Choosing an egg donor is one of the first big decisions you'll need to make as a dad-to-be pursuing surrogacy. Let's explore how to navigate this important step towards fatherhood.
In this article:
Does the "perfect" egg donor exist?
VIDEO: Dr. Mark Leondires explains the basics of choosing an egg donor.
As a same-sex couple or single man moving forward with surrogacy, picking an egg donor is a permanent and important decision - after all, this person will contribute their genes to 50 percent of your future child’s genetic makeup.
So, how do you find this "perfect person" and is there even such a thing as the "perfect" donor? To answer this question, we’ll tackle the four main considerations: who, where, how and why.
Here at Gay Parents To Be and our partner clinic Illume Fertility, we have nearly 20 years of experience guiding future dads through surrogacy journeys. We also know that the pathway to parenthood can be overwhelming, whether you’re at the start of your journey or a few steps into the family-building process.
Who will be my egg donor?
Before we get too ahead of ourselves, let’s recap the basics of the surrogacy process:
For most dads-to-be who choose to grow their family through IVF and surrogacy, their journey will involve the help of an egg donor. The donor's eggs are retrieved at a fertility clinic, then combined with sperm from one or both dads in the IVF laboratory to create embryos.
Because of this, your egg donor is genetically linked to your child - as opposed to your gestational carrier (or surrogate), who carries the pregnancy and delivers your baby, but isn't genetically linked.
How are egg donors screened?
Most egg donors are young women between the ages of 21 and 30, with at least a high school degree, a BMI under 30, and a healthy lifestyle.
They must undergo a rigorous screening process to become a potential egg donor, which involves comprehensive psychological and medical health screening, a background check, and a consultation with a medical professional.
Where do you look for an egg donor?
Many dads-to-be feel overwhelmed by this part of the process - but don’t worry! Your fertility clinic care team should always be on hand to help you navigate this important choice, and will also complete some of your donor's screening.
Intended parents may connect with their donor in a few different ways:
1) In-House Egg Donor Program
Psst, we have one at our partner clinic, Illume Fertility!
This is a program linked to your chosen clinic, and the option that is often the most expeditious and cost-effective, as the donors may have already completed the necessary screening required by your clinic.
One potential drawback to this kind of program is that there may be a smaller group of donors to choose from. If you have a particular ethnic background or physical trait that you’re hoping to find, this might not be the best choice for you.
2) Egg Donor Agency
This is an independent entity that recruits, pre-screens, and helps to organize appropriate egg donor candidates. A donor agency may be a great option for you if you are searching for particular physical characteristics (i.e. red hair and green eyes).
However, keep in mind that there may be a fee to use the donor agency.
3) Known Donor
A known donor can be a family member or friend, and is typically someone already in the intended parents' lives before they start their family-building journey. While many dads think that this must be an easy and cost-effective way to build their family, there are many legal, screening, and mental health considerations to consider before going this route.
With so many places to look to find this important person, HOW should you narrow down your search?
How do you choose your ideal egg donor?
There are several factors to think about when choosing the best donor for you, including:
Your child will be inheriting the egg donor’s genes as well as yours. Your fertility clinic will help you determine whether you and a potential donor carry the same genetic traits for diseases or disorders.
This should include both physical and mental health history, for the same reasons stated above.
Each dad-to-be will have different personal traits or characteristics they're searching for, which may include:
- Certain likes or dislikes
- Certain skill sets
- Level of education
Donor’s Family Tree
Remember, your child will inherit the physical traits of not just your donor, but your donor’s whole family! If you’re interested in height, dark versus light hair, or other specific physical markers, make sure that your donor isn’t the only one in her family who has that characteristic.
Who can help me/us make this decision?
All of the above things (and many more) come into play when choosing an egg donor.
Speaking with a psychologist or social worker who has helped other LGBTQ+ parents-to-be navigate through this process can be helpful. It's important to explore your feelings about this decision, as they can be quite complicated.
Some couples may need to find a way to make a decision, especially when they have slightly (or even vastly) different priorities. For other couples, choosing an egg donor is simple and straightforward. Every situation is unique.
The Why of Choosing Your Egg Donor
While all of the aforementioned factors are crucial when choosing your donor, the following may be the most important point for you and your partner when you think about life with your future child:
With the advent of genetic testing and mainstream DNA analysis kits (think: 23andMe), the era of "anonymous" donors is coming to a close. You should know that your future child will almost certainly be able to find out all about their genetic background, as technology continues to advance - even if you decide to choose an anonymous donor.
More parents-to-be are now opting for known egg donors who are open to future contact with the child (or children) who result from their donated eggs. This is a very important conversation to have with your partner (and/or with a counselor), since it will impact your child's life forever.
You may also want to explore the perspectives of donor conceived adults, who share their experiences through organizations such as Donor Conceived Community.
Looking Towards the Future
When choosing your donor, think about the things you want to be able to tell your child about their conception story and why you made this choice.
Rather than focusing solely on physical characteristics, you may want to tell your child that you connected with hobbies or interests listed in their donor’s profile.
Perhaps you felt connected to them because of a shared cultural heritage, or a similar family structure. Perhaps you use a known donor, and in the future, you’re able to tell your child about the special gift that this person gave you.
No matter how you find your egg donor, always trust your intuition, keep an open mind, and take the guidance of experienced family-building professionals into account as you navigate this important step towards parenthood!
Dr. Mark P. Leondires is the Founder and Medical Director of Illume Fertility, an inclusive, award-winning fertility clinic with five locations in Connecticut and New York. Dr. Leondires is board-certified in both Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. Dr. Leondires is also the Founder of Gay Parents To Be, a leading family-building resource for the LGBTQ+ community - a passion project created after undergoing his own journey to parenthood as a gay dad.