Finding an egg donor can seem overwhelming. There are hundreds of egg donor agencies, frozen egg banks, and fertility clinics to choose from and multiple screening steps to take — and finding a donor is just one part of the process. Carrot partner Donor Concierge has spent nearly two decades connecting intended parents, including Carrot members, with egg donors, gestational carriers (also known as surrogates), and sperm donors. Here are a few tips for those beginning an egg donor search to help reduce frustration and heartache.
1. Talk with your fertility specialist about your best options
Start by talking with your fertility specialist about your options and the associated costs. Does your doctor recommend doing a fresh donor cycle, or would frozen eggs work? Your doctor might consider whether you’re doing a gestational carrier journey (commonly known as surrogacy), hoping to have more than one child using the same egg donor, or if you or your partner have a low sperm count. These factors impact how many eggs you may need and whether fresh or frozen eggs might be the best option for you.
2. Understand the difference between frozen egg banks, in-house donor programs, and donor agencies
Depending on whether you will be using fresh or frozen eggs, there are a few different options for starting your egg donor search.
Frozen egg bank: A frozen egg bank will have eggs ready to be shipped to your clinic. Eggs are usually available in cohorts of six, and many egg banks provide a guarantee program that ensures you’re able to thaw a certain number of eggs or receive additional eggs. However, using frozen eggs should be discussed with your fertility doctor. For example, if you’d like to have more than one child using the same donor, using fresh instead of frozen eggs may be a better option.
In-house fertility clinic donor program: If you’re looking to keep costs down, you might consider choosing a donor from an in-house fertility clinic donor program. In-house clinic programs provide and pay for ovarian reserve testing and genetic testing before intended parents choose a donor. By contrast, with agency donors, intended parents are responsible for the cost of screening first-time egg donors at their fertility clinic. In-house donors are often local to the clinic, so they likely won’t need to travel, and legal fees will generally be lower.
The downside of in-house clinic donor programs and frozen egg banks is that often they are limited in the number of donors they have available at any one time. That means you’ll most likely need to be flexible with your egg donor criteria. You may have more options with an egg donor agency, but working with an agency means higher costs, including an agency fee, legal fees, travel costs, and medical screening costs.
Egg donor agencies: The primary job of an egg donor agency is to recruit donors, educate them about the process, and be the liaison between your clinic and the donor. Most egg donor agencies will interview potential donors in person, by phone, or via video call and have them complete an online profile, including medical history. Agencies require the donor to provide identity verification but don’t always verify academic records, such as grade point average (GPA) or standardized test scores. However, many will do this if requested.
Most agencies do not pre-screen donors; their personal and family health history is self reported. Intended parents are responsible for screening egg donors at their clinic after selecting them, signing an agency agreement, and paying an agency fee. This screening is part of the clinic fee, as is psychological screening. Rarely, agencies will do some medical screening in advance, but most do not psychologically screen donors. Agencies also do not provide genetic screening, and your clinic may or may not provide it. It is always best to ask your clinic and work with a genetic counselor who will consider both the donor’s family health history and yours as well.
Once a match is made, the agency manages the logistics and supports the donor and the egg retrieval cycle. The agency will liaise with your clinic to make all travel arrangements and inform you of the timeline and scheduling process.
3. Keep your expectations realistic
Intended parents often start their donor search looking for someone like them. For example, if they attended a prestigious school, they hope to find an egg donor who did, as well. While it’s helpful to have a wish list of features and traits, flexibility is also essential. Some other common requests include division one athletes, PhD candidates, or accomplished artists and musicians. For several reasons, though, there are a limited number of young people who meet these criteria and choose to become donors.
The bottom line is you can find just about anything you might want in an egg donor, but you can’t always have every possible thing on your wishlist in one person. At the risk of sounding cliché, every person is unique. Ultimately, try to pick someone you like for who they are and feel like they will fit into your family.
Donor-assisted reproduction is complicated, but knowing what to expect along the way and setting realistic expectations makes a difference. If you’re a Carrot member with questions about getting started, set up a chat with a Carrot Expert.