What are Donor Eggs? Understanding the Process

While the concept of donor eggs may be confusing, it is an available option for couples experiencing infertility.


For couples exploring the world of in-vitro fertilization (IVF), you may come across the concept of using donor eggs to become pregnant. There are many different reasons why women elect to use donor eggs to become pregnant – everyone experiences pregnancy in a different and unique way. Here is what you need to know before you start your pregnancy journey with donor eggs:

Join our newsletter

What are Donor Eggs?


Donor eggs are exactly that – viable eggs that have been donated by another woman that women use to become pregnant. Similar to sperm donors, donated eggs can be chosen by a couple experiencing infertility issues and fertilized using sperm from the partner or another donor. The donor eggs contain the DNA from the woman who donated them. The criteria to donate eggs are incredibly strict, with extensive screening done for egg viability and risk for genetic conditions. The average age of donor women is 21-35, meaning that the majority of donor eggs are healthy and have a better chance of responding well to IVF treatment.

The Process of Donor Eggs


The process of collecting and using donor eggs is incredibly similar to the process of undergoing IVF. Once a suitable donor has been chosen for a couple, the donor woman begins taking fertility medications that stimulate the maturation of eggs within the ovaries.

Once the donor’s eggs are mature and ready to be harvested (yes, that is the medical term for it, unfortunately), the donor woman will undergo a surgical procedure to have one or more mature eggs removed from her ovaries. Thankfully, this is a minor procedure that normally lasts less than 30 minutes.

Once the mature and viable eggs have been removed, they are fertilized by a team of fertility specialists using your partner’s sperm or a donor sperm. If the fertilization is successful, the embryo is then surgically inserted into your uterus for implantation. Science!

Why Do People Use Donor Eggs?


There are many different reasons why couples elect to use donor eggs rather than their own. Some common causes include:

  • Women who are experiencing premature ovarian failure (early onset menopause or early onset decrease in the production of viable eggs.)
  • Women with diminished ovarian reserve (low numbers of viable eggs) due to age, hormonal conditions, or trauma to the reproductive system.
  • Couples who are at risk of passing on severe genetic diseases
  • LGBTQA+ couples who are looking to start a family
  • Women with a previous history of failed IVF therapy

Risks of Using Donor Eggs


Like all surgical and medical procedures, there are risks involved with using donor eggs for fertility. Some important risks to consider prior to beginning donor egg fertility options include:

  • Inability to retrieve viable eggs from the donor
    • Despite the extensive health screening for all donors, it is possible that the donor you select is unable to produce viable eggs during the extraction period. 
  • Complications during fertilization or the implantation procedure
    • It is possible for a complication to occur during the fertilization or implantation stage. If a viable embryo is not able to be created prior to implantation, then the procedure is unable to continue. Additionally, if complications occur during the implantation of the embryo into the uterus, it is possible for the procedure to fail.
  • Risk of non-successful pregnancy
    • The percentage of successful embryonic implantation into the uterus from this procedure is 41%. It is important to understand that despite the IVF procedure being successful, not all IVF procedures result in a full-term pregnancy.


The Cost of Donor Eggs


The cost of using donor eggs can change depending on where you live. On average, it is estimated that using donor eggs can cost anywhere from $10,000 – $20,000. It is important to note that sometimes this cost includes the fees for IVF, and others it is just the cost to cover the donor egg insurance, legal coordination, and health assessments. If you are looking into using donor eggs, it is super important to be aware of the costs associated with the procedure!


    Putting It All Together


    Using donor eggs is a totally valid and viable way to become pregnant in the modern world. For those who have been struggling with infertility, considering using donor eggs may be a great option for your needs. So, are donor eggs right for you? Be sure to talk with your primary care provider and fertility specialists to discuss the risks and benefits of using donor eggs for your pregnancy journey.