By Andrea Rodrigo BSc, MSc (embryologist).
Last Update: 10/26/2015

Egg donation is a fertility treatment that allows many women make their dream of creating a family come true when they are unable to do so by their own means.

Within the US, you can choose between three types of egg donor: anonymous donor, semi-known donor, and known donor. In all three cases, every women wishing to become an egg donor should meet a series of requirements established by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).

The ASRM sets the limit of 25 donor-conceived children per donor within an area of around 800,000 inhabitants.

In which cases is egg donation necessary?

The following are the main reasons why a women may need to use donor eggs in order to have offspring:

  • Ovarian insufficiency or low ovarian reserve
  • Carrier of any genetic disease
  • Recurrent IVF failure
  • Advanced maternal age

Ovarian insufficiency or ovarian failure is described as the loss of normal function of the ovary to produce eggs. Ovarian failure may be congenital in cases of early menopause, anovulation problems, absence of ovary, primary ovarian insufficiency, etc. It can also be acquired, for example in case a woman has had an ovary surgically removed as a result of an illness or after enduring a cancer treatment such as chemotherapy.

When a woman is a carrier or suffers from a severe genetic disease likely to be inherited by her offspring, she can resort to egg donation to have healthy children, regardless of whether she suffers from any fertility problem or not.

Also in cases where the causes of infertility are unknown and no success is achieved after various IVF cycles, egg donation is the most common option. We are talking about cases of recurrent miscarriage or embryo implantation failure due to uterine conditions.

Finally, maternal age also plays an important role. As a woman ages, her ovarian reserve keeps on diminishing not only in terms of quantity but also in relation to egg quality. From age 40 onwards, chances for the embryos to develop genetic alterations become significantly higher.

How are prospective egg donors selected?

Potential egg donors have to meet a series of requirements to make sure they qualify as donors. Thus, they must:

  • Stay healthy.
  • Pass all the psychological tests conducted by mental health professionals.
  • Be of legal age, preferably between 21 and 34 years old. In case she is younger than 21, she will have to undergo a personalized evaluation. Conversely, if she is older than 34, the recipient must be informed through an informed consent.
  • Complete a general and a sexual medical history to rule out any sign of HIV or any other sexually transmitted disease (STD).
  • Be a mother, although this is an optional requirement.
  • Undergo a series of genetic evaluations based on her family history. This is to confirm she is free from family history of hereditary diseases.
  • Sign an informed consent to confirm she agrees to accept a shared egg donation, that is, her eggs will be used by more than a single recipient.
  • Pass a specific medical screening: karyotype, serology, biochemical tests, genetic analysis, ultrasound scan…
  • Agree with the fact that the staff at the fertility center (owner, laboratory director, technicians and any other staff member involved in the process) as well as any other staff member from the egg bank having any economic interest cannot act as donors whatsoever.

In addition to these requirements, the prospective donor must be aware of the fact that she won’t qualify as a donor in case she finds herself in at least one of the following situations:

  • Drug abuse for non-medical reasons in the previous 5 years.
  • Women with hemophilia or any other alteration in the blood clotting system.
  • Having engaged into sexual intercourse with men who have had sex with men or have exchanged sex for money in the previous 5 years. Women who have engaged into sexual intercourse or have had contact with an AIDS or hepatitis B or C sufferer in the previous 12 months will be ruled out as well in case there’s a minimal chance of transmission.
  • Women who have obtained a tattoo or body piercing in the previous 12 months without being certain that sterile procedures were used.

Although these are the main reasons why a prospective egg donor may not qualify as a donor, there are also other requirements that you will find down to the last detail in the American Society for Reproductive Medicine website as well as the particular medical tests that donors must undergo.

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Authors and contributors

 Andrea Rodrigo
BSc, MSc
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
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One comment

    1. Jessy

      Well, I don’t find it very logical that after 5 years you are considered to be a “healthy” person again and you can be even accepted as an egg donor, I mean… Even if you are free from toxic substance intake in a 5 year period of time, your body developed a series of damages and I don’t think it will be able to recover from them again… Therefore, I think people who have been drug addicts shouldn’t be accepted as egg donors…