There are so many myths and fantasies surrounding egg donation that you probably know only a few actual facts about the egg donation process.
With its ups and downs, finding the right egg donor can be an emotional roller coaster, but it is a major milestone on the road to creating your family. You need to be ready for the challenges and prepare yourself with some basic information. This is essential for saving time, frustration, and money.
In our last article, “Tips for Egg Donors,” we collected the best advice for women considering the egg donation process. Now we have asked 32 experts to share their number one tip for intended parents turning to egg donation.
In this article, you will find the experts’ best tips to help you on this journey and debunk some of those myths and fantasies.
Kim has specialized in the area of gay and lesbian parenting, parenting by choice and third party assisted reproduction for over two decades. She is a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, and the American Psychological Association.
Don’t get to caught up in finding the “perfect” donor. You will have the baby you are meant to have—choose the qualities that are really important to you and then let the rest be a wonderful adventure. Your baby will be a combination of their genetics and environment and all of it will unfold.
Elizabeth Swire Falker
Liz is a former infertility patient, author of The Infertility Survival Handbook and The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Adoption, adoptive parent, lawyer and advocate for anyone trying to build their family through assisted reproductive technologies or adoption.
My number one tip when looking for an egg donor is to advise intended parents to be open-minded. Sometimes the “best” donors aren’t what we initially think will be the “right” donor, or vice versa. Don’t limit yourself to looking for a donor who looks like you or has certain academic credentials. Many times my clients have struggled to find a donor match, but when they broadened their search criteria to find donors with similar artistic abilities or interests, or personality characteristics, they finally make a match.
Shalene is not only an industry veteran, but a client; having preserved her own fertility through cryopreservation before most people even knew what that was. She founded Nest Egg Fertility and Nest Abroad Surrogacy with the intention of creating the experience she wishes she had had.
One of the number one tips I give to intended parents seeking a donor is to keep in mind that there will never be another YOU! It is natural for intended parents to gravitate toward a donor with similar attributes, but the truth is it will become an endless search if you are seeking someone who is just like you. I also remind intended parents, that the more specific they are, the longer it will take to find a match. So, while it is good to have donor preferences, it is also good to keep your top 3 attributes you absolutely must find and have flexibility with some of the others on your list.
Gail Sexton Anderson
Gail Sexton Anderson is the founder and CEO of Donor Concierge. An innovator, speaker, and creative thinker in 3rd party fertility, she is on the board of the Society for Ethics in Egg Donation & Surrogacy. Gail earned her Ed.M. from Harvard.
Let go of who you think should be your donor and try to like the person for who she is. Assuming she is willing and available to do a cycle with you and her fertility is optimal according to your RE’s requirements, review the donor’s profile and ask yourself – Is this someone who looks like she might fit into my family? Is she someone I’d like to have coffee with, and someone I admire for her many qualities. Your egg donor is not your baby, he or she will be an individual who is nurtured, educated and loved by you, the parent.
Stephanie M. Caballero
Stephanie, inspired by her personal experience with infertility and surrogacy, has exclusively practiced reproductive law for over a decade. She is principal and founder of The Surrogacy Law Center and serves on the boards of Fertile Action and Parents Via Egg Donation.
Although you may be eager to start your family immediately, take your time in selecting a donor. Your donor’s genetics will be part of your child for life; it’s not worth rushing! If you are working with an agency, make sure you do your due diligence and research how long the agency has been in business, which medical and mental health professionals they work with, and inquire as to whether anyone on staff is a member of ASRM, the leading multidisciplinary organization for advancing reproductive medicine. Your physician might have some valuable insider insight as well!
Valerie has been working in the women’s healthcare field for the last decade. She merged her medical career and fertility passion when she founded the educational website eggsperience.com and podcast Eggology Club.
I think the couple needs to talk out and consider what they will tell the future child about their identity after they are born or how they were conceived. Egg donation is rarely talked about and so often misunderstood. I’m trying to help women in PreMom Phase to think about being their own egg donor to help relieve this issue.
Denise Steele founded Hope4Fertility, where she provides encouragement and resources to those seeking their third-party path to parenthood and she is an ART Escrow Consultant for SeedTrust.
