You may be thinking about egg donation and the idea of donating eggs to benefit an infertile couple. But do you know why donor eggs are the best option for some women and some couples? Why are egg donors so important? Before you decide to donate your eggs, let’s discuss why our recipients need donor eggs—and why our egg donors make their dreams come true.
The Many Causes of Infertility
There’s no one reason for infertility. A woman may be perfectly capable of carrying a pregnancy, but she might have a problem with her eggs or her ovaries that prevent conception. Sometimes, multiple problems affect a woman’s fertility—genetics, age, poor egg quality, ovarian problems. Sometimes, frustratingly, there’s no clear cut answer.
The decision to use donor eggs often comes after multiple failed attempts at pregnancy using the woman’s own eggs. Others have suffered the heartbreak of miscarriages. Whatever the root causes may be, it’s important to understand that no one takes donor eggs—or egg donors—lightly. For many who choose IVF with donor eggs, it’s a difficult decision that comes after a long journey.
Eggs and a Mother’s Age
You probably know that when many women enter their mid 30’s, their fertility decreases. This happens mostly due to a reduction in the number and quality of eggs in the ovaries. This process happens over a woman’s whole life. A baby girl has 1 to 2 million eggs at birth; by menopause, only a few hundred remain. Older eggs also have a higher rate of chromosomal anomalies, which increase the chances of early miscarriage.
Sometimes our society scolds women for “putting off” having children for selfish reasons. But we all understand that real life is messy and has many twists and turns. More women are focusing on fulfilling, important careers; more woman find the right partners and husbands later in life; more women want to delay having children until they are financially and emotionally ready. Women have more life choices than ever—that’s a good thing!—but it means that, increasingly, more and more women do not become mothers until after 35.
However, for some women, the choice is removed because of problems affecting their ovaries or their eggs. Up to 1% of women suffer from Premature Ovarian Failure. This means that a woman’s ovaries stop functioning sooner than expected, with a shrinking egg supply. Another factor that impacts a woman’s egg supply is cancer treatment. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery can harm the ovaries and other reproductive organs, hurting fertility. Donated eggs may be the only option for these hopeful mothers-to-be.
For other women, using their own eggs simply isn’t an option because of genetic conditions. Some chromosomal issues result in non-viable embryos, devastating birth defects, and miscarriages. In these situations, woman who want to be mothers must make the difficult decision to use donor eggs to avoid these risks. (As an aside, these disorders are also why we screen our egg donors so carefully.)
We’ve been talking about female infertility as the main reason egg donors are needed. But another family is in search of egg donors: gay male couples. Our culture is accepting new ways to think about parenthood and families. The path to fatherhood is long and complicated for male couples; gay people still face discrimination when it comes to adoption. Surrogacy with donor eggs is a way for gay fathers to have children and build families with a genetic connection.
Egg donors have the power to make family dreams come true for so many people. As you consider donating eggs, consider the lives your decision will touch. To understand more about egg donation, read our FAQs or contact us.