For many women, the thought of not being genetically linked to the child they are carrying is frustrating. Unfortunately, unlike men, a woman's reproductive ability is directly related to her ovarian reserve. Men continue to produce fresh sperm throughout their life, whereas women are born with a finite quantity of all the eggs they'll produce in a lifetime, and the number and quality of these eggs diminishes over time. The chances of a healthy, natural pregnancy decline steeply for women after the age of 35. 44 onwards, the chances of conceiving using their own eggs plummet to a mere 1%.
With a gradual behavioral shift seen world over, marked by women delaying family building to later years, the need for donor eggs is higher than ever. These eggs are donated by young, compassionate women and in many countries, egg donation remains a strictly altruistic practice. Meaning, one can only donate eggs for helping out a childless family as opposed to the prospect of being compensated.
In the US however, egg donors are compensated (between $5000 to $10,000) for every donation cycle they complete.
For couples and individuals struggling with infertility, egg donation appears to be one of the most viable option of treatment. There are multiple reasons why a couple or individual might opt for using donor eggs:
Repeated Failed IVF cycles
Infertility is an extremely taxing process and many families unfortunately go through numerous failed IVF cycles owing to variety of reasons. No matter what the cause behind a recurring failed IVF cycle is, using fresh donor eggs increases the likelihood of a successful pregnancy by at least 75% per embryo transfer! That is a whopping good statistic for parenthood hopefuls who otherwise have little to no hope of conceiving naturally.
Poor ovarian reserve
A woman's ovarian reserve is a key determinant of her ability to get pregnant using her own eggs. The overall health of the ovaries is evaluated using the following markers:
Baseline Antral Follicle Count (BAFC): This is used to measure the size of the ovaries
Day 3 FSH/E2: Assesses the general health of the ovary by measuring pituitary stress needed to drive the ovary
Antimullerian Hormone (AMH): Measures the total number of available eggs Following these markers, the state of the ovarian reserve is determined as to whether it's viable to use the female partner's own eggs or not. Women with a poor ovarian reserve are left with limited options in terms of reproducing naturally. Since the uterus does not age, women using donor eggs can get pregnant following successful implantation even in their 50's, depending on their overall health.
Many families who resort to the use of donor eggs do so in an attempt to mitigate the chances of passing down life-threatening genetic diseases such as Thalassemia, spinal muscular dystrophy, sickle cell diseases, cystic fibrosis and many more.
Some of the key contenders of donor egg IVF are LGBTQ individuals and families who have no other option but to choose either an egg donor or conceive using reciprocal IVF. For gay couples, egg donation is the only IVF treatment option in order to have a biological child using one of the male partner's sperm. For lesbian couples, reciprocal IVF is very commonly used in which one female partner uses her eggs which are then fertilized using donor sperm and implanted in the other partner's uterus.
Another factor to consider in fertility treatment is the possible early onset of menopause. Many women lose out on using their own eggs as a result of early menopause, resulting in a decline in egg count and quality. In such case, donor egg IVF enables couples to get pregnant no matter what age they choose to start their family at.
Age is the number one factor of declining egg quality. As women age, the number of viable eggs available for reproduction drops steeply. With fertility rates declining globally over the past few decades, family planning, women's labor force participation, increasing prosperity and structural transformation of the economy and various other reasons are suggested to be the driving force behind these changes. As families continue to delay childbearing, old maternal age remains a leading cause of age-related infertility. However, due to transformative developments in fertility medicine, such as the use of donor and frozen egg IVF, there is indeed light at the end of the tunnel for those battling infertility.