Egg donation is a truly generous and noble act – and with it comes a plethora of questions. It’s important to do your research before making a commitment of this magnitude to be sure it’s the right fit for you. These are some of the most frequently asked questions about becoming an egg donor.
Generally, egg donors should be between the ages of 21-28 years old. Some agencies will accept candidates as young as 19 and up through their early 30s, but it is women in their early to mid-20s who possess the ideal physiology for the most successful outcome. Applicants will ask, “why can’t I donate eggs at age 36? People tell me I look 10 years younger!” While that’s probably true, the fact is that our eggs don’t age as gracefully – and age makes a big difference in their health and quality.
Still, it’s also true that some fertility clinics will work with a patient to retrieve eggs for her own IVF transfer into her early 40s. This is typically with the stipulation that the embryos undergo comprehensive chromosomal screening or preimplantation genetic testing to determine their quality before implantation. When it comes to egg donation, though, it’s important to mitigate as many risks as possible – including the quality and quantity of the eggs.
No. At least, not any faster than you would naturally. While it’s true that women are born with all the eggs she will ever produce, that number is close to two million – meaning she has more than she’ll ever actually use.
The average number of eggs retrieved during an egg donation cycle is 10-15; fertility treatment is responsible for this extra production of eggs. During a typical ovulation cycle, one egg is released and travels from the ovary to the fallopian tube for fertilization. Occasionally, two eggs will be spontaneously released – this is how fraternal twins are naturally conceived. And even considering the fact that about eleven thousand eggs die every month prior to puberty, there are still plenty of eggs left to go around.
At age 25, a woman typically has just under one million eggs available. By age 30, that number continues to lower and steadily declines before she reaches 40. It doesn’t mean pregnancy is impossible at this stage, but the chances of a successful pregnancy go down and the chances of complications go up. As eggs age, the quality deteriorates and increases the chances of the embryo having chromosomal abnormalities such as Down's Syndrome.
Over the course of her life, a woman will ultimately release about 450 mature eggs. Once those run out, typically around age 50, the ovaries stop making estrogen and menopause sets in. Natural pregnancy is no longer a possibility; if a woman experiences early menopause, utilizing an egg donor is a great option to build her family.
The medications are used for the treatment of infertility, which is widespread and has resulted in rigorous testing for effectiveness and safety by the scientific community and the FDA. With approximately 10,000 egg donation cycles each year, and with clear guidelines put in place by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the track record on safety is excellent.
As with any medication, there is always a risk of side effects from egg donation medications. Each donor responds differently to the protocol – some may experience several side effects, while others will have none at all. You can find a more comprehensive list of potential egg donor medications here. Not only have the medications been found to be safe, studies have shown that women who donate their eggs aren’t harming their chances of future pregnancies. A Belgian study looked at a group of 60 women who had donated eggs; 54 became pregnant within a year of trying to conceive, with three more becoming pregnant within 18 months. The remaining three women were able to conceive with fertility treatments, and two of those were due to male-factor issues.
All Things Conceivable is a blog dedicated to sharing the knowledge and expert opinions of the dedicated team at ConceiveAbilities, a Chicago-based egg donation and surrogacy agency.