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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth King

How to Find an Egg or Sperm Donor

Using donated eggs or sperm to get pregnant is more common than you may realize. About 12% of IVF cycles in the US use donor eggs. The use of donor sperm is not tracked in the US, but a study from the National Library of Medicine found that nearly half a million pregnancies between 2015-2017 were conceived using donor sperm.

When is receiving donated eggs/sperm right for you?

You may be a candidate for donor egg IVF if you’re of advanced maternal age, have poor egg quality or a low reserve, are lacking ovaries but still maintain a healthy uterus, to avoid passing a genetic disease, or if you’ve gone through multiple failed rounds of IVF.

Sperm donation is an option for those couples experiencing male factor infertility or genetic issues, single women, and female same-sex partners who wish to become pregnant.

How to find a sperm donor/egg donor

If you’re ready to pursue egg or sperm donation, there are a few ways to find your donor:

  • Egg donor bank: An egg bank offers a database of fully screened donors from which to choose frozen eggs. This is often the least expensive option for donor egg IVF, though frozen eggs may have a slightly lower success rate (55.3% vs 46.7% live births).

  • Fertility clinic: Your fertility clinic may provide a database of donor eggs and support in choosing your donor, but it’s likely a more limited pool.

  • Egg donation agency: An agency of this nature can provide you with a large donor pool and connect you to the attributes you’re most looking for in a donor. This tends to be the most expensive option for egg donor IVF.

  • Sperm bank: Also known as cryobanks, these facilities perform the screening process for donors and store the sperm for donation.

No matter which route you go, it’s important to find a reputable organization with strict screening processes as well as insurance and/or financing options available.

Factors to Consider about an Egg or Sperm Donor

Egg and sperm donors should all receive comprehensive medical, physical, and psychological screening prior to donation. When you are selecting your pre-screened donor, you can consider the following factors:

  • Age (egg donors are typically between 21-34 years of age and sperm donors between 21-39 years of age)

  • Appearance (physical features, ethnic background)

  • Medical history (though donors are pre-vetted for certain issues, you’ll want to consider any noted personal medical history as well as family health history)

  • Personal Background (this includes things like education level, athletic ability, and criminal background)

  • Fresh vs frozen (egg donor only)

  • Known vs unknown donor

  • The option to have more children with this donor

How much does egg/sperm donation cost?

Egg donation IVF can cost $25,000 or more, which includes donor and agency fees as well as legal costs. Sperm donor insemination is much less expensive - ranging between $300-$4000, depending on the source. Most insurances don’t cover the cost of an egg or sperm donor; however, the IVF cycle is covered by certain insurance plans and in certain states. Other options for financing include fertility grants, loans, employer benefits, and even personal fundraising through platforms like GoFundMe. Fertility clinics and donor agencies will often have financial counselors available to help you navigate your options. A fertility coach can also connect you to financial resources.

Legal Rights & Contracts

Before receiving donated eggs or sperm, it’s important to consult with an attorney to understand the parentage laws in your state. In most states, parentage rights are released with the donation of the eggs or sperm through a licensed organization, but a donor agreement is recommended to ensure the legal rights of all parties are protected.

Egg Donor IVF and the Role of Epigenetics

If you’re going through an egg donor IVF cycle, you may wonder how your genes will play a role in your pregnancy and within the child(ren) you’re carrying. This is where epigenetics, or the impact of your behaviors and environment on your genes, comes into play. As a donor egg recipient, your lifestyle and nutrition can have a direct impact on your child in utero and the expression of their genes. This includes not only health outcomes, but also appearance!

Support for Recipients

The IUI or IVF process can be taxing both physically and emotionally. There are multiple outlets for support including in-house counselors at fertility clinics, online and in-person support groups, and fertility coaches. Mindset is a critical component of a successful IVF journey. According to this study out of Harvard, mindset work is associated with increased pregnancy rates.

To prepare for your journey as an egg or sperm donor recipient, you can look to other families who have been built through donor conception. Simple searches online or through social media can connect you to families with similar stories. Though there may be feelings of loss surrounding the need for a sperm or egg donor, research and qualitative stories show that donor-conceived children are well-adjusted and highly attached to the families they are born into and vice versa.

As always, work with your medical provider to learn about the most up to date options for you and your journey.

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