Given the information that may be found through DNA matching sites, working with a known donor is an ideal scenario. Having an actual conversation with our donor to gain a better sense who she was and what she was about at the time would have been wonderful. Also, being able to provide updated medical information back and forth would have been beneficial to all of us.
Serena H Chen
Serena is the Director of Reproductive Medicine at IRMS, The Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston NJ. Serena is a passionate advocate of health education and access for all
My number one tip for people considering using donor eggs to conceive is to remember to take care of yourself – to stay healthy in mind and body. The journey to having a baby via egg donation is often a long and difficult one. Ultimately if you stick with it, you will end up with a healthy baby. However, because infertility is so stressful, people often lose sight of their lives, their relationships, their mental and physical health in their desperation to conceive. You will get there, make sure to nurture and support yourself along the way.
Aleksander is the Chief Marketing Officer of Egg Donation Friends. He is a marketer, patient’s experience manager and advocate of transparency and truth of IVF treatment.
I actually recommend patients look for the right IVF clinic, not an egg donor. The best choice would be a clinic with an in-house egg bank and offering fresh donor egg cycles. However, if a patient wants to focus on choosing an egg donor, they should check how donors are qualified and approved in this particular clinic. The standard egg donor qualification process should include testing for infectious diseases and basic genetic testing (CFTR/cystic fibrosis transmembrane and karyotype). Egg donors should also go through a psychological evaluation. The process of donating eggs involves not only legal requirements, but, also, can be emotionally demanding.
Liz is the Media Liaison in We Are Egg Donors. She is a product developer and freelance writer, editor, and reviewer. Liz lives in Washington, DC with her husband and two children.
Even in the age of inexpensive, readily available home DNA kits, many agencies still insist on anonymous donations. Even if you don’t plan to ask a relative or friend to donate, consider a known donor; whether you just want medical history and to send an occasional update, or to have an ongoing relationship, you can find a donor who’s looking for the same thing. Studies show that children of gamete donations almost always want to know at least basic information about their donor/s, and that telling the truth about their genetic origins from the very beginning is the best way to honor this desire.
Mark P. Trolice
Mark is Director of Fertility CARE – The IVF Center and Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at the University Of Central Florida College Of Medicine.
Pursuing egg donation, a woman, man or couple experience a whole range of emotions, from excitement to apprehension and back again. While the opportunity to have a child provides waves of exhilaration to the intended parent(s), fear consumes their mind over the type of person they are choosing to be their anonymous egg donor. Is she a good person? Does she have a rare disease in her family history? Why did she become an egg donor? And the list goes on and on. Fortunately, when you choose a donor, you are provided a complete profile that will allay your anxiety over these concerns. Further, all U.S. IVF clinics must abide by the FDA guidelines to screen the donor with a physical exam and infectious disease testing. So, the best tip I can offer is to do your homework!
Lucy is the Director of Donor Nexus, an egg and embryo donation agency located in Southern California. She believes every individual should have the opportunity to be a parent regardless of financial status.
My number one tip to parents looking for an egg donor is to be adaptable. It is important to remember that this process is not static. It will (likely) never go exactly as planned and that is okay. There is always going to be some degree of risk associated with egg donation and as an intended parent it is easy to get lost in the fear and anxiety of it not working. Learn to lean on your agency for support and guidance. The agency’s role is to educate its intended parents so they feel confident making informed decisions when obstacles arise. For example, about 20% of first time egg donors will not pass prescreen evaluations. Although this can be extremely disappointing, if you are able to process the information, regroup, and choose a new egg donor, you will save yourself a lot of time and energy spent mourning the loss of your first choice. By remaining open minded, you will be more adept and prepared to navigate hurdles that may occur during your egg donor cycle.
Kristen is a fertility and divorce coach. She is an award-winning author and nationwide speaker.
Creating your family outside the privacy of your bedroom affects all aspects of your life. Remembering that there is a beginning, middle and an end this process is empowering along with focusing on one daily nurturing item. One small daily act of self-kindness helps when a speed bump is hit along the family creation process. Your self-nurturing item practice can include something as simple as a daily walk, 10 minute meditation or a special cup of tea in the morning. Start by asking yourself these two powerful questions: What do I feel right now? What do I need? Then do it!
