Fertility treatment has seen growth in leaps and bounds in the field of medicine over the last couple of years. However, with these treatments there come to a lot of challenges in getting the right information and making a decision. There is a traditional form of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) where the eggs from the female partner and the sperm from the male partner are fertilized in a lab and then transferred into the female patient’s uterus for implantation.
In case of poor viability of the eggs or poor sperm quality, individuals often opt for the next best route, which is using donor eggs and sperm for fertility treatment.
This article will further explore everything that you need to know about using egg donors or sperm donors for your successful IVF cycle.
In this Article
What is In-vitro Fertilization (IVF)?
IVF is a type of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) wherein the retrieved egg and the sperm cells are fertilized in-vitro in a petri dish in a laboratory by an experienced embryologist. The fertilized embryo is then transferred to the female patient, waiting for successful implantation and conception of the baby.
IVF is a cost inducive, physically and mentally taxing procedure that involves a lot of steps from the start to the end.
You can read more about the IVF procedure and the factors involved in our detailed blog here.
Factors to Keep in Mind when Using Donor Gametes for IVF
Using donor gametes for your IVF cycle can be due to several reasons. Some of the most viable ones include:
- Issues with ovarian reserve
- Issues with sperm quality, sperm motility, or sperm count
- A genetic disorder in the female partner
- Primary ovarian insufficiency
- Same-sex couples
- History of cancer treatment
- Congenital anomalies
Putting aside the reasons why you might need to use donor eggs or sperm, one needs to familiarize themselves with the factors to consider before proceeding with the procedure.
1. Finding a Viable Donor
When it comes to picking a donor egg or sperm for the procedure, most IVF centers will provide you with a detailed understanding of the availability, protocol, and legalities involved throughout and after the procedure.
Your first step is to have a direct and thorough consultation with your fertility specialist to understand what will happen and also get all your doubts clarified.
Since you are opting for donor gamete/s, choosing a viable donor is crucial. Most individuals or couples who opt for donors want to look into ethnicity, skin color, eye color, hair color, etc.
When choosing a donor, there are only two specific options available:
->Anonymous donor – the donor has donated their egg/sperm but doesn’t want their identity disclosed to the people who use their sample.
->Known donor – involves donation from a known friend or family or by a stranger who has done an open donation to the fertility clinic.
In either case, the physical attributes, nationality, ethnicity, etc. are available for each donation to make it easier for people to make their decisions.
2. Donor Gamete Screening
When you are trusting someone else’s sperm or egg cells for building your family, it is absolutely crucial that you do a thorough gamete screening before making a decision.
Not just for checking the viability of the egg or sperm cells, doing a thorough screening also rules out the risks of genetic complications that could potentially affect the baby that’s born through the IVF procedure.
Routine gamete screening is part of the IVF procedure that involves donor gametes. The screening typically checks for the viability of the egg and sperm and also for risks of any potential infections in the donated sample, including HIV, hepatitis, etc.
The screening also rules out any risks of genetic disorder and is done for the patient’s peace of mind who is undergoing the IVF procedure. Also, if you are getting fertility treatment or IVF done in a foreign country, we’d recommend that you do your research right since every country will have different laws concerning the treatment.
3. Discussing the Treatment Cycle
Once the donor egg or sperm is selected, the next step in the process is to discuss the treatment cycle. The procedure is pretty much the same as it would have been if a couple used their own eggs and/or sperm.
The intended mother who is undergoing the IVF cycle will have to get injections to suppress their reproductive cycle and get their cycle synced with the IVF procedure so that the fertilized embryo can be transferred to the uterus for implantation. Progesterone supplement is what’s used in the process.
One of the viable embryos is transferred into the intended mother’s uterus for implantation. As per discussion, the remaining embryos are frozen for any future cycles if the current fails.
4. Understanding the Legal Rights
The legal rights of the baby conceived through a donor-based embryo are always to the parents and not the donor. The donor has no rights to the child that’s born using their gamete cells.
The donor doesn’t have any:
- Legal rights of the baby
- No legal obligations towards the baby
- Mention in the birth certificate of the baby
- Have any influence on the upbringing of the baby
- Don’t have to support the baby financially
Also, if you are married and undergoing the IVF procedure, your partner will automatically be the second legal guardian of the baby. On the flip side, if you aren’t married but are in a relationship, your partner might choose to be a legal guardian of the baby. It’s not a compulsion in that case.
5. Understanding the Risks
IVF procedure comes bearing a few risks with it. Even with egg and sperm donor IVF, the degree of risks is similar.
The IVF success rate with donor eggs and sperm might be comparably higher but it is important to be clear about the shortcomings in the present case too.
If you are choosing a live donor (from friends or family), the risks of physical and mental turmoil are projected on the donor as well. Most egg donors who donate “fresh” eggs have to undergo the same treatment IVF procedure for successful egg retrieval. Such instances might lead to physical or psychological stress on the donor.
Having an open conversation about the procedure and the expectations is thus important. Risks for the intended mother often involve the conception of multiple pregnancies.
Always talk to your healthcare provider or fertility specialist about the personal odds for success in the IVF journey.
Also, donor-based IVF procedure is often a lot more expensive, especially when you are choosing anonymous donors. So, discuss the costs involved, and sort out the insurance and the allied finances before proceeding with the procedure.
Undergoing IVF using donor eggs and/or sperm can be a little heavy on the pocket. Since it’s quite an extensive decision to make, we’d recommend that you take your time with the decision. It is a matter of life-long commitment, so take irrational decisions might end up making people regret them later. So, discuss all your options with your doctor, and even a counselor, to make the right decision.