About Donor Egg IVF

Donor egg IVF is a service provided to women who may have the following conditions:

  • premature ovarian failure
  • be a carrier of genetic disease
  • congenital absence of the ovaries
  • a history of poor response to IVF using their own eggs 

What is Donor Egg IVF?

With this type of in vitro fertilization, the donor's ovaries are stimulated to produce multiple eggs. These eggs are retrieved from the donor's ovaries just prior to ovulation (their release from the ovary) and are placed in a special laboratory dish, along with the sperm from the recipient's husband/partner.  Following successful fertilization, a limited number of embryos are placed into the recipient's uterus. The rest of the resulting embryos, if they are of a certain quality, are frozen for future procedures.

Local Donors

At Fletcher Allen, we recruit local anonymous egg donors ages 21-33 and also work with donors recruited through egg donation agencies. We also coordinate known donor matches with recipient couples on a case-by-case basis.

Thorough Screening Process

All potential egg donors are required to complete a thorough screening process.  This screening includes:

  • a telephone interview
  • completion of a detailed questionnaire exploring the donor's genetic, reproductive, physical, psychological and sexual history
  • a medical evaluation
  • psychological screening
  • lab work to test for genetic disorders, sexually transmitted diseases, and to assess the donor’s ovarian reserve

What to Expect - Egg Recipient

Once a donor has successfully completed the screening process, she is then available to be matched with a recipient couple.

Prior to Cycle Start
Anonymous egg donation is available for women up to age 52 (the natural age of menopause). Once a donor recipient is close to being matched with a donor, she and her partner will go through a series of screening tests and appointments prior to starting a donor egg cycle.

The office visits required for the recipient and her partner include:

  • a visit with the couple's primary infertility physician
  • a visit with the Donor Egg Nurse Coordinator and
  • a visit with our staff psychologist

Testing may include

  • screening blood work
  • a uterine cavity evaluation
  • a semen analysis
  • a trial embryo catheter pass
  • a pap smear
  • cervical cultures for chlamydia and gonorrhea, and completion of a characteristic sheet and matching questionnaire

A mammogram, EKG, blood work (consisting of a fasting blood sugar and cholesterol), as well as an appointment with our Maternal Fetal Medicine department may also be required depending on the recipient’s age.   Once the receiving couple has completed the work-up, they are able to be matched with an anonymous egg donor.

Hormonal Preparation
During a donor IVF cycle, if the recipient is having regular menstrual cycles, she will most likely be placed on oral contraceptives, followed by a medication called leuprolide (Lupron), administered just under the skin. Leuprolide is a hormone that temporarily shuts down the menstrual cycle.  After the menstrual cycle is sufficiently suppressed and the recipient’s cycle is adequately synchronized with the donor, the recipient will begin taking hormone replacement medication to make the lining of the uterus receptive to the embryo(s).  This medication consists of an estrogen-progesterone preparation.

Side Effects of Medications
Common side effects of leuprolide include hot flashes, vaginal dryness and vaginal spotting. Leuprolide is not associated with increased rates of miscarriage or malformation, and with short-term use is not known to cause significant or serious side effects.  Estrogen and progesterone, which are used to prepare the uterine lining for pregnancy, are given in doses intended to closely mirror the ovary’s normal function. These hormones may have side effects such as headaches, breast tenderness or mild weight gain. Progesterone is not thought to have any harmful effects.

In Vitro Fertilization
After the eggs have been retrieved from the donor, a semen sample will be obtained from the recipient's husband or partner. This sample is then processed to obtain the most active sperm, which are combined with the donated eggs.

  • Embryo Transfer - A "trial" transfer will be performed sometime prior to the embryo transfer cycle. The actual transfer occurs when the developing embryos are ready usually 2 to 6 days after fertilization.
  • Embryos are placed in uterus - A vaginal speculum is inserted and a small catheter containing the embryos will be guided into the uterus, using ultrasound, to gently deposit the embryos.  After the embryo transfer, the recipient will lie flat for one hour and then should remain quiet for the next 24 hours. 
  • Little or no discomfort - There is essentially little or no discomfort from this procedure, and no anesthesia or pain medication is required for the transfer of embryos. 
  • Pregnancy test done 9-13 days later - A blood pregnancy test will be performed approximately 9-13 days after the transfer, with results available the same day.

Risks with Donor IVF
There is a significant possibility that multiple gestations (twins, triplets or more) may result from placing multiple embryos in the uterus.  If a multiple gestation occurs, there is an increased risk for pregnancy complications including miscarriage and pre-term labor.  Limiting the number of embryos placed into the uterus greatly reduces this risk.