Lisa is a health lawyer and the principal lawyer of Lisa Feldstein Law Office Professional Corporation. When she is not busy lawyering, she is teaching health law as an Adjunct Professor at York University, mentoring law students and raising two young kids.
Speak with a psychological counselor before deciding if you want to pursue known or anonymous donation. There is a lot to consider, including whether and when to tell your child, and whether to leave the door open with the donor for future communication. Counselors ask questions that most of us would not come up with on our own. They will help you and your partner, if any, ensure that you are on the same page. And, for known donations, they will put you in a position where you will be able to answer your lawyer’s questions more easily, leading to a better contract and reducing the risk of conflict in the future. I try to avoid drafting donor agreements until the parties have all had an opportunity to speak with a counselor.
Reproductive Lawyer. Founder of Amy Demma Law Offices. Providing services in Reproductive Law, offering legal counsel to parents, egg donors, embryo donors, and parties engaged in compassionate/non-compensated surrogacy as well as clinical practitioners and agencies.
When I have the opportunity to advise clients on finding a donor, I am careful not to judge their process. I cannot imagine a more private and personal decision. When asked for input on donor selection, I remind clients there is one factor that is more indicative of the prospect of success than any other criteria: donor’s fertility. Has the donor had children? Has the donor cycled before and if so, what was her egg yield? Every donor is a first-time donor at some point and certainly the profiles of first-time donors should be considered. If, however, a donor presents with cycle history such that the reproductive endocrinologist has data on how she previously responded to the stimulation protocol, I would argue that is the most important characteristic we should consider about a donor candidate. Proven fertility is incredibly compelling in a donor search.
Wendie is the president of Gifted Journeys, co-author of The Insiders Guide to Egg Donation and co-founder of The Society for Ethics in Egg Donation and Surrogacy.
My top two tips for parents looking for an egg donor:
- Finding an egg donor is harder than most people think. Whether it’s because you aren’t quite ready to make the leap, or your first, second, third donor choice isn’t available, or she don’t pass their medical screening, or her fee is too high, or any number of other hurdles that you’ve found yourself jumping over – this journey can be as frustrating as it can be exciting. Therefore practicing the art of perseverance and not losing hope would be my best advice. After nearly 20 years in the industry, no matter what donor our IPs ended up choosing, I’ve never had anybody come back and wish they had gone with a different donor. You will end up with the donor and child that you are meant to have.
- In this day and age of information, whether online or with websites that connect genetic connections, there is no such thing as anonymity. Understand that the child or children from the egg donation may be curious about their genetic connection some day or may find something through one of these portals. Being open and embracing the process of egg donation in a way that doesn’t seem secretive or create a sense of shame is the best way for your children to experience the way they came into the world.
Alpesh is a consultant Clinical Embryologist and a co-founder at IVF London. He is also a co-founder and director of the Embryology and PGD Academy. Alpesh is a Diplomate of the Royal College of Pathologists and also an Eshre certified Senior Embryologist.
Our recommendation is that you understand the whole process including obtaining the support needed to embark onto this process. Counseling is vital. Know your success rates and also choose your clinic wisely.
CEO Egg Helpers . His role as a dad is where his passion comes from. Having a family is so important to Scott that he wishes for all EggHelper’s clients to be able to experience all that parenthood has to offer.
Keep an open mind! And really focus on what is most important to you. Through a careful selection process, donor candidates are required to provide personal and family history by completing our detailed questionnaire. This information, along with photographs of the donor, is provided to the Future Parents to help them in making a donor selection.
CEO and Founder of Sunshine Egg Donation Agency. For more than 7 years, Alex has been dedicating his life to helping people in Asian and European countries. During that time, he has created one of the largest international egg donor databases.
When choosing an egg donor, the first and foremost thing is to discuss it with your partner. Talk and list the desired physical features as well as the personality of your future egg donor. Is she good-looking and healthy? Would she fit your family? Could you become friends with such a person? More than that, you should keep in mind the blood type and genetic tests to make sure your baby will have perfect health. Share your criteria with the program coordinator or your fertility expert. They have years of experiences and will be able to suggest you the most appropriate candidates.
Amelia is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Obstetrics & Gynecology and Psychiatry at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine where she also provides consultation. She is a licensed psychologist specializing in women’s reproductive health.
