Not meeting the love of her life, making progress in her career, or simply not feeling the urge: these are all reasons a woman may find herself looking to start a family later in life. As inspiring as a woman’s personal journey may be, biology sometimes comes with a harsh reality check concerning fertility. After age 35, it gets harder — and, in some cases, downright impossible — to become pregnant and carry a baby to term without fertility treatment. However, older women shouldn’t despair – one of the most promising fertility options for women struggling with infertility is donor egg IVF.
When Is Egg Donation the Best Option?
Women’s bodies do not replenish eggs, as is the case with men and sperm. In other words, your eggs continue to age as you do, regardless of how healthy you may be. After age 35, women face the troubling concerns of having a lower quantity of eggs with a higher chance of those eggs being flawed. You may consider donor eggs if your doctor tests your ovarian reserve and finds too few viable eggs for other fertility treatments to work. Premature menopause may also necessitate IVF with donor eggs.
Why Do Women Choose Donor Eggs?
Many women do not wish to give up their dream of carrying a baby, feeling his or her development, and experiencing the empowering miracle of giving birth. Post-partum hormones also condition new mothers for breastfeeding, which is a treasured goal for many women seeking to bond with their newborn. While there are many wonderful ways to create a family, egg donation particularly allows those women who can no longer use their own eggs to develop that special early bond between mother and child.
What Emotions Do Donor Egg Recipients Experience?
It’s unusual for a woman considering egg donation to start a family to breeze through the challenging emotions that accompany infertility. Even if she’s known from the beginning that egg donation is her only option, she may experience strong feelings of inadequacy and betrayal by her body. In addition, once a woman decides to proceed with egg donation, she may need to grieve the loss of a direct genetic connection to her future baby. However, many older mothers-to-be take comfort knowing they are generally more financially stable and that children of older mothers have many advantages over their younger counterparts.
Where Do Women Find Donor Eggs?
Sometimes a friend or family member is willing to donate, or a couple can find fresh egg donors through an egg donor agency. With an agency, couples are placed on a list for an anonymous donor. If a friend or family member agrees to donate, the couple’s fertility clinic must test the donor for medical, genetic, and psychological issues — just like the egg donor agency is required to do. Alternatively, couples can find a frozen egg donor at a frozen egg bank, where they can browse donors across the US and choose the perfect donor based on their personal preferences.
Regardless of whether fresh or frozen donor egg is chosen, the recipient mother must self-administer hormones to thicken the lining of her uterus and increase her chances of implantation. Aside from that specific step, the process differs significantly between fresh donor egg and frozen donor egg cycles.
When couples choose fresh donor egg, it may take up to a year for a donor to become available. Once found and thoroughly screened, the recipient and donor must synchronize their menstrual cycles. There are no assurances as to how the donor will respond to her medications for stimulating and maturing the donor eggs – she may produce many eggs or just a few. After the donor’s egg retrieval, the IVF procedure begins by fertilizing the donor eggs with the recipient’s husband’s (or donor) sperm in a lab. After three to five days, one or two resulting embryos are implanted into the recipient mother.
On the other hand, with frozen donor egg, once the couple decides on a donor, the eggs arrive at the fertility clinic ready for thawing, fertilization, and transfer – once the recipient’s uterus is ready for implantation. The couple can complete the process in as few as four weeks with the advantage of planning the procedure around their own schedules rather than coordinating with a donor.
What Happens After the Procedure?
After the fresh or frozen donor egg IVF cycle is complete, many hopeful moms-to-be report feeling relief, anticipation, and anxiety to find out whether the implantation was successful. For many, the end of the infertility journey marks the beginning of a new one: experiencing the delights and discomforts of pregnancy, managing doctor’s appointments, going through labor and delivery, and learning how to be a family with a new little one.