Infertility is a complicated subject. There are so many conditions that can potentially affect your ability to get pregnant, stay pregnant and carry a child to term, and once you’ve begun to explore the options you’ll realize that the solutions are complex as well.
If you are considering undergoing IVF using frozen donor eggs, there are plenty of things to know. This article analyzes the egg donor procedure in an effort to provide you with a resource you can keep coming back to, should you ever have any questions.
Before she was even a sparkle in your eye …
The IVF donor process has come a long way over the years. Ever since the first birth from in vitro fertilization took place in 1978, science has advanced to make the process safer and more predictable, and not just for the mother-to-be.
While IVF using fresh donor eggs is still common, IVF using frozen donor eggs has become the method of choice for many parental hopefuls for several reasons. First, there is no need for the donor to be present. Eggs are donated in a separate procedure and frozen for use at a later date. Once a donor is chosen, the IVF cycle can begin immediately. This eliminates the need to synch cycles between the recipient and the donor, and removes at least half of the uncontrolled variables at play. Less people involved means a simpler process, categorically. Secondly, frozen donor egg cycles also tend to be about half the cost of fresh egg IVF, making it a more affordable option for many.
Your Health Comes First
Once you have made the decision to go ahead with IVF, you will make an appointment to have a complete physical workup. Your doctor will need to determine several things: most importantly, that your health will not be jeopardized by the pregnancy, and if your uterus is healthy enough to support a pregnancy.
There are several ways in which doctors determine these things. Most variables can be identified by simple bloodwork, though transvaginal ultrasound and other diagnostic tools may also be recommended. These could include a cervical culture, a hysteroscopy, hysterosalpingogram or saline sonogram to assess uterine health.
Lastly, your psychological health will be examined as well; with so many known and unknown factors that can affect your ability to deal with the stress, physical demands and moral issues surrounding frozen donor egg IVF, both you and your doctor will want to know if there will be any potential issues that ought to be addressed.
Choosing a Donor
Probably the most important phase of the whole IVF process is choosing a donor. Your fertility clinic may work with a company like Donor Egg Bank USA, which offers a database of available frozen donor eggs. With a vast and diverse database of donors from which to choose, it is possible to find a donor who shares your ethnic background, your coloring, your build and even your temperament. You will also have access to photographs of them at various stages of life, giving you an idea of what you might expect your child to look like.
Donors may be fully anonymous, or they may choose to be an ‘open release’ donor. In this case, the donor has stated that she is open to contact from the child in the future, once they have reached the age of eighteen. Only you can decide how important this is to you, but it should be noted that children of IVF donors have much the same curiosity as an adopted child would. If you feel that this is an important option to be able to offer your child, you should choose accordingly. It should be noted, however, that open identity only works one way: the donor can never contact you, or even know that you have received their donor eggs. The only way that contact can be established is by the child.
Once you have chosen a donor, you can begin your cycle right away. You will be treated with a combination of oral estrogen and progesterone, either vaginally, by injection, or using transdermal patches. This prepares the endometrial lining to accept the embryo. If you are affected by any sort of auto-immune disease, you may need to take additional medications to mitigate the immune response. The hormonal cycle lasts approximately three weeks before implantation.
A few days before you are ready to receive the embryo, the frozen egg is thawed and fertilized with either your partner’s or a donor’s sperm. The embryos are then cultured for three to five days before transfer via the IVF procedure.
During this time, your doctors will monitor the endometrial thickness, and once they feel it is sufficient, the transfer is performed. Estrogen and progesterone therapy will continue until pregnancy is confirmed, which could be from nine to fourteen days after transfer. If you are pregnant, you will continue to receive estrogen and progesterone until about 10-15 weeks into the pregnancy before being tapered off.
When You’re Expecting
Once you have a confirmed pregnancy, your fertility clinic will discharge you to your OB/GYN for prenatal care. He or she may recommend certain vitamin protocols or medications to support optimal health during the pregnancy.
Your health during pregnancy is so important – both to your own wellbeing and that of your child. Follow your doctor’s instructions faithfully, listen to your body and try not to subject yourself to too much stress along the way. Savor every minute of this wonderful time of life, knowing that just around the bend is your little miracle child, waiting to meet you!