Some patients worry that others will not see them as the “real” parent if they use donor egg. It’s important to remember that families are based on social relationships, not genetics. I encourage intended parents to talk to their children about what makes a family: family members are the people we love, take care of laugh with and vice versa! A genetic connection does not mean a family relationship. Having this conversation throughout the child’s life sets the stage for sharing that the child is donor conceived and building a strong and trusting relationship with their children.
Donor Recruiter at the World Egg Bank
Don’t limit your options based on aesthetics. Finding an egg donor is a very personal decision. If you have too many specifics when searching for the perfect donor, you will not have the chance to see all of your options. For example, just because you choose a blonde haired, blue eyed donor, it does not mean the offspring will have blonde hair and blue eyes. Keep your donor search options open to at least have the opportunity to look at more donors’ profiles to see if you find a connection somewhere you may not have expected. Also, be aware of egg banks that out-source donor egg procurement from many different network clinics. These out-sourced clinic employees at each location are constantly in transition making it impossible to maintain quality control. Look for an egg bank that does all donor stimulations and retrievals in house. Managing quality makes a big difference when it comes to egg banking.
Sharon is the founder of LaMothe Surrogacy Consulting, co-director for Pacific North West Surrogacy and a Third Party Family Building educator with over 20 years of experience. She has been a gestational surrogate twice, carrying two sets of twins for two different couples.
The one thing I think Intended Parents should keep in mind with selecting an egg donor is making sure she is willing to have contact with any children they have using her eggs. I think it’s so important that children via egg (or sperm) donation have the opportunity to find answers to questions that they may have about their ancestry. It is an important part of their identity and is a right that all children should share.
Robyn is Managing Partner at Little Miracles. She is married with 2 kids, 2 cats and 1 dog. She has been an egg donor a number of times and knows the Egg Donation and Surrogacy life as if it were her own.
Research, research, research.
When looking for an egg donor, we highly recommend doing your research and knowing the resources you have to help assist in the process. This is an emotional and life-changing decision so having a third-party industry professional whether it’s an egg-donor agency or a legal resource, to consult with all parties is a great first step. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and trust your gut decision on the professionals you are speaking with.
Susan is the founder of Delivering Dreams. She has more than 12 years successfully building families and her goal is to make international egg donation and surrogacy a simple and successful path to parenthood for all who cannot conceive or carry a child.
Understand in advance what screening and testing the potential donor will undergo and who will pay for that testing if she doesn’t meet the necessary requirements. Working internationally, in some countries medical costs may be prohibitively expensive and less testing will be done than in other countries. Testing and screening also vary by agency. Get lists and compare and ask questions. Since the agency or clinic has identified egg donors for parents, I feel strongly that if it emerges in testing that the potential donor is ineligible or not a good candidate, the agency should pay the costs of testing, not the intended parents.
Joseph B Davis
Dr. Joseph Davis is the Medical Director of Cayman Fertility Centre in the Cayman Islands. He is a board-certified Reproductive Endocrinologist and Infertility Specialist with a passion for helping people to build a family, and a RESOLVE Physician council member.
Don’t get too focused on pictures. Many people ask for baby pictures which make sense, but remember your baby will look like you more than the baby version of your donor. The egg is only half the blueprint.
Julie currently works for Egg Donation, Inc. serving clients from all over the world. She is a focused healthcare professional who is passionate about bringing hope for family dreams and transforming how people think about infertility.
It is important to keep in mind that you are not in this alone. Each journey towards becoming a parent is unique to you; yet we are a united community. When looking for an egg donor you not only want to find a donor you are in love with but you also want to keep an open mind to help manage expectations. Know that you are making the right decision and while this is one of the biggest, most significant decisions you will ever make, having the knowledge and awareness when looking for a donor will guide you in choosing someone you are proud of.
John Paul Aguirre
JP Aguirre and his husband, Dale, are intended parents who embarked on the journey of gestational surrogacy. They are expecting a baby girl in August. JP Aguirre is also a blogger chronicling their surrogacy experience on Dad-Moves.com. The couple resides in San Francisco.
