According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), third-party reproduction refers to the use of donated eggs, sperm or embryos, or the use of a gestational carrier (surrogate), in conjunction with assisted reproductive technologies to help an individual or a couple become parents.
Generally, donation is used in fertility treatment because the recipient(s) are unable to achieve pregnancy using their own sperm, eggs or embryos (fertilized eggs). The sperm, egg or embryo donor may remain anonymous or may be known by the recipient, such as a family member, a friend or someone contacted through a third-party agency.
Pregnancies achieved through donation or surrogacy can involve one or more assisted reproductive technologies, such as IVF.
Gestational surrogacy involves implanting an embryo produced by the recipient parents via IVF into the uterus of a surrogate (preferentially known as a gestational carrier). A child who is born through gestational surrogacy is not genetically related to the surrogate.
Traditional surrogacy uses the surrogate’s own eggs and involves artificial insemination. A child born through traditional surrogacy will be genetically related to the surrogate.
Sperm donation refers to sperm that is donated by a man who is not the recipient’s partner. Donated sperm is either used in artificial insemination (sperm placed into the female recipient’s uterus) or is combined with female eggs outside of the body in a lab during IVF. Fertility specialists will evaluate the sperm donor for health, mental health and genetic makeup, then freeze and store it for later use.
Egg donation involves a woman donating her eggs to another woman or couple to be used in IVF to achieve a successful pregnancy. A donor can be known (such as a family member or close friend) or come through an egg donation agency. The donated eggs are combined with either the male partner’s sperm or donated sperm during IVF to make an embryo. The embryo(s) are then implanted into the uterus of the recipient mother.
Although the medical risks are similar to those associated with IVF, surrogacy and donation also carry emotional and legal considerations for recipient parents, donors and surrogates related to genetic relationships and carrying a pregnancy.
A physician may suggest that individuals and/or couples dealing with these issues seek professional counseling from psychologists and attorneys specialized in third-party reproduction issues.
Those considering surrogacy or egg, sperm or embryo donation may want to speak with other patients who have gone through a similar process. Our staff can direct patients to support groups and other resources.