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When should donor eggs be used in fertility treatment?

Dr. Lawrence Grunfeld, MD
Fertility Specialist

More than 150,000 women in the United States can't bear children because of ovarian problems. Many women do not produce eggs, or have had their ovaries removed, have had radiation therapy or chemotherapy for cancer that destroyed their ovarian function, or have dysfunctional ovaries and are no longer producing fertilization-quality eggs. Other women have deferred pregnancy until their late thirties or forties. Since the ovaries age at such dramatically different rates in different women, while some conceive quickly, others are no longer able to conceive using their own eggs and require donated eggs to conceive. Egg donation is a treatment that uses the male partner's sperm to fertilize eggs donated by an anonymous female donor, and is followed by transfer of the fertilized egg into the female partner's uterus.

Egg donors are typically healthy women between ages 21 and 31 who have no known genetic or sexually transmitted diseases. They should be screened for genetic, hormonal, psychological, infectious and physical diseases. Egg donors usually take injectable hormones for eight to ten days to increase their egg production. Donor eggs are retrieved transvaginally using an ultrasound to guide the procedure. The recipient of the donated eggs usually takes hormones to synchronize her cycle with the donor's cycle and to prepare her uterus to receive the embryos and thus enhance the likelihood of implantation. These hormones include estrogen, which can be taken orally or administered in patches that attach to the skin, and progesterone, which is administered by injections. As in IVF, three embryos are normally transferred to increase the couple's chances of pregnancy. In a good program, more than 50% of ovum recipients should receive positive pregnancy tests on their first attempt.

Donor eggs should be used in cases when women produce eggs of poor quality for embryo development. This situation is especially true for women in their later reproductive years who not only have increased difficulty conceiving but also have high rates of miscarriage and offspring with congenital abnormalities because of abnormal numbers of chromosomes. Other women may suffer from early menopause. For these situations, in vitro fertilization with donor eggs is a rewarding option.

The contents of this website are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Nor does the contents of this website constitute the establishment of a physician patient or therapeutic relationship. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.