How to Choose an Egg Donor
|Our 2014 success rate with donor eggs||78%
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Per embryo transfer
|2014 national average success rate with donor eggs (SART data)||54%
Live birth rate
Per embryo transfer
|A comparison of clinic success rates may not be meaningful because patient medical characteristics, treatment approaches and entrance criteria for ART may vary from clinic to clinic|
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Page author Richard Sherbahn MD
Is choosing an appropriate egg donor a complicated process?
Egg donation is a highly successful fertility treatment for those couples where the female partner has premature menopause, poor egg quantity or quality due to advanced female age, or other genetic or egg related problems. However, even with the high success rates, sometimes it is very difficult for a woman to cope with the fact that her genetic material will not be present in her child.
Choosing an egg donor is a simple and straightforward process for some couples but can be complicated and difficult for others.
When I started doing egg donation in 1997, before the proliferation of egg donor agencies on the Internet there were far less egg donors available for couples to choose from.
In 1997, our in-house egg donor pool consisted of 3 donors. We had a tall brunette, a short brunette, and a blonde. All 3 were Caucasian. Our recipient couples using donor eggs would usually choose their donor quickly after looking over the information that we had available on these 3 women.
Over time we got more donors signed up for our in house egg donor program and many egg donor agencies also started operating which resulted in many more available egg donors.
Back in the late 1990s, couples would usually choose their donor based on finding a woman with similar physical characteristics to those of the female partner. In those days women would often say something like; "Since I am a brunette, it would be great to get a white girl who is a brunette. Do you have any on your donor list?".
However, the egg donation world has changed. With the proliferation of donor agencies there are thousands of donors available through agencies over the Internet. At the same time, couples have become much more particular about what they are looking for in their perfect egg donor. A "white girl with dark hair" will rarely be enough to satisfy recipient couples today.
For example, I saw a couple recently that wants to do egg donation as soon as possible. They said that they are looking for a donor who is:
- Between 5'7 and 5'8"
- Naturally wavy, blonde hair
- Green eyes
- With some Swedish background in her family
- Minimum of a master's degree
- Has participated in athletics at the college level
- Minimum IQ of 120
They did not specify that the donor needs to be beautiful. However, my guess is that she will need to be very attractive for this couple to be satisfied.
In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with having such requirements. What is important is that there is a comfort level for the recipient couple. They need an egg donor that meets their "needs".
It seems that the comfort level was usually much easier to get to15 years ago than it is today.
What are the factors that couples consider when choosing an egg donor?
Recipient couples very greatly when it comes to what they are looking for in their egg donor. Here are some attributes that I have found couples looking for:
- Physical characteristics matching those of the female partner
- High IQ
- Proven success with egg donation in the past
- Evidence of determination and work ethic
I had a patient choose her donor based on the fact that she had a good personality and was artistic. She said that she didn't care about physical characteristics, including the race of the donor.
I had a patient who told me she was disappointed with one of our donors that she had thought might be perfect for her. She told me that she could not use her because "she is a slut". She said that she knew that the donor was a slut because "has 2 children from 2 different men and she was never married to either of them". I said I did not think that promiscuity was a behavior that was genetically determined and passed on through genetics. She told me; "Oh yes, it certainly is".
- The patient needs to have a comfort level that the donor is a good one for her
The nature versus nurture controversy is very interesting and complicated. I don't claim to be an expert on the subject.
- How much of "what we are" has been programmed into us before birth by variations in our DNA (nature)?
- How much is shaped by environmental factors, our upbringing and early life experiences and exposures (nurture)?
- Studies of identical twins that were separated at birth and raised in different families have found interesting correlations with regard to variations in IQ, personality, etc.
- For example, it has been shown that identical twins reared apart have personalities that are more similar than would be expected by chance.
The experts may not agree on the relative contribution of genetics versus environment and upbringing in determining what we are and what we do with our lives. However, couples needing egg donation can decide for themselves as to the relevance of these types of characteristics in their donor.
Other aspects of egg donor screening
The FDA mandates quite a few screening tests for egg donors. However these screening tests are all of an infectious disease nature. The FDA is not involved in requiring other types of screening. For example screening for cystic fibrosis (a recessively carried genetic disease) is not part of the FDA screening regulations at all.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine has guidelines that most egg donation clinics follow which cover infectious disease screening and other aspects of egg donor screening such as genetic disease screening, general health issues, etc.
Brains or beauty?
Further insight into what is important to recipient couples when they choose their egg donor comes from looking at the donors that end up getting chosen at our clinic.
Very attractive donors and donors that show a high IQ test score result ("smart") on the evaluation done by the psychologist are not on our donor list for long before they are chosen for their first cycle. They are often used again and again - particularly if their eggs are used in cycles resulting in a pregnancy.
In other words:
- Beautiful egg donors get chosen quickly and are almost always used repeatedly
- Smart donors are usually used repeatedly
- In between girls are in between - if they are not exceptionally attractive or exceptionally smart, they might not be used repeatedly - unless every cycle results in a successful pregnancy
- This suggests to me that some people go for beauty some people go for brains and some factor in other characteristics
What should I look for in my egg donor?
Whatever floats your boat. Beautiful, smart, green eyes, tall, Italian, Catholic, a woman shows great motivation by going to college full-time and working part-time, a woman who has donated her eggs 4 times previously at our clinic and all 4 cycles resulted in successful pregnancies, an athletic woman, an artistic woman, or maybe just a woman who looks a lot like you.
How can we help couples needing egg donation?
- We have had an active egg donor list with available donors since 1997
- We have donors available for use with fresh eggs
- We also have our own egg bank with frozen donor eggs available immediately
- We have some of the highest donor eggs success rates in the world
- We are conveniently located in Chicago, Illinois near major airports and highways
- We can provide egg donors and do the IVF and embryo transfer services
- Our egg donor list shows whether we have had a successful pregnancy with the donor yet or not
To become a patient, call us at 847-662-1818 and schedule a consultation - or fill out the form below. Consultations can be done in one of our offices, or by telephone, or an online GoToMeeting.