The donor will go through an entire IVF cycle. The cost of the cycle includes medications, blood work, ultrasounds, the egg retrieval procedure, possible attorney fees and sometimes the donor’s travel and lodging. Additionally, the patient would pay the donor for her time and effort.

Eggs obtained in this manner may be immediately fertilized through IVF, with the resulting embryo implanted in the recipient mother by timing the two women’s cycles. This is known as a fresh egg donation cycle.

The benefit of using an egg bank

Because a fresh donor egg cycle can be very costly, many clinics have moved toward encouraging the use of banked, frozen donor eggs.

Typically, the cost of IVF with banked eggs is lower than that of IVF with fresh donated eggs. It is also much quicker to purchase eggs from an egg bank than to find an egg donor for a fresh IVF cycle.

It is critical to purchase eggs from a bank that follows national guidelines and has a history of successful pregnancies. At Women & Infants Fertility Center, we have partnered with MyEggBank, one of the most well respected national egg banks.

Covering egg donation and IVF cost

The cost for using donor eggs for fertility treatment is considerable, as it involves IVF costs and other expenses related to obtaining the donated eggs. There are a few ways to go about financing it.

Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts have state-imposed fertility insurance mandates that require providers to cover fertility treatment costs for men and women if they meet certain conditions. Even with this coverage, insurance benefits vary widely among plans, so it’s important that a patient get a clear understanding of what her plan will cover.

Another option is to work with the fertility clinic or the egg bank for in-house financing options. For instance, MyEggBank offers two lending solutions for the egg donation cost as well as a guarantee.

Making the best decision about donated eggs

When speaking with my patients about using donor eggs, I give them a bit of homework.

  • Familiarize yourself with the egg donation process and associated costs.
  • Seek guidance from a social worker or psychologist who can counsel you on the various aspects of using this treatment, such as when or if to disclose to family, friends and the child, and what factors to consider when choosing a donor.
  • Consider legal counsel if your donor is known to you.
  • Consider the fact that complete anonymity no longer exists in the age of social media. Ask whether your donor has volunteered to participate in a registry that may allow for future contact, in the event that your child is diagnosed with a genetic condition.

For many women, the decision to use donor eggs reduces the stress of the ever-present ticking clock. Therefore, I advise them to optimize their health before pregnancy and take their time when choosing the donor.