By Andrea Rodrigo BSc, MSc (embryologist).
Last Update: 05/10/2016

Double-donor gametes can be used for in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycles, meaning that both reproductive cells have been donated. This is the reason why donor-conceived children do not share their genetic load with their parents, a fact that sometimes makes it a difficult treatment to cope with.

Ideally, when a couple is trying to conceive, they wish children were genetically theirs; however, this is not always achievable. Some cases in which a couple may have no alternative but to turn to double-donor IVF are:

  • When both partners present own gamete issues or poor quality.
  • Absence of a partner from the opposite sex, and own gamete issues.
  • Both gametes are genetically altered.
  • Recurrent IVF failure due to fertilization or implantation failure, or recurrent pregnancy losses (RPLs).

Double-donor IVF is governed by the same set of regulations on egg donation or sperm donation. Within Greece, the Law regarding medically assisted human reproduction establishes that egg and sperm donors must remain anonymous and act altruistically. Besides, it allows it to be used in cases of surrogacy as well.

The fertility clinic is held responsible for selecting a donor that matches the physical and immunological characteristics of the intended parent(s). They, in turn, will only get information about their donor related to his/her general characteristics, such as hair and eye color, weight, height, etc.

On the other hand, it also limits to 50 the maximum age at which a woman can receive donor eggs, and also indicates that all prospective donors must be previously screened in order to determine whether their eligibility as to become egg donors or not.

Moreover, the Law establishes a particular requirement in relation to sperm donation. According to it, fresh donor sperm cannot be used, thereby leaving no choice but to freeze it for at least a 6-month period before being used for a fertility treatment.

Steps involved

The whole double-donor in vitro fertilization process shall be explained step by step hereunder:

  • Egg donor and sperm donor selection.
  • Collection and storage of the semen sample.
  • Donor ovum pick-up. Should it be a fresh donor cycle, the eggs will be used right after being retrieved. If not they will be frozen and then thawed by the time IVF is going to be carried out.
  • Thawing the semen sample, and also the eggs if it is not a fresh donor egg cycle, an alternative that is increasingly becoming more frequent.
  • Fertilization per se, which is to say, egg-sperm binding and subsequent creation of an embryo.
  • Preparation of the recipient’s endometrium via hormone-based medications, administered either through oral, vaginal, or patch route.
  • Transfer of the highest-quality embryos at the moment when the recipient’s endometrium is prepared, that is, it has acquired a trilaminar pattern, and a thickness of around 8 mm.
  • Cryopreservation of spare embryos.
  • Pregnancy test to check whether the embryos transferred have been able to attach to the maternal uterus.

Pros and cons

Egg and sperm donation forces the intended parents to give up on their genetic load when having a child. Assuming this may become hard for a number of individuals and couples, since at first we all have the idea that our child takes after us.

Another disadvantage of this fertility treatment is related to its cost, if we compare it to in vitro fertilization using the couple’s own reproductive cells.

Likewise, the chances of success are usually high, since the gametes have been donated by young, healthy people, which means they are high-quality eggs and sperms. Another remarkable advantage is that the process by which the gametes are collected is not carried out on the recipient, something that makes the treatment easier and shorter for her.

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Authors and contributors

 Andrea Rodrigo
BSc, MSc
Embryologist
Bachelor's Degree in Biotechnology from the Polytechnic University of Valencia. Master's Degree in Biotechnology of Human Assisted Reproduction from the University of Valencia along with the Valencian Infertility Institute (IVI). Postgraduate course in Medical Genetics. More information