By Andrea Rodrigo BSc, MSc (embryologist).
Last Update: 10/07/2015

Egg donation is considered to be a fertility treatment that can be used also for another assisted reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization (IVF). Resorting to donor eggs is the only reproductive choice for a great number of singles and couples, either heterosexual or same-sex couples, whose egg quality is not as high as it should be to achieve pregnancy.

Conversely to sperm donation, which can be used both in artificial insemination or IVF treatments, donor eggs can be only combined with reproductive techniques where fertilization takes place outside the woman’s body.

Within the US, the following are the main in vitro fertilization techniques allowed:

  • Conventional IVF: The egg is put in contact with a drop of capacitated semen that contains millions of spermatozoa. Then, it is left so that the sperm themselves start their journey to the egg and, once there, pass through the egg coat and penetrate the egg. This means that, when using conventional IVF, fertilization is done by the spermatozoon itself.
  • ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection): It consists of inserting into the egg a single sperm that has been previously selected. In this case, fertilization is done artificially by the lab staff.

Once the donor eggs have been fertilized using either the patient’s own sperm or donor sperm, the viable embryos will be checked and the healthiest ones will be transferred to the mother-to-be or the surrogate in the case of surrogacy.

Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD)

There are two additional techniques or variations to in vitro fertilization treatments that are allowed in the majority of U.S. states: Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) and surrogacy.

PGD is a DNA testing technology that allows us to analyze the genetic load of the embryo in order to rule out possible serious illnesses that may hinder pregnancy or if the life of the baby-to-be is at stake.

Donor eggs come from a young, healthy woman whom had to undergo a series of thorough tests to finally become a donor. Even so, some intended parents prefer to perform a PGD of embryos to ensure the absence of any genetic disorder.

It should be clear that PGD entails a series of disadvantages as well. For this reason, intended parents are always recommended to determine with their healthcare provider and the lab specialists when is the ideal moment to carry it out as well as in which cases is it necessary.

In those cases in which a PGD has been previously carried out, it is advisable to perform the fertilization by means of ICSI. The reason why it is the recommended technique is that it prevents the possible contamination of the sample with sperm that could have gotten stuck around the egg.

Surrogacy

Surrogacy is another type of in vitro fertilization that is legally permitted in many U. S. states.

This fertility treatment is widely used among women that are unable to get pregnant because of some uterine disease or born without uterus as well as among male homosexual couples that have no choice but to use a surrogate to carry the pregnancy to term.

In addition to a surrogate, gay couples also need an egg donor who delivers her eggs for them. Thus, it is surrogacy combined with egg donation what lets them become parents using their own genetic material, since usually the members of the couple deliver their own sperm. Nevertheless, they could resort to sperm donation in case they needed so.

As for heterosexual couples, the first choice is always using the intended mother’s own eggs, even if she is unable to carry a pregnancy to term. However, in the majority of the cases, they need to resort to egg donation due to poor ovarian quality or absence of the female reproductive system.

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

One comment

    1. Megan Whittingham

      Okay, I find PGD is an amazing technique, but I’ve a question, sorry if it’s a stupid one… Do they analyze each embryo one by one? If so, does it mean I’ll have to pay a fee for every embryo that is analyzed? I mean, let’s say the first one is ruled out and we have to try a second one… I’ll have to re-pay? Thank you, let me know as soon as possible, please.