Egg donors provide healthy oocytes (or egg cells) to others that will be combined with sperm and become an embryo. Recipients of the donation could be a single parent who may or may not work with a gestational carrier (who carries and delivers the baby for another person, with no biological link to the child), a heterosexual couple potentially dealing with infertility issues or an LGBTQ+ couple, explains Asima Ahmad, M.D., a board-certified OB-GYN and reproductive endocrinologist and co-founder and chief medical officer of Carrot Fertility.
The process may consist of the egg donor first syncing up their menstrual cycle with the recipient’s cycle using birth control pills to ensure optimal fertility, according to the University of California San Francisco health department. Then, the donor must receive hormone shots to stimulate ovulation, and undergo an uterine egg retrieval procedure under light general anesthesia. However, in many cases, frozen eggs are used when donating eggs, allowing the donor to skip the step of syncing up their cycle with the recipient.
“The eggs are fertilized in a lab with sperm to create embryos, and then the embryos are transferred to the recipient’s uterus,” Dr. Ahmad explains. That recipient could either be the parent, or might be a gestational carrier.
Prospective parents might choose to use a donor for a variety of reasons, including that they’re a male same-sex couple, have poor egg quality or an absence of eggs or have experienced early menopause, adds Catha Fischer, M.D., a board-certified OB-GYN, reproductive endocrinologist and director of fertility preservation at Spring Fertility New York. In addition, people that are unable to use their own eggs or choose not to also may consider using an egg donor.
Meanwhile, people may choose to be egg donors for a number of reasons, including wanting to help families in need or for financial reasons.