Finding an Egg Donor If You Have PCOS

Understanding the Practical and Legal Considerations

Doctor comforting upset patient

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Egg donation is a specialized treatment regimen where the eggs from either an anonymous donor or someone you know are retrieved surgically, fertilized in the lab with your partner’s sperm, and the resulting embryos are transferred back into your uterus. It is one option to consider if polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) has made it unlikely for you to conceive a baby.

The Donor Egg Plan

Using donor eggs to conceive raises a lot of issues that can have a profound impact on both your family and the resulting child. The procedure is known as a gamete donation, which can also refer to the donation of sperm.

Most clinics have a list of screening requirements for both the recipient and her partner that must be completed before pursuing this type of cycle. In fact, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine and most specialists will even require an evaluation with a specially-trained reproductive psychologist before undergoing gamete donation.

PCOS alone is not an indication for the use of donor eggs. You may be a candidate, however, if your ovaries are missing or damaged, you have a low ovarian reserve, you have a genetic condition that will be passed on through your eggs, or you are not medically able to undergo the ovarian stimulation required to retrieve your eggs.

For example, if you had surgery for PCOS, like ovarian wedge resection or ovarian drilling, damage to the ovaries may make them unable to produce enough follicles in response to the medication.

In most cases, the first line of treatment for a young woman with anovulation related to PCOS is taking an oral medication called Clomid (clomiphene). Sometimes Clomid is given in conjunction with metformin, a drug used to treat insulin resistance and which is thought to possibly induce ovulation in women with PCOS.

Other options include injectable drugs coupled with intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Selecting a Donor

If your doctor recommends using an egg donor, selecting a donor is an important part of the process. There are many egg donor agencies that advertise a roster of perfect, Ivy-league educated, artistic, and athletic donors.

While that may sound nice, what is more important is the donor’s pregnancy rate and overall fertility. That is what will get you pregnant, not where the donor went to school. Remember that the values and environment in which you raise your child will play a significant role in how he or she turns out, not just genetics.

Using donor eggs is expensive and there’s no guarantee that the cycle will work. You’ll want everything stacked in your favor when you undergo this process.

Many fertility centers maintain a pool of donors that they work with, or they may send you out to a specialized donor egg agency. If you are unhappy with the selection at your fertility center, you may even want to check out a few agencies yourself.

However, before signing on with an agency, make sure you ask a lot of questions about their process and the “what ifs,” such as:

  • What happens if the donor doesn’t pass your center’s medical screening? Are you still obligated to use one of their donors or will you get your money back?
  • What if the donor doesn’t respond well to the medication? What are your backup alternatives?

Also, make sure that you understand the paperwork and that you read it yourself before signing. Better yet, find an attorney experienced in reproductive law who can review the documents and offer you advice.

Donor Screening

Whichever donor you select, you can rest assured that she has undergone a strict medical exam and testing for infectious diseases.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides guidance and oversees regulations on the use of donated eggs. According to the FDA, every donor must be thoroughly screened for HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, West Nile virus, and an array of other infectious diseases.

The donor should also take a urine drug test, undergo a psychological evaluation and be tested to see if she is a carrier for several of the most common genetic diseases.

All of the testings should be completed within 30 days of the egg retrieval to ensure that the donor is free from infection.

A Word From Verywell

Using an egg donor is a big decision and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. While in some cases, it provides the best chance for pregnancy, getting a second opinion might be warranted, especially if you are unsure or uncomfortable with the decision.

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Article Sources

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  2. Benward J. Mandatory counseling for gamete donation recipients: ethical dilemmas. Fertil Steril. 2015;104(3):507-12. doi10.1016/j.fertnstert.2015.07.1154

  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. What you should know - reproductive tissue donation. Silver Spring, Maryland; November 5, 2010.