If you’re older than 40 or unable to become pregnant with your own eggs, donor eggs can help you conceive and deliver a baby. If you and your partner both have fertility problems, or if you’ve had repeated miscarriages because of embryo issues, donor embryos may be an option.

Single women with fertility problems can also conceive using donor eggs or embryos, and men without a female partner can become fathers by using donor eggs or embryos and a gestational carrier. (In certain states, however, there may be laws restricting unmarried people from using gestational carriers. Some embryo donation agencies also require clients to be married.)

If you’re at risk for passing a genetic disease to your child, donor eggs or embryos may be an option, though many couples prefer to try IVF using their own embryos that have been genetically tested to screen for inherited disorders.

Where do I start if I want to use donor eggs or embryos?

Give yourself plenty of time to find a donor. It can take months to choose someone and address the legal matters, and longer for you and the donor to complete all the necessary medical and psychological screenings. Using an egg bank can be quicker because many of these steps are completed before any eggs are frozen. Here’s how it works:

  • Find a donor. If you’re using donor eggs, decide whether to use eggs from a friend, family member, or anonymous donor. If you decide to use donor eggs from an anonymous donor, you can find one through a fertility clinic, a frozen egg bank, or an egg donation agency. You’ll usually be able to choose the donor based on physical characteristics, ethnic background, educational record, and occupation. Most egg donors are between 18 and 30 years old and have had medical and genetic screening. Be sure to ask how candidates are screened – some organizations do less extensive testing than others. If you decide to use donor embryos, look for embryo donation agencies (also called “embryo adoption” agencies) or fertility clinics with donation programs.
  • Get counseling. Once an agency or clinic finds a donor match, you and the donor get professional counseling on the medical, ethical, and emotional impact of the donation.
  • Make it legal. You and the donor may have lawyers draw up a contract that defines parental rights, financial obligations, and future contact. Laws vary from country to country, but donors usually sign away their rights to any children.

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