I met with a group of people last week who were considering using donor eggs to start or grow their families. My impression was that they were all in various stages of the decision-making process. One of the questions that came out of the discussion was, “When is the right time to use donor eggs?”
If you read my post Egg Donor Cycle—Originally Deemed a Failure Results in Twins there was no doubt that in order for my husband and I try to have children who would share his DNA, donor eggs were a necessary component. My husband and I had gone through 1 IVF cycle and the 3 embryos that resulted from the retrieval all had massive chromosomal abnormalities. Given that our first pregnancy resulted in a Triploidy child, there was little doubt that my egg quality was extremely poor. While the reality seemed harsh and unfair to me at the time, I see now that we were fortunate to have a definitive answer so that we could move forward in our endeavor to have children. What struck me last week was that so many of the wonderful people sitting in front of me were in a very grey zone.
The first step in assessing whether donor eggs are necessary in building your family is to meet with a Reproductive Endocrinologist. These doctors are specially trained to diagnose and treat those who are having difficulty becoming pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term.
If your R.E. recommends using donor eggs, you (and perhaps a partner) will make the final determination whether it is right for you and your family. Just like IVF and other fertility treatments, there are no guarantees, unfortunately. Donor eggs do increase the likelihood of pregnancy with women who are diagnosed with poor egg quality, however.
SART, The Society for Reproductive Technology, offers an informative database of success rates for ART (assisted reproductive technology) cycles. I ran the report for 2010 and compared donor cycles to patients using their own fresh embryos. The donor egg showed a 55% success rate for live births (it did not break out the ages of the mother/carrier). The reason age is not relevant is because the majority of donor eggs are retrieved from women who are young (typically in their 20’s and very early 30’s). Conversely, the fresh non-donor embryos resulted in 12.6% of live births for women between the ages of 41-42. For women over 42, the success rates for live births from fresh non-donor embryos were reported to be 4.2%.
Going back to the original question, the live birth statistics offer a stark reality that is difficult to refute. Beyond that, I think the bigger question may be, "How much longer can you wait to be a parent?" If you have already experienced miscarriage(s) another question might be, "How many more are you willing to potentially endure?" I have a friend who has lost 5 pregnancies. Every time she shared that she had miscarried, I would privately wish that she would seek help from an R.E. It broke my heart to see her in such pain and I felt that she deserved to know the potential reasons for her heartbreak.
The decision to move forward with donor eggs is extremely personal and requires a great deal of consideration. If you opt to use donor eggs to try to become pregnant, accepting the fact that you will not be genetically linked to your future child/children is the first of many hurdles you will face. In future posts I will touch on the following:
Choosing a donor bank
Choosing an egg donor
Contemplating the issues surrounding disclosure (to your child, family and friends)
Handling the legal matters that pertain to having a child through egg donation and selecting an attorney
I realize that I have oversimplified this very complex issue. It is not my intention to try to persuade you to move forward with a donor egg cycle. While I have been blessed with 2 children thanks to an anonymous egg donor, the decision was extremely difficult for me. I definitely wanted children but was afraid to go through another pregnancy. I am merely sharing some data and resources that may be useful to you and/or your partner.
Whatever path you choose to build your family, I hope you find great success and happiness in the end.
To learn more about Denise Steele or to read additional posts, please go to: Hope4Fertility