Sperm, Egg, Embryo, and Uterus Donors
Sometimes patients need a little extra help with achieving a family. There are all sorts of donor options when it comes to having a family.
The use of donor sperm may be necessary for a variety of patients including: single women, lesbian couples, or couples where the male has an insufficient sperm count for treatment. In most cases, patients will use sperm from an anonymous donor through a sperm bank. Another option would be using a known sperm donor – someone who is already known to the patient or couple. In both cases, the donor would need to undergo rigorous genetic, physical, and psychological evaluation before they would be deemed eligible to donate. Donor sperm can be utilized in intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in the process of in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Older women or women with poor egg quality may need to consider the possibility of an egg donor. Commonly this is done with an anonymous egg donor that is selected to match the physical characteristics of the intended mother. However, sometimes known egg donors are used – such as the friend or sister of the patient. Comprehensive testing including psychological evaluation, hormonal testing, physical examination, as well as ovarian reserve testing would be done ahead of time to make sure the donor is a good fit. Donor eggs can only be utilized through the process of an IVF cycle.
Donor Uterus (Gestational Carrier)
If a woman does not have a functional uterus to carry a pregnancy – or if a gay couple would like to grow their family – a gestational carrier can be used. In this scenario, an embryo would be created through the process of IVF and implanted into the uterus of the gestational carrier. Even though the gestational carrier is not genetically related to the embryo, her uterus can still grow the pregnancy until delivery, at which point the baby would be united with its intended parents. This process can only be achieved through IVF. Gestational surrogacy – where the woman provides both the egg and uterus for another patient – is illegal in Texas and in many other states.
Sometimes a patient or couple will be done with growing their family after IVF and still have remaining embryos left over. They can choose to donate these embryos to an ‘embryo bank’, where the embryos can be selected by another patient or couple who is looking to expand their own family. This can be a successful option for patients or couples who cannot afford the more expensive traditional IVF process and who are open to receiving an embryo (or embryos) that they are not genetically related to. Once the donor embryo is placed into a patient’s uterus, she can carry the pregnancy just as if it were from her own eggs.
If you are interested in pursuing any of these options, a discussion with a fertility specialist would be your next step.
Fertility Expert Natalie Burger, MD | Texas Fertility Center
A native of Marietta, Georgia, Dr. Burger received her undergraduate degree in Molecular Biology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a minor in Mathematics. She attended medical school at Medical College of Georgia and completed her residency in Obstetrics & Gynecology at the University of Vermont. She also received her fellowship training in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the University of Vermont.
Dr. Burger is Board Certified in both Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility. She has special interests in hysteroscopic surgery, ovulation induction, PCOS, hypothalamic amenorrhea, and recurrent pregnancy loss. She is a member of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine and the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology. She is currently a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Texas/Southwestern. She has been voted as one of America’s Top Obstetricians and Gynecologists for multiple years and as one of the Best Doctor’s in America recently.
In 2011, Dr. Burger was the program director for The Southwest Fertility Forum, which is a conference designed to provide reproductive endocrinologists, embryologists, IVF lab professionals, obgyns and nursing providers with information on the latest clinical and laboratory advances in reproductive medicine and infertility.