Pride and Joy #3: Plan Your Family With Egg Donation

Welcome to part three of Pride and Joy, A Men’s Guide to Having a Baby. We delve into the next step of creating your family: Finding Your Perfect Egg Donor.

First, let’s take a look at some of the big decisions.

Who will be the genetic father?
Often our male couples make a plan, in conjunction with their fertility doctor, that both will provide sperm, with an eye to having at least two children. That’s a lot to expect from one egg donor cycle, so you may like to think about potentially doing two cycles with your chosen donor. As Dr. Mel Thornton, from American Fertility in Connecticut explains, “This type of couple will need at least 20-25 mature eggs to work with, especially if they are doing PGS, in order to have enough embryos for both of them to be biological fathers.
You may need to ask the donor if she’s open to doing two cycles, and plan for that financially. Many donors are thrilled with the idea of doing a ‘sibling cycle’ and are open to the option of committing to two cycles, should the first not produce enough eggs.

Open Vs. Anonymous Egg Donation
An anonymous egg donor cycle means that personal details are not exchanged between the egg donor and the intended parents. In an open donation, the level of contact can vary. An open donation can mean anything from meeting the donor in person, talking with her via video, exchanging contact details during the contract phase, or having an agreement for future contact, sometimes known as ‘ID Release’. But remember, In this era of DNA testing, there is no such thing as a truly anonymous donor cycle.

Ok we’re ready to start looking for our egg donor, now what?
Choosing an egg donor is one of the most challenging decisions you will ever make. Our best advice is to look for someone who you like on a personal level, rather than someone who looks just like either intended parent. Look for someone to whom you feel drawn, someone who feels “familiar”. These feelings should be reinforced by what the potential donor has to say about themselves in their essay responses. How will you answer the question your child may have - ‘Daddy, why did you choose her’?

When you’re ready to start looking for an egg donor, here are our top things to think about:

  • Discuss openly with your partner about what is important to you - is it religion, ethnic background, academic achievement or a combination of all three? We’ve had clients who looked for a donor with qualities such as ‘a vibrant personality’ and ‘sparkly eyes’. Others are hoping to find someone who is academic, while others are looking for a Jewish egg donor. It’s rare to find ‘the perfect egg donor’ so remember that each of these young women is unique in her own way
  • Talk with your RE and understand your options -many clinics have in-house donor programs. If no one is available there, there are many agencies who represent women who want to become egg donors.
  • Increasing your chances by finding an egg donor who will provide optimal results - when we search, we are looking for donors between the age of 21-29, who are healthy and who come from healthy family backgrounds.
  • Most REs will recommend you go with a repeat egg donor but keep in mind that it is always best to look at both first-time and repeat donors because they can review the donor’s previous stimulation records and the outcome of her previous cycles. But only accepting a repeat donor will limit your options dramatically • If you do choose to work with a first time donor, remember that many are open to having preliminary ovarian reserve, or AMH, testing which may help you and your doctor decide if she’s a good candidate for you. While this isn’t the only screening test, AMH can indicate her likely response to an IVF cycle.
  • Hope for the best but realize no one can give you a 100% chance of success
  • Be aware that it is a courageous leap for a woman to decide to be an egg donor.

There are many wonderful lovely bright young women who have chosen to sign up as egg donors. We recommend that you choose someone who looks like she will fit into your family or your partner’s family. I don’t recommend trying to match features specifically but rather general complexion and hair color.

When it comes right down to basics these are the most important things to consider:

  • The donor’s personal physical and mental health
  • A good family health history, avoiding hereditary issues
  • The donor’s willingness to commit to a donor cycle
  • Her availability to travel to your clinic for the cycle and to commit the time it takes to do this

Here are some do’s and don’ts that we’ve discovered after two decades helping intended parents with their search:

Do:

  • Take the time to realize that you and your partner are creating a child who is unique to your family and would not be created if not for your love for each other
  • Remember that you will be blessed with the child who was destined to be part of your family
  • Remember that blending the genetics of any two people will bring a wonderfully unpredictable outcome in a child, a child you will cherish regardless of their hair color or their ability to play pro sports
  • Read what the egg donor has to say about herself and choose someone who you can relate to
  • Choose an egg donor who you would be happy to call your friend or daughter
  • Choose someone who seems like a fit with your family. Remember that no matter how beautiful, intelligent, or talented an egg donor may be, there is no guarantee your child will have those traits
  • Choose an egg donor between the ages of 21 and 29: donors younger than 21 may not be emotionally mature; egg donors older than 30 are not at peak fertility
  • Choose someone who you like for who they are not for who they can’t be.

Don’t:

  • Fixate on any one or two “must have” characteristics such as blue eyes or a 4.2 GPA. This may cause you to miss out on your “ideal egg donor”
  • Set arbitrary time lines or ages by which you must have a child in your arms. It will only create stress for you and everyone around you.
  • Don’t think that your donor is your ‘baby mama’..She’s not. While she is giving you an incredible gift, remember that you are the parents of this precious child, the people who will raise her, cherish, educate and love her.

And finally, our top tip is always to accept that this is a team effort - your donor, surrogate, fertility clinic, your case manager at Donor Concierge, attorneys and agency reps are all in this with you.