Egg donation can be an empowering and rewarding choice for many young women, but not everyone will qualify as a donor. There are several factors that must be considered when someone applies to be an egg donor. Physical health, level of education, reproductive health history, availability in scheduling, and of course, age, all play a role in determining who can become an egg donor.
Age is perhaps the biggest factor in determining who will qualify as an egg donor. Because the quality of a woman’s eggs diminishes as she ages, it’s best for egg donors to be 29 or younger. Each agency and egg bank is able to set their own criteria for age, although it’s very common to see egg donors between the ages of 20-29, give or take a year or two.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine guidelines state that egg donors should be between the ages of 21-34; however, it is up to each individual clinic, agency, or egg bank to determine eligibility. Occasionally, especially in the case of a known donation, a clinic will make an exception. For example, if an intended parent has a friend or family member who is willing to be their egg donor, but she is in her 30’s and outside the range of what that clinic normally accepts, they may make an exception. There are no binding guidelines when it comes to age and egg donation, but each clinic must make its own determination about what donor eggs will have the likeliest success for the intended parents.
1. Physical Health
One of the most common reasons why a woman would be disqualified as an egg donor is due to her physical health. In general, egg donors must meet the following health criteria:
- BMI of 28 or below
- No smoking or drug use; minimal or no alcohol use
- No transfusions, piercings, or tattoos in the past 12 months
- No notable family health history or past personal history
- Not on any antidepressants or undergoing any treatment for psychiatric disorders or depression
- No sexually transmitted diseases within at least the past year
You’ll be required to undergo a physical exam and obtain clearance from your own OB/GYN or general practitioner before beginning medications for a donation cycle.
2. Inheritable Genetic Disorders
Another common reason to be disqualified from egg donation is evidence of having an inheritable genetic disorder. When you apply to be an egg donor, you will be asked about your family medical history, including the presence of any inherited genetic disorders. Many times, you’ll also be asked to submit a blood sample for genetic testing. This is to find out if you are a genetic carrier for diseases like cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, Tay-Sachs, muscular dystrophy, and more.
It’s possible to be a carrier for a genetic disorder without ever developing symptoms, so genetic screening is important to do whenever possible.
3. Use Of Contraception
Women who are using long-term forms of birth control such as Depo-Provera injections, implants, or hormonal IUDs such as the Mirena will be disqualified from egg donation.
If you have received the Depo-Provera injection or the Nexplanon/Implanon implant, you will need to wait six to twelve months after stopping the contraception. Let the medical team know when you discontinued use of the contraception so they can properly advise you on when you can donate.
Hormonal IUDs like the Mirena are incompatible with egg donation, but after removal you can become qualified fairly quickly.
Other forms of birth control are fine to use as an egg donor, but be sure to check with your doctor and the fertility clinic to know for sure.
4. Irregular Menstrual Cycle
Egg donors need to have regular menstrual cycles in order to qualify. Regular cycles are an indication of a healthy reproductive system, so this is one of the main criteria.
You must have both ovaries, regular menstrual periods, and no history of reproductive disorders or abnormalities.
5. Uncommitted To Schedule
A lot of women are surprised at the time commitment involved with becoming an egg donor. You will need to have a schedule that is flexible enough to attend multiple medical appointments, sometimes as many as 10-15. You need to understand that the final two weeks of your cycle will involve frequent in-person appointments at the clinic.
If you have a very busy lifestyle and cannot find flexibility in your schedule, you may be disqualified as an egg donor. However, many of our best candidates are extremely driven and will commit to whatever it takes to give another person a chance to have a family of their own. Many egg donors are initially drawn to the opportunity because of the compensation, but the women who are best qualified are highly driven by their altruistic desire to help others.
Can A Lifestyle Change Make The Difference?
If you are concerned you may be disqualified from being an egg donor, the good news is that in many cases, there are some lifestyle changes you can make that may help. There’s not much you can do about your genetics, but you can control things like your drug, alcohol, or nicotine use. Abstain from smoking, drinking, and drug use for at least a year before you apply as a donor.
You can speak with your doctor about contraception that is compatible with egg donation. You should realize that during the donor cycle, you will be taking medication that makes you extremely fertile. You need to know exactly how you can keep yourself from becoming pregnant during this period. Hint: abstinence during that two-week timeframe is best, but talk to your doctor about other options.
If you know you’d like to donate your eggs in the near future, then make sure to avoid any disqualifying events like getting a tattoo or piercing. You can also become qualified by reaching a healthy BMI through exercise and a healthy diet, so use your motivation to be a donor as a catalyst to improve your health in general.