Families that deal with infertility are often left with no options but to seek donors to help them get pregnant through in vitro fertilization.
That process is both complex and expensive. But, it also can help those seeking to have a child the chance to pick a close to ideal donor to help them conceive.
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Dr. Gilbert Mottla of Shady Grove Fertility in Annapolis said egg donors go through three stages of extensive screening. This includes a written application and profile, a medical exam and mental health profile, which includes a written psychological test and face-to-face consult with a mental health provider.
“It takes approximately six weeks to properly evaluate a prospective egg donor,” Mottla said.
Mottla said there are also age and health factors that can disqualify many potential donors.
Donors must be between the ages of 21-32 and complete an egg retrieval prior to their 33rd birthday. Also family and personal health history as well as genetic markers such as cystic fibrosis, sickle cell, Tay Sachs, etc… can disqualify a donor from participation, Mottla said.
Mottla added that donors are also required to have a body mass index, or BMI, between 18-28. Donors must also be on an approved method of birth control that is favorable to egg donation. The screening process is extensive and for every 100 donor applicants, only 3-5 make it to donation.
“Donors are disqualified in different stages for medical reasons, family history, age, weight, education, etc…,” Mottla said. “Last year we had 15,000 women apply, and we accepted 276.”
The Johns Hopkins Fertility Center takes a similar approach.
According to the center’s website, once a candidate is selected an egg donor is taught how to administer a medical injection to help stimulate the production of multiple eggs. The actual egg collection process takes about 30 to 45 minutes and the donor is sedated during the out-patient procedure.
Mottla said eggs or embryos can be frozen indefinitely, however they do ask patients to determine how to use their embryos by the time they are 51.
Recipients are also provided with the donors’ complete profile; which includes their health history, family health history, education, likes and hobbies, gynecological history, as well as essay questions. All donors submit childhood photos, and 50 percent of donors allow them to share their current adult photos with selecting recipients, Mottla said.
At Hopkins, donors are assigned a code number known only to the center members. The surgical record will also include only a number. Records are kept in a locked cabinet.
Also at Hopkins, the couple receiving eggs signs a consent form stating they understand the egg donation is anonymous and they understand the recipients or their children born as a result of the therapy cannot contact the donor in the future. Only general height, weight, complexion, ethnicity and family medical history are shared.
In most cases, donors are also compensated. Mottla said his donors are compensated in stages throughout the program. The first donation is $7,000, second is $7,500 and the third through the sixth are $8,000 each.
“We try to let recipients know that’s the motivation of egg donors…,” Mottla said. “We came to find that the majority of our donors are initially interested in the compensation. We spend time educating all of our donors from application to egg retrieval to ensure they have an understanding of how the process works and what their role is within it.”
“So upon participating in the program and learning just what it is that they are doing, they continue because it appeals to their altruism and the compensation is simply an added benefit to a wonderful gift.”
Overall, donor egg treatments range between $14,000 and $55,000, and the success rate is about 60 percent, Mottla said. He added the large difference is based on whether a patient uses a traditional, non-shared donor, or shares the donor's eggs with one or two other recipients.
“In addition, patients can opt to pay for a single cycle, or participate in our money-back guarantee program known as Shared Risk, which allows patients up to six attempts,” he said.