There are many ways of securing an egg donor and also many considerations before making such a huge decision. On the procurement side – you have to know and trust your source. Whether that be an egg donor network, a fertility clinic list or even a friend. For us, the most important thing in selecting an egg donor was healthy and giving our embryos the best chance of success. We wanted an egg donor who was young, free of many hereditary diseases, free of mental illness and a family history of addiction. We also wanted to make sure our egg donor had a health screening by our fertility clinic to ensure it was a good genetic match and ultimately, would result in a successful pregnancy. Other consideration that any intended parent should consider is whether they want an anonymous, semi-anonymous or open egg donor. We weighed the pros/cons and ultimately felt comfortable with our choice to select an anonymous egg donor. We feel that with the advancements in genetic testing, social media, and sheer will – if our children ever want to find their egg donor and explore their biological ties – that will be an option for them one day. And of course, we also considered things like education, similar cultural heritage and yes, appearance. But, all of these were really secondary considerations to our focus on health.
Dr. John Kennedy graduated at University College Dublin in 2000 and is a member of the Royal College of Physicians, Ireland. Prior to joining Sims as a consultant.
Here are the considerations that I think are presently the most important when it comes to picking your egg donation program:
- Anonymous or open: Most programs are anonymous, that is to say that you can’t find out who the donor is nor can they find out about you or the children. Open gives the child, usually when they are 18, to get identifying information of the donor. All the clinic s in Spain and Czech are anonymous. Some of the programs in Dublin are open.
- Blastocyst transfer: A good egg donation program won’t transfer embryos before day 5 or 6 of growth in the incubator. A program that transfers on day 3 is not one that is willing to stand over its quality in my opinion.
- Some level of guarantee: Either one or two blastocysts to be created or transferred. Most programs offer guarantees. Some offer refunds depending on success rates but these can be very expensive.
- No sharing: Whilst a donor can certainly donate more than once I would recommend using a program that gives you ALL the eggs from a cycle, and not just a fixed number as I believe this will impact on the overall success rates. Egg sharing is an easy way for a clinic to increase its value from each egg donation cycle but it is at the price of reducing the chances for the recipient couples.
- Fresh transfers: Many programs like to use frozen eggs. Whilst the technology in this regard has progressed a lot I still believe that using eggs immediately rather than freezing and thawing them is a better option. That may change in the future though.
Lisa is the co-founder of Fertility Match. Liz Ellwood and her started Fertility Match because they both believe that the right approach to navigating third party reproduction in Canada could drastically improve the experiences of all parties involved.
There are many things to consider when selecting your egg donor. This is one of the biggest decisions of your life, and you should feel totally secure with the donor and agency you choose to work with!
Dr. John Jain is a Board-certified Reproductive Endocrinologist and a pioneer in the field of reproductive medicine with 25 years of scientific, clinical and teaching experience including a decade as a decorated professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the USC Keck School of Medicine.
Try to choose a proven donor, one that has ongoing pregnancies or births from egg donation especially if the donor has undergone care by the same doctor. It lowers the risk of a failed donor cycle and helps guide the doctor’s choice in medication protocols.
Tertia Albertyn and Melany Bartok
Melany Bartok co-founded Nurture with Tertia Albertyn in 2008. Tertia is a recovering infertile and now mother to teenage twins conceived on her 9th IVF + one freebie bonus child. Melany is an ex-egg donor herself.
The most important piece of advice that I give to my recipients is to be open-minded when it comes to donor selection. Remember that each child is a unique, exquisite combination of nature and nurture, of DNA and environment. DNA is important, but it’s not the most important factor in the person we become. Many recipients have a long list of criteria, which they are entitled to, but I always caution them that this makes the selection process very limited and they may miss out on the ideal donor because she is 2 cm too short, is not tertiary educated or does not play a musical instrument. Whilst I understand that all of these things are important, many of them fall within the Nature vs. Nurture debate. A good parent will help their child identify their strengths and talents, and support and encourage them in whatever area that may be.
Licensed psychotherapist specializing in egg donation and surrogacy support.
Own your family story – the more comfortable you are, the more comfortable your children will be. Be proud of your family.
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The decision to turn to egg donation is personal. As you explore this family-building route, do your homework, research, ask questions, and educate yourself as much as possible about the process. If you are reading this article, then you are already heading in the right direction! The more you learn, the more prepared you will feel to make the best decisions for you and your family.
Last but not least, we wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you to all our amazing experts who shared their knowledge with us in this egg-donation expert roundup post.