In vitro fertilization (IVF) with a donor egg is a fertility treatment option for those who have experienced difficulties conceiving using their own eggs. The process involves using eggs from a carefully selected donor and fertilizing them with the partner’s sperm or a donor’s sperm in a laboratory setting. The embryos are then transferred back into the recipient’s uterus to achieve a successful pregnancy.
However, you may wonder what to expect when it comes to IVF with a donor egg. How does the egg donor process work? What is the step-by-step procedure? This guide offers you a thorough understanding of the IVF with a donor egg process so that you can make an informed decision during your fertility journey.
Egg Donor Selection
The first step in IVF with a donor egg is selecting a suitable donor. In this part of the process, your fertility team considers various factors, including physical characteristics, medical history, genetic screening, and your personal preferences.
Egg donors can be known to the recipient, or they may be anonymous. Known donors are typically friends or family members, while anonymous donors are found through egg donor agencies or fertility clinics. At ELITE IVF, donor confidentiality is protected by a legal consent form signed by both the donor and the recipient.
Many recipients choose donors with similar physical traits to their own, including height, weight, hair color, eye color, and ethnicity.
All potential egg donors undergo rigorous medical and genetic screening to ensure they are healthy and have no known genetic disorders. This screening process includes a physical examination, blood tests, a psychological evaluation, and a detailed review of the donor’s family medical history.
Some recipients may have further specific preferences for a donor, such as educational background, hobbies, or personality traits. In such cases, egg donor agencies and fertility clinics can help match recipients with suitable donors based on these preferences.
Preparation For Egg Retrieval
Once the egg donor has been selected, the next step is to prepare the donor’s body for egg retrieval. Preparation involves synchronizing the donor’s and recipient’s menstrual cycles, stimulating the donor’s ovaries, and monitoring the development of the donor’s follicles.
The donor’s and recipient’s menstrual cycles must be synchronized to ensure the recipient’s uterus is ready to receive the embryo(s) when transferred. This synchronization is achieved using medications like birth control pills or hormone injections.
Your fertility team will give the egg donor-specific fertility medications to stimulate her ovaries and encourage the growth of multiple mature eggs. These medications include follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), which are typically administered through daily injections for 8-12 days.
Your fertility team will also use regular ultrasounds and blood tests to monitor the donor’s response to fertility medications closely. This allows the fertility specialist to track the donor’s follicles’ growth and development and adjust the medication protocol as needed.
Egg Donor Medications
- Fertility medications: The egg donor is given follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) injections to stimulate her ovaries and promote the growth of multiple mature eggs. These medications are typically administered through daily injections for 8-12 days.
- GnRH Antagonist: This medication is administered to prevent the donor’s natural LH surge, which could lead to premature ovulation before the eggs are retrieved. GnRH antagonists are typically given alongside fertility medications.
- Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) Injection: When the donor’s follicles have reached the appropriate size, an hCG injection is given to trigger the final maturation of the eggs. The egg retrieval procedure is scheduled approximately 36 hours after the hCG injection.
Egg Retrieval and Fertilization
The donor undergoes a minor surgical procedure called transvaginal ultrasound-guided aspiration to retrieve the eggs. During the procedure, a thin needle is inserted through the vaginal wall and into the ovary, where the mature eggs are gently aspirated.
The recipient’s partner or a sperm donor provides a semen sample, which is then processed in the laboratory to isolate the most viable sperm.
The fertility team combines the retrieved eggs with the prepared sperm in a laboratory, either through conventional insemination by mixing sperm and eggs or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), where a single sperm is injected directly into each egg. The fertilized eggs are then cultured for a few days until they reach the appropriate stage for embryo transfer, which usually takes three to five days.
PGT Genetic Testing
Preimplantation genetic testing (PGT) is an optional step in the IVF process, which involves screening the embryos for genetic abnormalities before they are transferred into your or your partner’s uterus. PGT can help identify embryos with chromosomal abnormalities, single-gene disorders, or other genetic conditions that could affect the success of the IVF treatment or the child’s health.
The main types of PGT include:
- PGT-A: Preimplantation genetic testing for aneuploidies screens embryos for chromosomal abnormalities, such as missing or extra chromosomes.
- PGT-M: Preimplantation genetic testing for monogenic/single-gene disorders identifies embryos that carry a specific genetic disorder known to be present in the family.
- PGT-SR: Preimplantation genetic testing for structural rearrangements detects embryos with chromosomal rearrangements, such as translocations or inversions.
Donor Egg Recipient Medication Protocol
As the recipient of the donor eggs, you or your partner also undergo a specific medication protocol to prepare the uterus for embryo implantation. This protocol typically involves suppressing the natural cycle, estrogen therapy, progesterone therapy, and monitoring.
You may also be given medications, such as birth control pills or gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists, to suppress the natural menstrual cycle. This ensures that your cycle can be synchronized with the egg donor’s cycle.
From there, you’ll start taking estrogen, usually in the form of oral tablets or patches. Estrogen helps thicken the endometrial lining, creating a receptive environment for the embryos.
A few days before the scheduled embryo transfer, your fertility team will perform progesterone injections or have you take progesterone vaginal suppositories or gels. Progesterone is essential for maintaining the endometrial lining and supporting early pregnancy.
Your fertility team closely monitors your response to the medications through blood tests and ultrasounds. This allows your fertility specialist to adjust the medication dosages if necessary and confirm that the endometrial lining has reached the optimal thickness for embryo transfer.
Donor Egg Embryo Transfer
The final step in the IVF with donor egg process is embryo transfer. It is a relatively simple and painless procedure that involves just a few steps.
Based on the quality and development of the embryos, your fertility specialist selects the best one(s) for transfer. The number of embryos transferred depends on several factors, including the recipient’s age, the quality of the embryos, and the recipient’s preference.
The selected embryo(s) are loaded into a thin, flexible catheter and then gently inserted through the recipient’s cervix and into her uterus. The procedure is usually performed under ultrasound guidance to ensure accurate placement.
You will continue taking progesterone after the embryo transfer to help support the implantation process and early pregnancy. Approximately two weeks after the embryo transfer, you will then undergo a blood test to measure the level of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a hormone produced during pregnancy. A positive test indicates successful implantation and pregnancy.
If you become pregnant, you continue to receive care from your fertility team until you are referred to an obstetrician for prenatal care. If the IVF cycle is unsuccessful, you may discuss further treatment options with your fertility specialist.
IVF with donor eggs is a complex but effective fertility treatment for individuals and couples who face challenges conceiving, particularly fertility issues involving one’s eggs. Understanding the step-by-step process, from the donor egg recipient medication protocol to the donor egg embryo transfer, can help you navigate your fertility.
Your journey toward parenthood deserves the best support, expertise, and care possible. ELITE IVF is committed to providing personalized and compassionate fertility solutions tailored to your unique needs. Our innovative and proven treatments and our experienced team of fertility specialists have already transformed the lives of countless families worldwide. Contact us today to learn more about how ELITE IVF can help you expand your family.