Unscrambling the Eggs
Solo Mom options for egg donation
When I was told that I would need to use an egg donor in order to conceive, I was incredibly upset. The good news was that pregnancy rates from egg donors are about 65-75%. So when I decided to use an egg donor, I was convinced I could get pregnant eventually. And, in fact, I got pregnant on the first try.
But the options were overwhelming: fresh, frozen, known, unknown, in the US or abroad, or even an already fertilized embryo. It was enough to scramble my brain, especially facing it as a Solo Mom. I spent a considerable amount of time researching the various options and eventually decided to go to Mexico to use a fresh egg.
The main considerations are:
- How much are you willing to spend?
- How much information do you want about the donors?
- How quickly do you want to start treatment?
Fresh versus frozen
The first major decision is whether to use fresh or frozen eggs. In years past, the egg freezing process was not sophisticated enough to successfully freeze and thaw eggs. In 2012, Society for Advanced Reproductive Technologies (SART) announced that vitrification (a rapid flash freeze process) made frozen eggs a viable option.
In 2013 SART reported a 47% success rate with frozen eggs and a 56% live birth rate with fresh eggs. Some of the more advanced and stringent clinics and egg banks report higher numbers—60-69% for frozen eggs and 70-80% for fresh eggs. Regardless, the gap between fresh and frozen eggs seems to be closing.
Fresh eggs cost: $15-50,000 with a total cycle costs of $30-70,000.
- You’re likely to end up with enough eggs (20 or more) to try multiple cycles or save embryos for siblings.
- It is possible to conduct genetic testing such as comprehensive chromosome screening (CCS) or pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), which require fresh eggs.
- Donors must be screened (psychological, medical, and emotional testing) and undergo IVF.
- You must sync the cycles of donor and recipient, which requires time.
- The process (donor selection, screening, and syncing) takes on average 4-5 months, but can take up to 12 months.
- You won’t know in advance how the donor will respond to IVF medications.
Frozen eggs from an egg bank cost $8-15,000 with a total cycle costs of $16-25,000.
- There’s no need to sync cycle with donor, so you can complete a cycle in 4-8 weeks compared to 3-5 months with fresh eggs.
- There are fewer variables since eggs have already been retrieved and exist in egg bank.
- All of the medical, psychological, genetic, and legal testing and consents have been completed.
- Egg banks maintain more information about donors.
- You may be able to see donor photos or find Identity Release Donors.
- It’s much cheaper than fresh eggs.
- The technology is newer.
- You only receive one lot of eggs—typically 6-8 eggs—which may not be enough to get a viable embryo. At most, likely to end up with 1-2 embryos per lot. As a result, it’s difficult to plan for siblings.
- Your IVF clinic may have a relationship with only one egg bank, thereby limiting selection pool.
Fresh egg options
The are several ways to obtain fresh eggs: your IVF clinic’s in-house donor program, independent egg donor agencies, foreign clinics, or a donor known to you personally.
1. In-house egg donor program
Cost: Full IVF cycle with medical screening ranges from $15,000-30,000 depending on program and region of the country.
Most IVF clinics now offer in-house egg donor programs in which they match recipients with egg donors, leaving little control over the selection process. In many programs, you provide your selection criteria and preferred traits and the clinic matches you to a donor at their discretion.
The amount of information provided about the donors and the testing performed varies from clinic to clinic and usually includes baby pictures but may sometimes include adult pictures. In most cases, the donor will remain anonymous for the entirety of the child’s life. The whole process takes a minimum of 3 months and an average of 4.5 months to complete.
If you use an in house donor, it is possible to share the cycle with another recipient to cut down on costs by $15,000-20,000.
2. Fresh egg donor agencies
Cost: $10,000-50,000 for egg donor only. With IVF clinic fees the total cost can range from $20,000 to 70,000.
Many agencies specialize in recruiting and placing egg donors with intended recipients. This option provides much more control and information. As the recipient, you choose your donor.
If you choose a first-time donor, you pay for the donor to undergo extensive genetic, medical, social, and emotional testing. Some donors have not been prescreened and may not actually be qualified. However, on the flip side, if the donor is a repeat donor, you can have access to cycle records and success rates and will not have to pay for the extensive medical/genetic testing.
Not all donors remain anonymous and varying amounts of information are available depending on clinic and donor. Some donors may even be willing to meet prior to donating or after the baby is born.
3. Fresh egg donor in a foreign country
Cost: $5-8,000 all-inclusive.
Going abroad provides the cheapest option across the board. Because it is a fresh cycle, the donor is likely to produce many eggs, and you are likely to end up with multiple embryos that can be frozen for future cycles or siblings.
The downside is that there is very little information available about donors. And laws in most countries require that donors remain anonymous. In Mexico, South Africa, and the Czech Republic, you can see adult pictures. In other countries, however, baby pictures might be available or you will simply be matched with a donor who shares your physical characteristics.
It can also require a bit of a juggling act to get the necessary tests and medications in place before traveling abroad. And most clinics operate under vastly different cultural norms so you have to suspend some of your expectations and trust the process.
4. Known donor
Many women feel more comfortable finding a friend or relative to donate for them. They take comfort in having a link to the donor, getting more comprehensive medical histories and deciding what type of contact will be maintained between the parties.
Many assume this route will be less expensive. Yet, costs add up quickly with extensive medical screening, genetic testing, and legal fees.
Embryo adoption both in U.S. and abroad
Cost: In US, $10,000; abroad, $2,500-4000
Another route is to find a fertilized egg, or embryo, donated from another couple’s previous IVF cycle. It is estimated that there are over 400,000 embryos in storage from IVF cycles in the U.S. alone. Some women and families decide that they would like to donate these extra embryos.
Make sure you understand the age of the donor, the reason for having extra embryos, and the quality of the donated embryos. Some agencies treat the donation like an adoption and require a home visit. You can also find donors willing to have varying degrees of contact between the siblings and families.
If you need to use an egg donor, do not despair. There are many options with very high success rates. Most likely if you pursue this option, you have a very good chance of becoming a Solo Mom!
Sarah Kowalski, ESME’s Solo Mom by Choice Resource Guide, is an attorney, somatic coach, Feldenkrais practitioner, and qigong teacher, specializing in the mind/body connection. As the founder of Motherhood Reimagined, she coaches women through their emotions and fears so that solo motherhood, egg donation, adoption, or other means can become an option to consider. She helps women redefine what it means to be a mother so they can cultivate the love, courage, and tenacity it takes to conceive and raise a child by unconventional means. Join her private Facebook group for juicy discussions and support, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.
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