Egg Donation – A Highly Successful Method of Family Building

“It seems that more and more couples are having trouble getting pregnant.  Why is that?” 

One reason is that women in today’s society frequently postpone child-bearing while they pursue a career.  In general, fertility declines with each passing year after a woman’s 34th birthday.  The chance for successful conception drops even more sharply after the age of 40.  After age 46 live births are rare.  This decline is due in large part to the fact that a 40-year old woman’s eggs are, well, 40 years old.  These older eggs tend to be less likely to develop into viable embryos after fertilization.  In addition, women are born with a limited number of eggs and cannot make any more after they are born.  This seems unfair when compared to a man’s reproductive system which makes new sperm constantly throughout his adult life.  It is not only the older woman who can experience a shortage of eggs.  Some women will run out of good quality eggs even in their early 30’s and can have a premature menopause.  Some women may have had one or both ovaries surgically removed, leaving their egg supply lacking.  Other women may have undergone chemotherapy or radiation therapy to battle a cancer.  Such cancer fighters can often knock out the vulnerable egg supply.

Fertility doctors are able to roughly gauge a woman’s egg reserve through a blood test (AMH, FSH, and estradiol) performed on the third day of her menstrual cycle.  A careful ultrasound to count the number of medium sized egg-bearing follicles is also useful.  Women who have a severely limited egg reserve are unlikely to have a successful pregnancy even with the use of assisted reproductive techniques such as in-vitro fertilization.  Far and away the highest chance for a successful pregnancy for these women is to use egg donation.  These eggs can then be fertilized with the sperm of the patient’s partner.  One or two of the resulting embryos are then placed into the recipient’s uterus by a technique that feels similar to getting a Pap smear.  Any remaining embryos can, at the patient’s request, be frozen to preserve them for more pregnancy attempts in the future.

This process is known as a “donor egg cycle.”  Nationwide over 9,300 such cycles are performed annually.  Our center began performing donor egg cycles for patients in 1999.  The clinical pregnancy rate at our center for 2010 and the first half of 2011 is 60% for each transfer of an embryo or embryos to the intended mother.  These patients carry their pregnancy in their womb just like a naturally-conceived pregnancy.  The resulting offspring is genetically related to the male partner.  For the past 2 years we have made the process even easier for the mother-to-be.  She no longer needs to receive daily intramuscular progesterone shots in the rump.  Those “long needles” have been successfully replaced by a vaginal gel.

The egg donor can be either a friend or family member of the patient, or the donor can be an anonymous woman chosen from a list of prospective donors who are age 20-32.  These donors must pass medical and psychological testing before being accepted.  We have several dozen egg donors waiting to be chosen by couples who need such a service.  The egg donor undergoes ovarian stimulation with daily fertility shots and has an egg retrieval procedure in our office approximately 14 days later, just as in a standard in-vitro fertilization cycle.  Egg donors often experience pelvic bloating from temporarily enlarged ovaries.  Occasionally in the past an egg donor would have a severe over-reaction leading to a week or more of abdominal pain called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.  We are happy to announce that we have successfully implemented an innovative medication protocol that virtually eliminates the chance for ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome by substituting the HCG shot with a single injection of Lupron.  For her effort, the egg donor receives monetary compensation (typically about $8,000).  However, surveys have found that money is not the primary motivator for egg donation.  Instead, these women are truly driven by an altruistic desire to help infertile couples reach their dream.

We delight in seeing all these happy new mothers who previously thought they had no chance of carrying a pregnancy.

For more information, please call South Jersey Fertility Center at (856) 596-2233 or visit

As seen in Camden County Woman and Burlington County Woman


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