Selecting your Egg Donor by Terry Nichtberger RN, MSN, CFNP and Vicki L. Schnell MD

Selecting Your Egg Donor
Terry Nichtberger RN, MSN, CFNP and Vicki L. Schnell MD
From the 2007 Resource Directory

Egg donation is an excellent option for those couples who cannot conceive using their own oocytes.  This process has an excellent success rate.  
Selecting your egg donor can sometimes seem difficult, overwhelming, stressful, and exhausting.  There are many things to consider while you go through the journey of finding the best egg donor for you.  It is important to address these issues one at a time, taking time with this process, addressing any concerns but most importantly talking with each other.  Your goal is to have a child but to also reach this goal together as a couple.  Open communication is very important during a stressful experience.  You should feel good and generally at peace with this decision. 

An egg donor should be young, generally between the ages of 20 and 30.  She should have an appropriate baseline FSH level which indicates the degree of ovarian aging.  The donor should have an ultrasound to assess the basal antral follicle count (or amount of follicles less than 10mm in size), pass a physical psychological exam, and complete the FDA screening guidelines.  These tests include screening for infectious diseases, along with asking the potential donor pertinent questions regarding her sexual lifestyle, tattoos and body piercings.  Screening will also look for any close contacts or exposure to infectious diseases, SARS, West Nile Virus, and any neurological disorders (i.e. Crutchfield Jacobs Disease) of unknown etiology.  Donors are screened for medical and genetic disorders as well as psychological well being.

Your egg donor may be anonymous or known to you, such as a friend or a family member.  However, most couples do not utilize a friend or family member because they are not available and therefore choose an egg donor who is anonymous.  You may choose an egg donor from a physician’s office that has an egg donor program or from an agency that recruits egg donors.

Both egg donor programs in physician offices and egg donor agencies utilize similar recruitment techniques.  Egg donors may be recruited through community newspapers, college newspapers, the Internet, and word of mouth. 

It is very important for the agency or physician office to guide you through the donation process.  The process will be comprehensive, and should be much more than reading profiles or looking at pictures.  The most important objective to be reached is to find an egg donor that you connect with or that you feel positive about using in the process for the ultimate goal of achieving a pregnancy.

The first thing to do when selecting your egg donor is to understand what are the most important attributes you require as a couple.  These may include physical characteristics such as height, eye color or hair color, ethnicity, overall personal and family health history, education, special interests and or personality.  Some programs or agencies also offer audio interviews with the donor which may be helpful in the selection process.  You should ask if you can view donors online or the available list online which can help you be prepared before your initial consultation.

Before you schedule your appointment with an agency or with an egg donor program, you and your partner should write down what is important to you separately.  Once you’ve done this, discuss and compare the lists together before your appointment.  Do you want to have a child who looks physically similar to you or has the same ethnicity?  Or is the family health history more important to you?  Whatever it is, it is very important for both you and your partner to feel good about this decision. 

You and your partner may want to schedule an appointment with a therapist or psychologist to discuss the process, which can at times feel overwhelming. The psychologist or therapist can help you focus on what is the primary goal with this process (which is to have a family). You may want to attend a seminar offered by a physician regarding egg donation, or attend a support group meeting, such as Resolve which involves many couples going through the same process, having the same feelings, etc. You can also ask your physician for the name of a patient who has gone through this process previously and is willing to talk with both you and your partner about any concerns you may have.

Ask opinions or recommendations from your physician, nurses or the agency about donors that they may consider for you. Also ask about the availability of the donor, for example when will you be able to start the process? This will help them guide you in your selection. The program or agency should have spent a lot of time with these donors, reviewing their medical and social history and getting to know them as individuals and potential egg donors. They can offer you insight into the donors in ways that you may not see on paper.  If there are any questions that you have for the donor that are not in her profile, ask your doctor’s office or agency to ask her your specific questions. You may also want to ask if the donor has done an egg donor IVF cycle before and if so, what are the results? 

Now is the time for you to get all the information about your donor that you can.  Photographs from you donor’s childhood or adulthood may be important to you. Ask if you may keep a photo and or the profile of the donor to take home so that you can review it in the privacy of your home. 

Other things to consider during this process are the nature vs. nurture debate.  Is it more important for you to want someone who has a PhD or someone who worked hard but never had the opportunity or financial means to go to college?  Remember that this child is yours and with that will come a great deal of your nurturing, your goals, your values, your personality, your idiosyncrasies, and your interests.

The most important thing to consider when choosing your egg donor is what is going to make you feel good and make your family complete. This is a time consuming process but one that needs to have a shared discussion with both you and your partner to meet your goal of having a family.

Terry Nichtberger RN, MSN, C-FNP is a Family Nurse Practitioner and has been actively involved in the Third Party Program with Dr. Vicki L. Schnell at the Center of Reproductive Medicine, Webster, Texas. 

 Dr. Vicki Schnell is Medical Director of the Center of Reproductive Medicine since 1993. Dr. Schnell is board certified in both Obstetrics/Gynecology and in Reproductive Endocrinology/Infertility.

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