Having a family is a beautiful gift. Thankfully, we have more options than ever before to help make this dream a reality. Whether you’re brand new to fertility treatment or have been undergoing treatment for a while, each stage of the journey presents new information, new options, and elicits many questions.
If you’re over 40, you might be fighting a brutal reality – your body is no longer in its prime condition when it comes to your reproductive health. This can lead to many challenging, confusing, and overwhelming decisions. If you’re considering donor eggs, it’s helpful to compare and contrast frozen and fresh eggs in order to better understand your options and make the best decision for you and your family.
It’s common to feel sad or discouraged when you learn donor eggs are your best chance to conceive. But remember, this option provides a way for YOU to still be pregnant, carry and deliver your baby, while giving you the best chance to achieve a healthy, viable pregnancy.
Common reasons donor eggs are recommended include:
- Low AMH: This indicates a low egg count and can make it difficult or impossible to stimulate follicular development for ovulation or egg retrieval; often a result of peri- and post-menopause, premature ovarian failure, or history of cancer treatment.
- Carrier for genetic disease(s).
- Advanced maternal age which can indicate decreased egg quality.
What are donor eggs?
A donor egg cycle is an IVF cycle in which the egg used to create an embryo doesn’t come from the biological mother. Another woman (the donor) has donated her eggs to provide the genetic material necessary to create a healthy baby. The donor undergoes a strict screening process prior to being able to donate her eggs including age, egg count, health history, family medical history, genetic carrier screening, infectious disease screening, and psychological screening. To create the embryo, the biological mother will decide if she wants to use her partner’s sperm or donor sperm.
Fresh donor eggs
If you have time on your hands, fresh eggs may be an option for you. With a fresh egg donation cycle, timing is everything. The eggs will be donated just days before your embryo transfer takes place. This takes significant coordination. You, your doctor, the donor, and the donation agency will all need to work together to synchronize the donor’s retrieval cycle with your transfer cycle. Upon retrieval, the eggs will immediately be paired with sperm to create embryos and then observed and graded for 3-5 days. Once the blastocyst is 3-5 days old, the healthiest looking 1-2 embryo(s) will be transferred.
Due to the complexity and uncertainty of a fresh donation cycle, there can be several delays and/or cycle cancellations, so if you decide to take this route then it’s important to prepare to be patient and flexible.
Frozen donor eggs
Frozen donor eggs can provide many assurances fresh eggs can’t (i.e. number of eggs, timing, cost, option for treatment guarantees, etc.). Additionally, you’ll have access to donor egg banks that have donors that span from nationwide to all over the world, giving you many more donors to choose from than with a fresh donation cycle. When selecting an egg donor for a frozen cycle, you’ll know how many eggs are available, so there will be no surprises. The only waiting involved is the time between selecting your eggs and having them shipped to your clinic. You can begin your cycle based on your own timing and preferences (with your physician’s approval). If you like to limit risk and have as much ‘control’ as possible, this might be the best option for you.
You and your doctor will work together to prepare your uterine lining so it’s at its most receptive for embryo implantation. Based on the anticipated embryo transfer date, your selected eggs will be carefully thawed and fertilized. The embryologists will watch the embryos develop and select the healthiest 1-2 embryo(s) for transfer. This is a fine-tuned, highly choreographed process that has advanced tremendously over the past couple decades with great success.
I still don’t know what to do…
Having so many choices might be overwhelming. If you’re having a hard time determining how to move forward with building your family, be sure to schedule a time to speak with your physician or a counselor. There’s no right or wrong option, but it’s important you feel as comfortable as possible with your decision.