Causes & Treatment

What to Consider when Looking at Donor Conception

Eloise Edington  |   4 Aug 2021

Making the decision to use either an egg or sperm donor to achieve your dream of becoming a parent is unquestionably an incredibly difficult decision. There’s so much to think about and often there’s also a lot of anxiety surrounding this fertility option.

Fertility Help Hub have asked California Fertility Partners to share the experiences of their patients who chose to conceive through an egg or sperm donor, to help with doubts and anxieties you might have about donor conception. Read on to find out the reasons behind choosing donor conception and hear the experiences of other intended parents (IPs).

Words by Dr. Guy Ringler

Reproductive Medicine

Reproductive medicine has made great strides over the past forty years, providing many patients with new fertility treatment options that allow them to overcome obstacles to conception, and ultimately have a baby of their own.

However, sometimes, the medical options presented require people to make personal decisions that test one’s comfort level. Fertility treatment is very personal and emotional, and everyone needs to follow their own internal compass. 

Related Article – IVF and The Covid Vaccine – What You Need to Know by Dr. Guy Ringler from California Fertility Partners

Deciding to Use an Egg Donor

For many women who are TTC, the decision to switch from using their own eggs to using the eggs of a younger egg donor, is incredibly complex and difficult. The decline in ovarian reserve as part of normal reproductive ageing or premature decline results in fewer eggs being available for fertility treatment procedures. Fewer eggs means a lower chance to obtain a viable, genetically normal embryo for conception. 

With human ageing, egg quality (in terms of genetic make-up) decreases, resulting in few normal eggs, and in return, embryos. The eggs from a young egg donor in her twenties provide more genetically normal embryos, which results in a much higher chance of IVF success and a healthy, on-going pregnancy. 

From a medical standpoint, it’s an easy decision to use donor eggs to optimise IVF success rates, but intended parents (IPs) must be comfortable giving up their chance of having their own biological children.

It’s impossible to paint a clear picture about the timing of these decisions, as so much of it is truly personal.

When should I switch to Donor Eggs or Donor Sperm?

The decision to use a donor is an important one and should be made only after lots of discussions with either your partner, fertility specialist or support system.

California Fertility Partner’s Advice When Making The Right Choice For You

It’s important to have very open discussions with your partner, your fertility consultant, and perhaps a fertility coach / counsellor, to explore your feelings and comfort level with using donor eggs or sperm, in conjunction with the timing of your family building journey which you are committed to.

Donor conception is not for everyone, and you should not proceed until you feel not only comfortable using donor eggs or sperm, but excited about this family building option.

Many patients who have needed donor eggs at our fertility clinic, have expressed concerns about whether they will be able to love and accept the child as their own. It’s important to discuss these concerns openly, to make sure that all of your fears are addressed. Be honest with people around you, and be honest with yourself.

With that said, I can assure you that after the birth of babies born via donor eggs, I am often told by these same patients that their new baby is no less than 100% theirs, particularly after they hold them for the first time.

Related Article – Covid Hurdles / Safety with Dr Ringler from California Fertility Partners

Deciding to Use Donor Sperm

For men experiencing infertility, the news of having a very low sperm count or no visible sperm in a specimen, can be extremely upsetting and hard to accept. Today, through advancements in IVF (assisted fertilisation), we can achieve fertilisation of eggs even with minimal sperm. Reproductive urologists are often able to extract sperm directly from the testicles in men without sperm in the ejaculate. 

In severe cases where sperm cannot be isolated, or the quality of sperm obtained is not sufficient to generate healthy embryos, donor sperm may be presented as an option.  A clinical psychologist experienced in third party reproduction is an excellent idea to make sure that the person or couple have addressed all of the issues and future scenarios involved. 

Donor sperm banks are available with pre-screened sperm specimens and variable amounts of information on the sperm donor. Careful selection with the assistance of your partner and fertility specialist is recommended. Knowing that sperm donation can significantly improve your chances of fertility / IVF success will hopefully provide satisfaction and comfort to continue on your family building plans.

With either of these decisions comes feelings about a biological connection to your child. One path that may alleviate those feelings is having a family member be the egg or sperm donor.

The very first gay couple I ever helped (about 25 years ago) have a child by using the sperm of one partner and the egg of the other partner’s sister. The baby had a genetic connection to both dads, and that’s been a path many other couples have chosen. Again, whatever path you choose, open and honest discussions with family, friends and your physicians will help guide you through the journey.

The best thing to do is to always stay true to what you feel most comfortable with. Donor conception is an amazing option for those who are trying to conceive, but that doesn’t mean that you have to go down that route if it means going against how you feel and your beliefs. If you have some worries or doubts you want to address first, speak to your partner or support system to work through it. A support system can be friends, family, fertility counsellors / coaches, fertility specialists etc.

If you would like to discuss donor options with experienced fertility specialists, reach out to California Fertility Partners.

If you would like to do more research first, and explore all fertility options, then download the FHH App where we regularly post personal donor conception stories and talk to donor conceived adults to understand their feelings and perspective. Hopefully, reading fertility blogs like these can enlighten you on the road to donor conception, while being available to answer any concerns or questions you might have.

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