Embryo donation can be an important component of assisted reproduction for couples having difficulty getting pregnant. More specifically, embryo donation can help couples whose fertility problems are affecting their chances of getting pregnant.
What is Embryo Donation?
Embryo donation is a component of in vitro fertilisation (IVF), in which up to twenty eggs are collected prior to being artificially fertilized. While multiple embryos often develop, only a few eggs are implanted. The remaining eggs may be cryogenically frozen for later use or they may be destroyed; the eggs may also be donated to other couples experiencing fertility problems or donated for research.
In preparation for the egg donation process, a variety of diagnostic tests are performed to ensure that the donor has the same blood group and blood sugar level, in order to minimize the risk of any complications. These tests are especially important for women over the age of 40. An ultrasound and hormone test is also conducted in order to ensure a successful transfer.
In addition, counselling can help individuals understand the emotional, physical and legal issues surrounding the egg donation process.
Embryo Donation Procedure
Embryo transfer can take place either during a woman’s natural menstrual cycle or through a hormone replacement cycle during which fertility drugs are administered so as to increase oestrogen and progesterone levels in the body, which prepare the inner lining of the uterus for implantation. This latter option is recommended for women over the age of 40.
At the onset of the procedure, a woman will usually be given natural estradiol pills or patches. Later, progesterone will be prescribed, either in the form of vaginal tablets, gel or injection. Age, bodily requirements and physical characteristics determine the amount of hormones administered to each woman. An ultrasound will be performed in order to assess the development of the endometrium (inner uterine lining), as well as organ response to the hormones administered.
Once the body is prepared for embryo transfer, embryos will be transferred using a catheter that is placed inside of the vagina and that is fed up into the uterus. This part of the procedure is moderately painless and is not a lengthy operation.
A pregnancy test will be conducted approximately two weeks following the transfer. In some cases, it may be necessary to continue taking hormones for up to the first two months of pregnancy. If pregnancy occurs, an ultrasound will be performed after five weeks in order to monitor the development and position of the foetus, as well as to confirm whether a multiple pregnancy has occurred.
Types of Fertility Problems Embryo Donation Helps to Treat
Embryo donation can be a viable option when one or more of the following is causing difficulty in getting pregnant:
- premature ovarian failure
- early stages of menopause
- removal of ovaries due to other medical conditions such as cancer
- ovarian defects caused by chemotherapy or radiation therapy
- lack of response to fertility drugs and inability to conceive via IVF
- resistant ovarian syndrome, in which the ovaries do not respond to hormones
- low sperm count or inability to ejaculate
- testicles removed in order to treat medical condition
- chromosomal abnormalities
- risk of genetic disease being passed on, such as hemophilia
Embryo donation is associated with an increased risk of a multiple pregnancy. Other risks include a negative response to fertility drugs or the inability of the eggs to become implanted.
In a single cycle, there is a 20 to 25% chance of pregnancy occurring from embryo donation. Typically, two to three embryos are transferred per IVF cycle. Doctors usually recommend three to four embryo transfers.
Factors that can affect the rate of pregnancy success linked to embryo donation include impaired quality of the eggs due to the fact that they are frozen, as well as the age and fertility history of the donor couple.
Generally, embryo donation costs roughly half the amount of IVF, or approximately £1450. Additional costs include donor screening, evaluation cycle, embryo transfer, as well as the cost of IVF and any other medications and tests involved in the procedure.