In vitro fertilization (IVF) has helped tens of thousands of couples conceive for over 35 years. For many women though, using their own eggs for treatment is not possible. When this diagnosis occurs, egg donation is the most effective treatment option: it allows a woman to carry her child and offers the highest pregnancy rates of any fertility treatment.

Recently, the Huffington Post article “Would You Donate Your Eggs to a Couple Who Couldn’t Conceive?” explored the various reasons why couples use donated eggs. We wanted to provide a deeper clinical background for the five key reasons from the original article:

  1. Advanced maternal age.
    Female fertility naturally begins declining in the early 20s, but conception rates remain high into the 30s. By a woman’s mid-30s, the decline accelerates, reaching minimal pregnancy potential by the age of 45. In addition, women over 35 have an increased risk of miscarriage and/or genetic abnormalities in their children as a result of age-dependent changes in egg quality. While it is possible for women to conceive naturally using their own eggs after the age of 42, it is the exception, not the rule. Generally, women ages 44+ use donor eggs for fertility treatment.
  2. Women who have premature ovarian failure or menopause.
    Premature ovarian failure (early menopause) is a condition in which menopause occurs before the age of 40. Women who develop early menopause usually have run out of eggs in their ovaries. The cause of premature ovarian failure is generally unknown. However, there are a few reasons why the ovaries may stop producing eggs at an early age. Exposure to certain chemicals or medical treatments can damage or destroy the ovaries. These may include chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis are sometimes also associated with early menopause, because the immune system forms antibodies that attack and damage the ovaries. Heredity can also play a role: some genetic disorders lead to early menopause.
  3. Women who have poor egg reserves.
    Decreased ovarian reserve occurs when a woman is producing eggs of a lower quality. These women tend to have a poor egg yield and generally poor fertility treatment outcomes when using their own eggs.
  4. “Gay male couples who require both an egg donor and a gestational carrier to have a child.”
    Egg donation has provided gay male couples with the ability to have a child (born by gestational carrier) that will have genetic material from one or both members of the couple.
  5. Unknown.

If a couple is undergoing fertility treatment and is unsuccessful after a few rounds of IVF, the next recommendation is for the couple to use donor egg treatment.

Egg donors afford couples the opportunity to have a family, regardless of diagnosis or situation. Often, by the time a couple undergoes donor egg treatment, they have already attempted several unsuccessful cycles using their own eggs. Women who donate their eggs offer a piece of hope for those who may feel hopeless.

If you are considering egg donation but have questions about the process, please contact [email protected]. If you would like to apply to become an egg donor, please complete the initial application