One of the questions I get asked the most is about our donor screening. How thoroughly do we screen our donors? What does the screening entail?
We very strictly screen them. Some screening is required by the FDA and some is just what we feel is appropriate and necessary. There are three different times they are screened and each screening includes different testing. The three times they are screened are when they apply, when they are matched, and before they start stimulation medications.
When a donor applies to participate in our program, they complete an application online, they complete a very thorough health history questionnaire on our portal, they meet with one of our physicians, they come in for day three testing including an ultrasound and hormone testing (FSH, LH, AMH, Estradiol), they have a phone interview with a genetic counselor who reviews all of her family medical history, and then they finally have an evaluation with a psychologist.
Once she is selected by a recipient couple, she then completes more testing. She comes in and repeats her day three testing, but also has the following done: CBC, CMP, drug and nicotine screening, infectious disease panel, gonorrhea and Chlamydia testing, blood typing, PT & PTT, and then her DNA is tested to see if she is a carrier of any of the following disease causing mutations: Beta Thalassemia, Bloom Syndrome, Canavan Disease, Cystic Fibrosis, Familial Dysautonomia, Fanconi Anemia Type C, Fragile X Syndrome, Gaucher Disease, Hexosaminidase A Deficiency, Mucolipidosis IV, Niemann-Pick Disease, SMPD1-Associated, Sickle Cell Disease, and Tay-Sachs disease.
Then at her stimulation check appointment, she has another ultrasound, we check two of her hormones (Estradiol and Progesterone), she is re-tested for gonorrhea and Chlamydia, and she has another infectious disease panel that includes NATS. NAT stands for nucleic acid testing and is a much more sophisticated test than the regular infectious disease panel. NAT tests amplify and detect the target sequences located in specific genes of the infectious diseases.
It seems like a lot and honestly, it is. We do our best to ensure that the donor is healthy and does not pose any health risk to her recipients or to the potential child that would be born from her donation. As thorough as we are, we cannot watch our donors twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. They do sign a contract stating that they will abstain from intercourse, or use a non-hormonal (barrier) form of contraception of birth control with their current partner; and will notify our staff if they engage in intercourse with a new partner(s), to refrain from all use of recreational drugs, to refrain from the use of alcohol and tobacco and to minimize their exposure to second hand smoke, to not acquire any new or expanded body piercings or tattoos, to postpone any non-emergency surgery or medical procedure and to notify our staff if any emergency medical procedure is required, and that they will not start any new prescription, over the counter medication, and/or herbal preparations throughout the duration of her cycle. Even with all of our testing and their commitment to the program, problems still arise. Sometimes cycles have to get cancelled through no fault of the recipient or donor based off of a test result. We cannot guarantee that our donors will always test negative for everything, nor can we guarantee that even if everything does come back negative, that she will have a good retrieval or that pregnancy will be achieved, despite our best efforts.
Vicki Meagher has worked with InVia Fertility Specialists since 2006. She is our Third Party Coordinator, so she works with our patients that need an egg donor, sperm donor, gestational surrogate, or any combination of the above. She recruits and screens the egg donors for our in-house donor program as well. She loves working with intended parents and is passionate about third party reproduction and the important role it plays in helping patients achieve their dream of starting or extending their family. She is a member of SEEDS - the Society for Ethics for Egg Donation and Surrogacy.