Choosing an egg donor can feel like a daunting task. After all, their DNA will play a role in who your child is as a person. From the donor’s eye color to height, academic record to athletic ability, there is a lot to consider.
Of course, it’s crucial to make sure each donor you consider has been vetted to make sure they are healthy and mentally stable. When you work with a reputable egg donor agency, all of the pre-screening will be handled for you.
We want to equip you with the tools you need for finding your perfect match egg donor. This guide breaks down five major considerations you should think about when choosing an egg donor.
1. The Anonymity of Your Donor
Before you begin combing through egg donor profiles, you must consider what level of contact or disclosure of identity you wish to have with your donor, if any. In the past, it was most common to opt for an anonymous egg donor arrangement, in which the donor does not intend or expect to be contacted by the intended parents or any resulting child.
Today, true anonymity has become impossible to guarantee. At-home commercial DNA kits and resources like the Donor Sibling Registry make it possible — even quite easy in many cases — for donor-conceived children to identify and locate their biological donor.
To reflect our current reality, the industry is shifting away from the former labels of “Anonymous” vs “Known” egg donors to the more accurate Non-Disclosed vs. Directed Donors Arrangements.
Directed Donor Arrangements
Directed (known) donor arrangements, are often used when you have a friend, family member, or acquaintance who is willing to donate her eggs for you. It also applies if you find a donor match via social media or an independent matching site.
In directed donor arrangements, the egg donor and intended parents meet ahead of the donation, either in person or virtually, and establish a personal connection. They mutually agree to share contact information and be in touch with the resulting child to some degree. This may include regular communication, or it could simply be an open door for future contact.
Many intended parents prefer this type of arrangement. It gives some peace of mind knowing that, should a health issue come up later, or should their child become curious, they can contact the egg donor. If your donor is a friend or family member, this can create a lifelong bond and connection with the child. On the flip side, there is an increased potential for future conflict or a change in relationship dynamics.
Another advantage is that directed donor arrangements are usually less expensive. With friends or family, you will typically only pay for medical and travel expenses.
Be sure to consult with an attorney who is skilled in the area of family and assisted reproduction law. They can help you draft a comprehensive agreement that is beneficial for you, your future child, and the donor. Find An Adoption or ART Attorney | AAAA
Non-Disclosed Donor Arrangements
Formerly referred to as “anonymous” donations, non-disclosed arrangements mean that the identity of the donor and intended parents will not be shared by the clinic or agency.
Non-disclosed arrangements are traditionally the most common when working with an agency or clinic. You will receive a full profile and background information about the donor, including personal and family medical history. These tend to be more expensive than directed donor arrangements, with an average fee around $10,000.
Many clinics will offer certain levels within a non-disclosed arrangement. For example, there can be “no contact” or “semi-open” arrangements. No contact means just that — all parties (except the future child) agree not to contact one another, before, during, or after the donation process.
Others may choose “semi-open” in which communication is facilitated by an outside party, such as a clinic, lawyer, or donor registry. The intermediary can pass messages between the parties, but identifying information is not given directly to the donor or parents. Other times, there may be a video call arranged by the third party.
This type of semi-open contact arrangement can be appealing because it allows for a future exchange of relevant medical or genetic information, should an issue arise later in life. It also provides some sense of connection for a donor without fully identifying herself.
It is important to note that any legal agreement between the clinic/agency, the intended parents, and the donor does not apply to future children. Donor-conceived children do not give their consent to remain anonymous, therefore they may initiate future contact on their own initiative. More and more potential egg donors understand this and take it into account when deciding if or how they will donate.
2. Medical History and Mental State
The number one priority for any intended parent is the health and well-being of their future child. Because of this, it’s imperative for any potential egg donor to go through rigorous and thorough medical and psychological screening. If you are working with a reputable agency, this screening should be done for you.
All of our egg donors at Family Inceptions have been fully vetted according to the highest industry standards, giving you peace of mind that you have access to healthy, highly qualified donors. Click here to read more about our donor qualification process: Find an Egg Donor For Intended Parents | Family Inceptions
Our egg donors meet the following medical and psychological criteria:
- Between the ages of 21-29
- Able & willing to administer injections
- Have not completed more than 5 egg donations
- Able to present a medical letter of clearance from a qualified physician
- Has regular menstrual periods
- No current or recent use of antidepressants
- Healthy BMI below 28
- Does not smoke or do drugs and is not dependent on alcohol
- No tattoos, piercings, or blood transfusions in the past 12 months
- Able to provide current family health history
Any potential donor will need to go through a comprehensive medical screening, similar to that of a person preparing for IVF. The donor will have a pelvic exam, an ultrasound, and a series of lab tests to confirm her general health status.
In addition to all of these initial medical and psychological requirements for egg donors, there are several more essential evaluations and screenings that need to occur.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
The FDA requires all donor tissue, including eggs, to be tested for HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, syphilis, and other sexually transmitted diseases.
If a donor tests positive for one of the above diseases, they will be disqualified from donating. However, in the case of a treatable condition such as chlamydia, gonorrhea or early stage syphilis, a potential donor may be able to be treated and donate at a later date.
As an intended parent, even if working with a friend or family member, make sure that person knows they will be required to complete this kind of testing.
Genetic Family History
Potential donors will need to submit an extensive family medical and genetic history. The donor will provide a family health history that includes any major disease, illness, condition, or early death that could be hereditary.
They may also undergo blood test that look for patterns of hereditary disease and other medical issues that may be concerning for intended parents and their future child.
