Egg Donation Process: Who is the Mother?

Egg Donation Process: Who is the Mother?

Having a baby is probably one of the common dreams of every couple. For this aim, some are struggling with infertility treatments for a long time. Thanks to the modern technologies, there are lots of ways to help couples with infertility issues. Sometimes only one partner needs treatments and sometimes both. Egg donation is one of the ways of helping the infertile couple to make their dream of having a baby come true.

What is Egg Donation?

Egg donation is a method in which a healthy fertile woman donates an egg or oocyte to another woman in order to help her get pregnant. This process is related to assisted reproductive technology or ART. It begins when a doctor harvests an egg or eggs from a donor and then fertilize them in a laboratory environment. After fertilization, the doctor transfers the embryo to the recipient’s uterus. They can do the process using IVF or ICSI methods. The specialists can sometimes freeze the embryo(s) for future use.

Deciding to use egg Donation

There can be several reasons why a woman may need an egg donor. The reasons may be the age, genetic problems or serious diseases, same-sex couples, etc. Deciding on the use of egg donation technique can be a quick decision for some couples and for the others may take months or years. It is very important for the couple to be completely open and honest with each other and share their feelings toward this decision. You can even use the others’ experiences who went through this journey before. It is recommended to consult with a therapist before starting the process to make sure you truly want this type of treatment and are emotionally ready to proceed.

Egg Donation Process


the first step in this process is consultation which can be both physical and psychological. An expert physician has to evaluate the couples’ reproductive options and help them understand all aspects of each option. If they decide to proceed with the egg donation process, the doctor will talk about the things that the intended mother needs to do in order to get prepared for the pregnancy. The psychologist also discusses about their plans for egg donation and the decisions that they may face in the future.

Cycle Preparation:

to reach the maximum chances of success, the doctor will order some tests including blood tests, ultrasound evaluation of uterus, thyroid function, etc. Egg donation usually has a high success rate however if the intended mother is over 45, she may need additional tests like diabetes screening, an EKG for heart and monitoring by a perinatologist who specializes in high-risk pregnancies in order to ensure her body is in optimal physical condition.

Selection of Donor:

Choosing a donor is the most exciting and challenging decision of the egg donation process. If you are undergoing the process through an agency, you probably have experts to help you during the decision. You can choose the donor from reproductive health centers, a surrogacy agency or even among family members or relatives.

You can review the donors’ profiles to get all the information you need about their medical and personal backgrounds. Once you have chosen the donor, the coordinator will check if she is free to go through the egg donation process during your requested time.


In this phase, the donor and recipients’ cycles have to be synchronized so that the recipients’ uterus got ready to host the embryo after the egg retrieval and fertilization of the donor’s eggs. For this aim, the birth control pills might be used.

When the cycles are synchronized, the donor takes some medication to simulate growth of her eggs and be monitored by sonogram and blood test for about 10-14 days until the eggs are ready to be retrieved. Meanwhile the intended mother also takes medications to make her uterine lining ready to host the embryo.

Egg retrieval and Transferring the Embryo:

After the eggs of the donor are mature and ready, they will be retrieved by a fairly simple procedure.  The doctor will use a probe with a fine needle under the guidance of ultrasound while the donor is sedated. Feeling some cramps and discomfort or vaginal bleeding can occur after the egg retrieval process. The process may need a half-day hospitalization before going back home.

 On the day of egg retrieval, intended father or a male donor will give a sperm sample for insemination. Usually after 3 days the embryos are ready to be implanted into the uterus, so the intended mother needs to go to the IVF clinic for transferring the embryo or embryos. The number of transferred embryos should be discussed with the physician. Additional high-quality embryos can be frozen for future use.

Risks and Side Effects

Donating the eggs is generally a safe procedure. The donors will not face any serious long-term health problems. However, each medication may have possible side effects. The medications that are needed in egg donation process may cause minor symptoms that go away when treatment is stopped. These symptoms can be breast soreness, nausea, fatigue, headache, hot flushes, feeling irritable and abdomen swelling. Donors have to be informed about the risks and consult with a doctor before doing the process.

Egg Donation Success Factors

The success of egg donation depends on many factors like the age of the donor, quality of sperm and the recipient general health. It has a relatively high success rate though. Success rates assembled by the Centers for Disease Control for the year 2010 showed an average birth rate of 55% per embryo transfer for all egg donor programs.

Who is the mother?

When an egg and sperm are combined, the embryo has the genes of the egg provider and the sperm provider. The individual DNA from each provider can affect the baby. However, the science of epigenetics confirms that heredity is determined by more than just DNA chain. The way that the DNA is decoded determines how the genes express themselves.

There is no way to predict how this process occurs, but the uterine environment is one of the most important factors in the gene expression. The egg recipient is not just the incubator of the baby; she is the biological mother of the child. The baby grows inside her body using literally her flesh and blood to develop. The baby receives fluids and nutrition by her blood for about 40 weeks. Because of this, no matter where the egg comes from originally, the pregnant mom is considered the biological mother.

 Researches show that the uterine environment plays a major role in brain development of the fetus. It can affect the baby’s metabolism, immune system and so many other factors. The birthmother’s health and lifestyle can also affect how the genes of the baby are expressed. For instance, her nutrition is a crucial factor for the baby because poor nutrition can cause fetus not to express certain genes, even though they exist. Also, the birthmother’s psychological condition and her stress level can have an important role on the baby.

It is interesting to know that a research by Stanford university and one of the non-profit reproductive health centers shows that micro RNA molecules of the mother’s uterus can change the genetic information of the fetus. It means there is an evidence which proves the baby can receive certain genetic inheritance from the birthmother. So, if the baby is conceived through egg donation process, the recipient is considered the biological mother of the child.


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