Where do agencies find egg donors and what is the screening process?
Egg donor agencies usually prepare rather extensive donor profiles. They offer copious information and online services via dedicated web sites which may be accessed by obtaining a password. Via such a web site for example, a recipient and her partner can for a nominal fee, select or narrow down their selection of the most suitable ovum donor in the privacy of their home.
Typically, agencies place advertisements in college campus newspapers and on bulletin boards. They recruit young, healthy individuals, with or without prior pregnancies, who seek to help infertile couples. They provide telephone contact numbers or web site information and to all intents and purposes, the interview process begins at that point. The potential donor will call the agency, and trained professionals will commence the interview with a series of questions. This is followed by questionnaires which are filled out by the donor. Significant emphasis is placed on the family history.A frequent concern comes up with respect to family history of alcoholism, and cancer in grandparents. These concerns must be addressed on a case by case basis and informed decisions made by the couple as to whether to select a given donor.
If deemed suitable, the donor will then have an interview with a physician, and at that point a physical exam and rigorous screening process takes place for infections such as HIV and hepatitis, hereditary illnesses such as cystic fibrosis and many others. It is extremely important to rule out potentially debilitating hereditary and chromosomal disorders that could affect the quality of any offspring arising out of the ovum donation.
Donor agencies usually limit the age of egg donors to under 35 years in an attempt to minimize the risk of ovarian resistance and negate adverse influence of the “biological clock”(donor age) on egg quality. In fact, some OD agencies go so far as to set their age limits at below 30 years as these donors produce the highest pregnancy rates.
Another factor involved in selecting an ovum donor is the need to accurately assess ovarian reserve. Blood FSH and estradiol on the 3rd day of a spontaneous menstrual cycle and a vaginal ultrasound assessment of the number pre-antral/antral ovarian follicles can be used in an effort to select appropriate candidates for egg donation. A total pre-antral/antral count of less than ten (10) will lead to disqualification of the potential donor.
No single factor instills more confidence regarding the reproductive potential of a prospective ovum donor, than a history of her previously having achieved a pregnancy on her own or of one or more recipients of embryos derived from her eggs having achieved a live birth. However the current shortage in the supply of ovum donors makes it both impractical and unfeasible, to confine donor recruitment to those women who could fulfill such stringent criteria for qualification. Every donor had to be a first time donor at some point. The limits on the number of donations allowed in consideration of safety concerns must be considered.