Some potential hereditary issues that are looked for include:
- Heart disease
- Mental illness
- Developmental delays
- Birth defects
This type of genetic family history can help intended parents better understand the potential risks and outcomes associated with using a particular donor’s genes and make their selection accordingly.
There are certain genetic mutations that are known to cause life-altering and fatal birth defects. A simple blood or saliva test can help determine if a donor is a carrier for a variety of mutations. These include:
- Cystic fibrosis
- Sickle cell anemia
- Fragile X syndrome
- Tay-Sachs disease
- Spinal muscular atrophy
Just because a person is a carrier for a mutation does not necessarily mean they will pass the mutation on to their future offspring. However, if a donor is found to be a carrier, it’s important to have the male sex cells tested. If the donor or male intended parent is also a carrier, then the match should not go forward.
As a rule, many clinics and donor agencies, Family Inceptions included, will disqualify any potential donor who is a carrier for any genetic mutations that may harm the quality of life of a future child.
Psychological Testing and Evaluation
Another key piece to vetting a qualified egg donor is the psychological evaluation and testing. Every effort should be made to make sure your potential donor understands the implications and risks of what she is agreeing to, and that she is mentally stable.
If you work with a reputable agency like Family Inceptions to match with your egg donor, you won’t have to worry about this aspect of the screening. All of our potential donors undergo a full mental health evaluation prior to being accepted in our program.
While other agencies or egg banks may be more lenient, simply requiring no current use of antidepressants or anxiety medications, others like Family Inceptions have more stringent requirements to include no past usage in adulthood as well. This is one difference that makes our program among the most selective in the nation, accepting only 2% of all applicants.
Psychological evaluations of potential donors typically include:
- Overview of family and personal mental health history, including medications, diagnoses, therapy, and more
- Inquiry into the donor’s educational history and any indication of learning difficulties
- Evaluation of any potential emotional instability
- Evaluation of the donor’s motivations
- Assessment of the donor’s ability to give informed consent
- Past history of any trauma, abuse, or relevant sexual or reproductive health issues, including past pregnancies, abortions, or miscarriages
3. Profile of Your Egg Donor
Aside from the basic medical, genetic, and psychological requirements for your potential egg donor, most intended parents want to know what she is like as a person. It’s important to find someone you feel like you can connect with and relate to.
Most agencies and egg banks will ask potential donors to share about their hobbies, interests, like and dislikes, and goals for the future. Some will even include personal notes written by the possible donors so you can get an even better picture of their personality.
After you have a good idea of who your potential donor is as a person, you can begin narrowing down based on your values and preferences.
Egg Donation Experience
Do you prefer to work with an experienced or a first-time donor?
Some intended parents prefer a donor with prior experience. The thought is that a prior donor will have a proven track record as someone who is committed to the whole donation process and who has successfully donated in the past.
On the other hand, experienced donors will have higher fees and are in higher demand.
First-time donors will undergo the same screening, testing, and evaluations to determine their potential to success. There is no evidence to indicate you will have a better outcome with one type of donor over another.
Hobbies And Interests
For many intended parents, it’s important to match with a donor who shares common interests. Most donor profiles allow you to search based on athletic, musical, extracurricular, and other interests. Are you and your partner avid outdoor adventurers? You may choose to seek a donor who loves hiking, mountain biking, or skiing.
Is music or theater important to your family? You can narrow potential donors based on their ability to play an instrument, sing in a choir, or perform on the stage.
Do keep in mind that the more selective you are, the harder it may be to find a match. Narrow your preferences in this area to only the most important to keep your options open.
There are some practical considerations you should take into account.
Geographical location: Your donor will need to travel in person to your fertility clinic for initial screening and egg retrieval at a minimum. You will be required to cover all transportation costs, so keep this in mind as you select potential donors from across the country.
Motivation: Many donors will share their “why” behind their donation. You may choose someone based on their reason for becoming a donor. For example, are you inspired by a woman who plans to use the compensation to travel the world, or do you prefer to choose someone who will put it toward her post-graduate education?
4. Physical Attributes and Ethnicity
One of the most important criteria for intended parents is the question of appearance. While at first glance this may seem superficial, it is actually very common and understandable to want your child to look similar to you. As such, you may begin narrowing down your possible donors by searching for certain physical attributes, including:
- Eye Color
- Body type
- Skin tone
Other important considerations may be religious background or ethnicity.
Religious Background – Is it important that your donor practice your same religion? Likewise, do you prefer your donor not belong to a faith tradition? This can be one way to make sure you and your donor share common values.
Ethnicity – Select a donor from a similar ethnicity if this is important to you from a cultural or personal standpoint. Note that ethnic donors can often be more difficult to find and may require higher fees.
5. Educational Background
The final consideration you may want to take into account is the donor’s educational background and academic history.
Most agencies and egg banks require donors to be pursuing or have completed post-secondary education. At Family Inceptions, our donors must have a minimum GPA of 2.5 and be attending or completed a bachelor’s program.
You can decide if you prefer a donor who has an advanced degree or an exemplary academic record, if that is important to you. Donors who can demonstrate exceptional intelligence are in higher demand than others, so this may affect your wait time for finding a match.
Choose the Right Egg Donor for Your Parenthood Journey
The question of how to choose an egg donor is highly personal and can only be answered by each intended parent. At the end of the day, the goal is to have a happy, healthy child, so if you make this your priority, you are well on your way to achieving your dreams.