Egg Donors and Sperm Donors - How Do You Find Them?
By Stephanie Levich, founder of Family Match Consulting
Finding the right sperm or egg donor can seem daunting for anyone embarking on the journey towards growing a family with their help. This is a hugely important step, as that person will contribute half of your future child’s DNA. How do you go about finding the right candidate for something so important?
Here are the five most common ways that hopeful parents-to-be like you go about finding sperm and egg donors to help on their family-building journey.
Known Egg or Sperm Donors
Some recipient parents embarking on the egg or sperm donation process have a friend or family member who has generously offered to be their donor. While this is an amazing option for some, there are many considerations to be made before moving forward with this arrangement.
It’s important for both the recipient parents and the potential donor to meet -- both individually and together -- with a psychologist who specializes in third-party reproduction, to discuss all aspects of the arrangement. Even with friends and family, you need to make certain that everything has been considered and that all parties feel completely comfortable moving forward.
Additionally, the sperm or egg donor will need to complete medical screening including genetic testing, infectious disease screening, a semen analysis for sperm donors, and an ultrasound and hormone testing for egg donors, to ensure that they would be a suitable candidate.
If everything checks out both medically and psychologically, then it’s important to enter into a legal agreement with the donor with the help of an attorney who specializes in reproductive law. Even if everyone has the best intentions and relationships are strong, a legal agreement should be a mandatory part of your process.
Working with a “known donor” can be a beautiful option for some, but it’s not an option or not the right fit for everyone.
Egg Donor Agencies
Finding an egg donor through an agency is a common choice for parents hoping to undergo a fresh IVF cycle with donor eggs. In this case, all the eggs retrieved from one egg-donor cycle are donated to the recipient parents.
Agencies throughout the United States educate and vet prospective egg-donor candidates, and their profiles are made available online for recipient parents to review upon program approval. Profiles contain many details about the egg donors including physical characteristics, family health history, education, interests, photographs, sometimes even details like whether they are good at playing the piano. Through these online profiles, you’re able to choose a donor who feels like the right match for you.
Once an egg donor is selected, the agency will work directly with your fertility doctor to help coordinate the process.
Because the cycle will be a fresh cycle conducted by your fertility center, it’s important to confirm the donor’s availability to move forward with the donation, and her availability to travel for the required appointments should she not live close to the fertility center.
Once the donor is selected, she will undergo medical and psychological screening with your fertility doctor, and then legal contracts will be put in place prior to her beginning medication to prepare for the egg retrieval. From the time the egg donor is selected until the time of the egg retrieval process, it typically takes approximately three months.
Donor Egg Banks
While most fertility doctors will recommend that a fresh cycle be done with an egg donor whenever possible, it is possible to select an egg donor who has already had her eggs retrieved through an egg bank.
Similar to fresh-egg donor agencies, egg banks have profiles of egg donors to review. Upon finding the right donor match with available eggs, the bank will arrange shipment of the frozen eggs to the recipient’s fertility center to then be fertilized with the appropriate sperm.
While the cost of choosing frozen eggs from an egg bank can be less than going the fresh route, recipients typically receive a much smaller number of eggs than they would through a fresh cycle.
“In a fresh egg donor cycle I hope to retrieve 20-30 eggs.” Dr. Guy Ringler with California Fertility Partners explains. This yield will result in the development of 4-8 genetically normal embryos - enough for several attempts at a successful pregnancy, or several children over the next few years.”
Egg Donor Search Services
Not every egg-donor agency or donor-egg bank will have the right match for every recipient. Finding the right candidate with the exact characteristics you hope to find can sometimes be quite challenging. Oftentimes recipients are seeking a donor with certain physical attributes, specific ethnicities, educational backgrounds, or other unique traits that can be difficult to find.
Should finding a fresh or frozen donor match become difficult -- or for those who want extra support or guidance through their search process -- there are search and consulting firms that exist to help guide recipient parents through the selection process and to assist them in finding them the right match as quickly as possible.
My firm, Family Match Consulting, has access to over 100 of the most reputable egg-donor agencies and frozen-egg banks, so we are able to cast a wide net and provide clients with an extensive number of egg donor profiles that meet their unique criteria to choose from.
Egg-donor search services like mine do a lot of the leg work for you and save time and oftentimes a lot of frustration.
Sperm Donor Banks
There are many reputable sperm banks that can be found online that, like egg-donor agencies, educate and vet prospective sperm donors before their profiles and information are made available to review online.
Unlike most egg-donor profiles, many sperm-donor profiles do not contain adult photos, though recipients are able to learn a lot of helpful information about each prospective candidate. Some sperm banks even offer other unique details like voice recordings or handwriting samples of the donor.
Prior to a sperm donor’s profile being made available online, the sperm bank will have had the donor undergo a series of tests to ensure their suitability through tools like bloodwork, genetic screening, semen analysis and interviews.
When making a selection, you want to be sure that the donor of interest has enough available vials to help you through your entire family-building journey, since there are no guarantees a particular donor will have more vials available in the future. Depending on your ultimate family building goals and whether intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF) is being utilized to achieve a pregnancy, you’ll want to find out from your doctor the recommended number of vials to purchase. Most sperm banks allow you to purchase vials and store them at their facility. Some even have special “buy back” programs, where unused sperm that has not already been shipped to the fertility center can be purchased back by the sperm bank for a portion of the fees that were paid.
Whether you’re single or married, and always expected to use a donor or not, finding the right donor and making that life-changing decision can be challenging. Thankfully, we live in a time where there are many resources and options available to assist along the way.
Stephanie Levich is the founder of Family Match Consulting, a search and consulting firm which helps hopeful parents find outstanding egg donor and surrogate candidates and guides and advocates for clients through their whole family building journey. Stephanie has been featured in various publications including ForbesWomen, and the New York Post. She brings 18 years of professional experience along with her personal adoption story and success creating her own family through IVF to every client she assists.