Last week ABC News’ Nightline addressed the sensitive topic of donor egg treatment. Cameras followed a woman through the donation process, interviewed another who operates an egg donation agency, and spoke to a third woman in her late 40s who successfully used donor egg to conceive her twins. Donor egg treatment, which involves eggs from one woman being inseminated and transferred into another woman who has been unable to conceive using her own eggs, is one of the most successful fertility treatments available. While patients using this treatment find comfort in the hope of having a baby from the high success rates, there is a lot to consider, including a higher cost compared with other fertility treatment options.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), the governing body for reproductive medicine standards and protocols, has issued strict guidelines regarding donor egg treatment that are designed to protect the health and safety of both the egg donor and recipient. Specifically, the ASRM has published guidelines that speak specifically to egg donor compensation, screening, and how many times a woman can donate her eggs.
Who Needs Donor Eggs
Women require donor egg treatment for a variety of reasons: advanced age, premature ovarian failure, genetic abnormalities, and lowered ovarian function. For the vast majority of these patients, donor egg is the last opportunity to carry a child to term. While maternal age is the leading indicator of a couple’s ability to conceive, many may assume those needing donor eggs are only women in their late-40s and older; however, the reality is that women of all ages may have non-age related conditions that have lowered their ability to conceive with their own eggs. In addition to this subset of women, same sex male couples who are looking to build a family will need to work with both an egg donor and gestational carrier.
Typically, women over 40 have a less than 5 percent chance of conceiving naturally each month, while the (American Society of Reproductive Medicine, 2012) average fertile 30-year-old women has a 20 percent chance each month. With donor egg treatment at Shady Grove Fertility, the chance of conception is 60 percent per embryo transfer, regardless of the age of the patient.
The Cost of Using Donor Egg Treatment
While the higher success rates are attractive to many patients, the traditionally higher price tag associated with treatment can prevent some from accessing the care they need to conceive. As discussed in the Nightline story, one of the major factors influencing the cost of treatment is the compensation to the egg donor for her time. In addition, egg donor recipients are not only paying for their own treatment cycle, but also the treatment of their egg donor.
To help limit the cost for recipients using donor egg treatment, Shady Grove Fertility offers several financial programs including our signature Shared Risk 100% Refund Program in which we guarantee a patient will bring home a baby after six cycles of in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment or get her money back (some exclusions apply). A patient may also pair the Shared Risk 100% Refund Program with the Shared Donor Egg Program where recipients split the cost of using an egg donor by sharing her eggs among up to three recipients.
Compensation Guidelines for Egg Donors
As shared on Nightline, donor compensation can vary greatly. In order to protect young women from being coerced into egg donation, ASRM has developed strict guidelines for donor compensation. It is made clear that donors are compensated for their time and efforts, not for their eggs. In addition, donors are limited to donating their eggs just six times in a lifetime. Most fertility practices across the country follow these guidelines when compensating egg donors. However, some organizations and agencies go against these guidelines and offer lower or higher compensation to egg donors, and some accept donors who have donated more than 6 times. While the compensation may be enticing to some donors, there are many other factors to consider when selecting where to donate eggs including: the medical care provided throughout the donation process and the wait time to be selected as a donor.
The Egg Donation Program at Shady Grove Fertility is an anonymous egg donation program where donors undergo medical, psychological, and rigorous genetic screening. Many donors at Shady Grove Fertility are already mothers themselves and want to help women who are unable to use their own eggs. Each donor is limited to the amount of times she is permitted to undergo the donation process to minimize her health risks. Shady Grove Fertility donors receive financial compensation in line with the ASRM guidelines in all cases. Dr. Eric Widra, Shady Grove Fertility’s Medical Director, explained the reason on Nightline:
We worry that we are exposing them [the donors] to risk just because the price is right. And we worry that creates additional incentives to be untruthful about their history or unrealistic about their expectations going through treatment.
Addressing the Psychological Aspects of Donor Egg Treatment
The process of using donor egg treatment and being a donor can be psychologically taxing. Therefore, at Shady Grove Fertility, one of the most crucial roles is that of the social worker/psychologist who will work with both women (the recipient and donor) from the first consultation through the beginning stages of pregnancy.
For almost every couple the road to parenthood takes many twists and turns. Most begin the process without any knowledge of donor egg treatment. It’s important for both donors and recipients to look beyond the headlines in this sensitive topic to see how egg donation is helping so many build their families. According to what donor egg recipient, Michelle Badder told ABC Nightline, using egg donor gave her the dream of becoming a mom:I’m a mom. Finally a mom. Like, it happened. I am going to say, that’s my son.
That’s my daughter. Somebody is going to call me mom… [And] if I could help somebody out their story or be comfortable with their situation then I want to help that. It [donor egg] doesn’t need to be taboo.
To become an egg donor at Shady Grove Fertility, please fill out the initial application or call (888) 312-4499 for more information.
Source: American Society of Reproductive Medicine. (2012). Age and Fertility: a Guide for Patients. Retrieved from ASRM : Age and Fertility: A Guide for Patients