What, Why and How of egg donation
Egg donation is an option suggested during the treatment of infertility. It is used as a method to achieve partial genetic association with the baby and mental comfort to the intended couple. Although the process is not very easy and simple, but expert doctors like Dr. Rita Bakshi and good clinics like International Fertility Centre can make it much easy and efficient.
The term egg donation itself is self-explanatory where fertilization process gets completed by egg received from somebody else, other than the intended mother. The donor woman might be a known person to the family, or she might be somebody that is ready to help the childless couple by providing eggs and the identity is not revealed. This decision fully depends on the intended parents whether they want to have a communication with the donor or not. The process of egg donation is performed in infertility clinic and requires maximum one day of hospitalization. Donor woman has to undergo various tests and the process up to extraction of eggs is the same as IVF treatment for genetic mother. Donated eggs will transfer the genetic properties of donor mother to the baby and therefore medical history, general health condition, education and cultural background, addiction to drugs and alcohol and genetic disorders are thoroughly checked by the doctor. If egg donation is taking place at clinics like International Fertility Centre and the egg donor is selected from the registered database of the clinic, then all these pre-checks are already done before the registration of donor woman.
The problem of infertility has many aspects with different treatment strategy. There are certain cases where intended mother is incapable of producing eggs. A woman is termed as facing problem of ovulation, if she has issues of releasing a matured egg from the ovaries every month. This can happen due to blocked tubes, polycystic syndrome, poor quality eggs, uterus and cervix problems, etc. The female partner is unable to contribute in the pregnancy and therefore no other option is left than taking help of donor mother. There will be obviously no genetic connection of the mother with the baby, but father will have one by providing sperm for fertilization. Convincing the intended mother becomes a challenging task sometimes, but clinics like International Fertility Centre are well equipped with counselling facilities and orientation lectures make the task easier.
Process of egg donation is a complex one because there are two women involved in the process. Doctors need to plan and work-out a date wise schedule in order to make the things happen smoothly and swiftly. Any slippage would delay the whole process. Dr. Rita Bakshi monitors each and every step closely at IFC to ensure they are carried out in time and properly.
- Match the menstruation cycles: The most critical part of egg donation is matching the menstruation cycles of the donor woman and intended woman. Hormones play a major role in doing this. Birth control pills and hormone injections are used to stop the ovulation process. Blood tests, ultrasound tests and physical examination like measuring the body temperature is done to determine the exact time of ovulation.
- Preparation of intended mother's womb: As the cycles match, two days prior to ovulation of donor woman, special hormones are injected to the intended mother so that internal lining of the uterus gets ready. It is extremely important because implantation of fertilized embryo would attach to this lining. If the lining is not adequately thick, the survival chances of pregnancy would be very less.
- Extraction of eggs: Donor woman is under observation to determine the maturity of eggs. As the eggs get matured, they are extracted and preserved in the laboratory. The process takes almost one day and the patient is under mild anaesthesia. It is usually not very painful procedure.
- Getting semen sample: Semen sample is taken from the intended father for external fertilization. The activity is performed in the laboratory and sperm quantity and quality is checked. Only few healthy sperms are selected and preserved for fertilization.
- Fertilization: Actual fertilization occurs in the lab. Healthy sperms and donors eggs are mixed in a plate and observed. As fertilization takes place, few healthy embryos are selected for implantation. Usually two or three embryos are taken. If there are more embryos available, they are kept under extremely low temperature for subsequent cycles. Intended mother's age plays a critical role in deciding the number of embryos for implantation. In case of younger mothers (less than 40), only two embryos are implanted. For elderly mothers more than 40, three are taken because there is reduced probability of embryos getting survived.
- Implantation of embryo: The embryos are implanted in the uterus through a very thin needle. The process is not painful and takes less than a day. Intended mother is kept under observation for few hours and then discharged. Intended mother has to spend maximum one day in the hospital.
- Post implant observation: Usually the embryo is observed for few weeks and then a pregnancy test is done. Many rounds to the hospital are required to have regular monitoring. Doctors would observe each and every stage of development to ensure all is well.
- Repetition of the cycle: There are chances of implants not able to survive or growth related problems are detected. The doctors take decision of termination of the pregnancy. There is no need to repeat the complete cycle, but preparation of the intended mother's womb is required for one more round of implantation.
Benefits of egg donation
- The first and foremost benefit of egg donation is partial genetic relation of the intended parents and the baby. In case of other options like adoption, there is no chance of genetic connection at all.
- Egg donation has become a blessing to the couples that are not able to conceive due to ovulation problems. In case the donor is a known person or somebody from the close relation, there is an assurance of genetic characteristics as well.
- The direct linkage of the father creates an emotional bond with the baby. The intended mother can experience the pregnancy and childbirth to attach emotionally with the baby.
- The process is usually safe and there are rarely any side-effects or critical issues barring some physical discomfort due to hormonal drugs. Very rarely there are chances of ectopic pregnancy that is embryo gets attached to the fallopian tube, instead of uterus.
The process of egg donation is very crucial in the treatment of infertility and doctors would suggest it only when there is no other alternative. Couple has to be mentally and physically ready and must 'accept' it as an inevitable step in order to enjoy parenthood. Once the pregnancy gets completed successfully, nothing can be more rewarding than the little angel in their lap!