Medical advances have widened the range of options for gay people to build their families. In addition to adoption, gay couples can now consider egg donation and surrogacy as paths to parenthood. In the first article in this series I am focusing on choices involved in selecting an egg donor.
There are many factors to consider when choosing an egg donor, such as known or anonymous donation, in addition to the various characteristics of the donor. Another critical (and often overlooked) factor has to do with how and where your donor is screened, and who does the screening. I believe that choosing your donor requires a high degree of guidance from the medical team. Therefore at CT Fertility all of our donors are personally screened by me and the rest of my team, and all the testing is done on-site. We only offer pre-screened donors who have already passed the rigorous testing, and we do not simply collect applications online from women around the country, outsource their testing, and then pass them on to you.
In an agency donation, the donor is located and screened by an agency and/or reproductive endocrinologist. Candidates for egg donation should be healthy non-smoking women between the ages of 21 to 32 with no family history of genetic disease. Women choosing to be egg donors are typically genuinely motivated to help others achieve the goal of parenthood. Nevertheless an additional primary reason would be for financial consideration; donors are often students and are well compensated. Donors undergo a rigorous medical, genetic, and psychological screening. Candidates should have no past history of infertility, sexually transmitted diseases, or other serious illnesses. Personal characteristics intended parents typically consider include also blood type, weight and body type, hair color and type, eye color, age, religious or ethnic background, educational background, previous pregnancies, availability for additional donations, occupation, special interests, and musical talents. To facilitate donor selection agencies often provide childhood and adult photos, and some even offer taped audio or video interviews. Another consideration is whether all the eggs produced by a single donor will be received exclusively by one couple or also made available to other recipients. Egg donors are often limited in their frequency to donate.
In many cases the donation is an anonymous process, but it can be semi-anonymous, or non-anonymous. Anonymous donations allows for confidentiality and can also limit certain potential legal issues. A known or designated donor could be a female relation such as a sister or cousin, or someone known at another personal level. A known donation can also be an agency donation where the donor and recipients meet. In addition to the personal connection, the benefits of a known donor are the availability and access of information, both medical and personal. In a known donation, relationship and communication issues must be considered, as well as future issues that may arise. Where a known family donation offers the benefits of shared genetics, the interpersonal dynamic may be extremely complex. Another consideration is the donor’s role after the child is born and how much information will be shared regarding the donation.
The many options medical technology offers for gay parenthood necessitates making crucial decisions. Intended parents need to determine what works best for their specific situation as they embark on the journey to parenthood. Helping parents make informed selection of egg donors and gestational carriers is one important factor contributing to our higher than average success rates (70% IVF attempts are successful in achieving pregnancy in a single transfer).