RCC has offered treatment options involving donor eggs with great success. From our inception in 1999, we have handled hundreds of fresh donor egg cycles involving the matching of recipients with suitable known or anonymous egg donors. Following introduction of Canada’s restrictive regulations around gamete donation, RCC was among the first in the country to provide access to American egg banks.
The potential use of donor eggs may be indicated or considered for individuals or couples in a number of circumstances including:
- Cases where the woman lacks her own eggs due to Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (due to cancer therapy, genetics, autoimmune disease or surgery).
- Cases where conception is unlikely due to advanced maternal age or diminished ovarian reserve.
- Cases of repeated unsuccessful IVF cycles involving poor egg/embryo quality.
- Cases where a woman is at risk of transmitting chromosomal or genetic disorders to her offspring.
- Cases of severe endometriosis where egg quality is likely to be affected.
Donor eggs can be obtained from a known donor which usually involves an informed friend or relative. While anonymous egg donation does occur, Canadian law prohibits payment to an individual for donating her eggs. As such, these cases of truly altruistic egg donation are uncommon. Since many other countries do allow payment to egg donors and it is now possible to freeze eggs successfully, various donor egg banks have been established in the United States and other countries. The use of donor eggs has become much more common by women and couples (especially in women over age 40). The very high success rates with using these frozen eggs have allowed many women embarking on this treatment to fulfill their dream of having a child.
When donor eggs are used, the process is very similar to the IVF process except that the embryos which are generated are placed into the uterus of the recipient woman rather than the donor woman. The donated eggs (fresh from an egg retrieval or frozen from an egg bank) will be fertilized with sperm from the recipient’s male partner or using donor sperm (in the case of severe male factor, single women, lesbian women). Success of this process is largely dependent on the age of the woman who donates the eggs. The younger this woman is and the healthier her ovaries, the greater the success for establishing a pregnancy. In the ideal situation, pregnancy rates may be as high as 70%. Couples or individuals who desire this treatment are required to undergo extensive counselling and legal advice. When the eggs are donated from a friend or relative, they also undergo counselling.
When patients have chosen to use donated eggs from a friend or relative (known donor eggs), the egg donor undergoes the ovarian stimulation as part of the IVF process. All components and optional technologies are identical to those utilized for patients using their own eggs. The donor then has the eggs retrieved from her body and they are fertilized with the sperm that the recipient has chosen (her partner or donated sperm). The resulting embryos are either frozen or one is placed in the uterus of the recipient. Preparation of her uterus is usually the same whether the embryo is transferred “fresh” or after freezing. If a fresh embryo transfer is desired, the donor and recipient cycles require synchronization. The RCC team has extensive experience in managing these types of cycles and will be happy to discuss the benefits and challenges associated with you should you be interested in choosing this option.
Anonymous Frozen Donor “Egg Banks”
Recent developments in freezing technology have made it possible to freeze and store human eggs such that they can be thawed at a later date with very good survival and fertility potential. Egg banks have now been established in various countries around the world including the United States. These programs are very much like sperm banks. Egg donors are selected after detailed review of health history, physical examination and infectious testing by the bank. The donors go through ovarian stimulation and egg retrieval after which their eggs are frozen and stored. The “Egg Banks” compile inventory lists according to numerous characteristics including: ethnic background, blood type, height, weight, hair and eye colour, as well as various other characteristics. This information can be made available to interested patients when they are registered with the bank. Once a patient has chosen the eggs from the Egg Bank inventory, the embryos are created using the sperm of their choice. An embryo is then transferred into her uterus after it has been prepared with medication. RCC has coordinated care with this technology with reputable egg banks and thus has had excellent success with helping patients achieve a pregnancy and have a baby.