If you are fortunate enough to work with an in-house donor program through your fertility clinic, much of the donor’s requisite testing is performed in advance of her acceptance into the pool. Thus, you have a better idea if she is an appropriate option prior to the matching process. However, these programs often have a smaller selection of candidates available due geographic and pre-screening restrictions.
For those soon-to-be parents who are looking for a very specific type of egg donor: unique ethnicities, advanced degrees, certain physical characteristics, etc., you may find it necessary to cast a wider net and involve egg donor agencies in your search; ones who often boast a larger selection.
Regardless of where your journey commences, you will field an enormous amount of information coupled with the need to make comparisons in order to arrive at the best candidate for you & your family.
While fertility clinics and egg donor agencies have a range of acceptable standards when admitting donors to their pool, the following is a general list of factors for you to weigh throughout your decision-making process.
- Age – Most often, donors are between the ages of 21 and 30 however, some programs allow the minimum & maximum ages to be 18 & 34 respectively.
- Appropriate Height-to-Weight Ratio – Obesity (or malnourishment) can negatively impact egg quality; therefore, donors must have a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) usually between 18-27.
- Personal Medical History – Health history must include non-smoker, non-drug user (while cannabis is legal in many states, donors must treat marijuana like they do tobacco – it’s a "no"), free from sexually transmitted diseases, and appropriate answers to the FDA questionnaire.
- Family Medical History – Reported family health history should be relatively free from major diseases, mental health issues and substance abuse reports particularly concerning a donor’s first-degree relatives (parents & siblings). Much of family health history is "multi-factorial" in nature; meaning, there may not be a direct genetic link but various factors including lifestyle and environment contribute to the expression of these diseases. Therefore, it is often up to you, as Intended Parents, to determine what is acceptable for your family building. Additionally, the ASRM offers guidelines to consider when evaluating a candidate.
- Reproductive History / Previous Donations – Where applicable, information about ‘proven fertility’ is available in egg donor profiles, ie. a previous successful pregnancy shows that the donor has the potential to provide healthy eggs. If a donor has cycled previous, you should be privy to these results in order to determine her continued potential.
- Genetic Carrier Screening – Genetic testing reveals the carrier status of many autosomal dominant and recessive variants. If a donor is a recessive carrier of a mutation, this may not prove significant unless the sperm provider is a carrier of the same variant. Thus, carrier screening of both egg and sperm, using the same (or similar) screening is critical to ensure that genetic mutations are not passed onto the offspring.
- Psychological Assessment – An interview with a psychological counselor to ensure she has considered the long- and short-term ramifications of ovum donation.
- Appearance – Height, weight, hair color, eye color, etc. Many Intended Parents are interested in donors with similar physical features, while others seek candidates who have different traits or those resembling family members. This is the most subjective category of criteria.
- Personal Background – Ethnicity, religion, characteristics, education, lifestyle, questionnaire responses, etc.
- Compensation: Usually ranges between $6,000 to $20,000 (and higher for "elite" candidates)
Other things to consider is the vetting process of the fertility clinic and/or egg donor agency you are choosing. Visit their websites to learn more about how they qualify their egg donors, ask questions and request as much information as necessary to feel confident in this decision. Just like fertility clinics' in-house programs, agencies should conduct medical, psychological, and genetic screening for each egg donor in their database.
Identifying the "perfect" egg donor may prove to be more zealous endeavor than initially anticipated. The best advice of all: be patient, thorough, flexible, and open to possibilities. If one donor doesn’t work out, do not be alarmed. The right donor is waiting for you – but she may not be your initial choice. Just know that whomever you choose is THE "perfect" young woman to help build your family!
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