Congratulations on deciding to grow your family! The journey to parenthood is an exciting one: as a gay couple or individual you’ll require some help from others, making it a lovingly shared experience.
In this article we’ll go over the egg donor process, specifically as it pertains to gay intended parents.
Egg donation provides the possibility for the child to be biologically related to one of the parents. Your journey to parenthood will involve an egg donor and a gestational carrier – a woman who will carry the pregnancy for you and give birth to your little one.
The first step on your journey would be to find an egg donor. Unlike in the past, it’s no longer difficult to find a donor ready to work with gay parents. The process for same sex intended parents does not differ much from that for heterosexual couples or individuals, either. Let’s go into the process, step-by-step.
The process of choosing an egg donor is called matching and this is where you’ll decide if you wish to pursue a known or anonymous arrangement (more on this, below). You can also learn more about How to Choose an Egg donor in our recent article. Donors undergo social work screening and a psychological evaluation: an agency social worker carries out an in-depth psychosocial assessment of the donor’s mental stability and ensures willingness and commitment to the process. The donor also completes a psychological test to detect any behavioural and emotional issues or personality disorders.
There are three important criteria you’ll consider – within each category you’ll have options related to egg donor selection.
1. Known, semi-known, or anonymous egg donor from an agency – Working with an egg donor from a donor agency will help you navigate third-party reproduction, a process that can seem overwhelming when attempted alone. At this stage, you will be able to discuss with your agency what kind of relationship you’d like to pursue with your egg donor once the baby is born.
A 2016 study looking into 40 gay father surrogacy families in the US found that only 25% met their egg donor after the child’s birth and only 31% had a relationship with her. Of course, the relationship you’d like to pursue is completely up to you and your partner.
2. Family member or friend – Some couples prefer asking a family member or friend to be their egg donor. Growing your family through a relative means that your child will have both of your histories in his or her genetic make-up.
Regardless of whether the donor is a close friend or someone anonymous, they will still be required to undergo all screening procedures: the egg donation process is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As emphasised by Gay Parents To Be, “it’s very important to establish how you will navigate your own relationship with the donor and with your future child before starting fertility treatment or attempting pregnancy”.
When it comes to expenses, you may save on the egg donor compensation fee by working with someone already close to you, however, you will still have to incur all screening, counseling, and legal costs. When using an agency, these would be incorporated into your overall cost. Our article “An Overview of Egg Donation Costs” provides a breakdown of the costs you should expect when you pursue egg donation.
3. Frozen eggs from an egg bank- Frozen eggs are a less expensive alternative to a fresh donor cycle and a viable option through which to grow your family. We deal with the differences between fresh and frozen eggs in the article “The Egg Question: Fresh vs Frozen Donor Eggs?”
If you opt for anonymous egg donation, do keep in mind that we’re living in a time where discovering your genetic roots is as simple as registering on a website and taking a straightforward test. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to deciding whether to opt for an anonymous arrangement or known, however 100% anonymity can no longer be guaranteed.
Medical Screening – The egg donor agency notifies your IVF clinic of the match made and the egg donor’s medical screening is scheduled. This screening is done to ensure that the donor is fit to receive the stimulation medication required prior to the egg retrieval procedure; a transvaginal ultrasound is also done to assess egg reserve. Medical history and family and genetic history are evaluated, and blood tests done to check for undiagnosed medical conditions or infectious diseases.
Clinics follow a rigorous screening process when it comes to clearing egg donors: should any anomalies be found, it is possible that the donor gets disqualified at this stage.
Legal Matters – the contract stage of the process involves the drafting of an agreement, with both parties reviewing and negotiating its contents. Your egg donor will have her own independently assigned attorney representing her. Legal clearance is granted once the donor contract is fully executed and your account at the agency, funded.
Once these technicalities are taken care of, the egg donor process starts and this proceeds as it does in any other kind of relationship, with some specific nuances.
Coordinating the Process – the IVF clinic provides a cycle schedule, containing a timeline of medications to be taken, monitoring appointments, and tentative dates for egg retrieval. Depending on her location, travel may need to be arranged for the egg donor accordingly.
This is how the egg donation process works: the egg donor will be prescribed hormone medications to stimulate ovulation and the production of multiple eggs. Once they mature, the eggs are retrieved and an embryologist will fertilize the eggs. One key element to fertilization is, of course, the sperm. Before we move forwards, let’s review that for a moment.
Important Decisions Regarding Sperm – You should have already decided earlier on whose sperm to use in the fertilization process. It’s a matter that needs discussing ahead of time: you’ll need to identify a way forward that is agreeable to the both of you, while being aware that your own fertility may have a say in what happens.
In a normal IVF cycle, the sperm is allowed to fertilize eggs naturally. However, some gay couples opt for intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) where a single sperm is injected into the egg – this means you’ll be able to know upfront which partner is biologically related to the child. Others prefer mixing their sperm together and leaving the rest to nature.
In his article “Who’s Your Daddy? How Gay Dads Decide Whose Sperm to Use”, attorney Rich Vaughn, founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group and father to twin boys, believes the best piece of advice he can share with intended fathers is to “communicate, openly, honestly and thoroughly, with one another and with your surrogate”. Reaching an agreement ahead of time will help you address any issues which crop up and the emotions involved in a healthier way.
Final Steps – Once the eggs are fertilized, the embryos may be frozen if you wish to carry out genetic testing. Otherwise, the fresh embryos are transferred to the uterus of your surrogate. Together with your surrogate, you would have decided earlier on how many embryos to transfer. The remaining embryos can be frozen for future use.
Egg donation is only one element in your journey to parenthood – yet a very important one. Knowing your options when it comes to choosing an egg donor will help you find the solution that is most in line with your specific expectations and priorities. Preparing ahead for the decisions you will have to make as a couple during the egg donation process and eventual fertilization will make the experience a smoother one.
GoStork supports all intended parents, regardless of relationship status or sexual orientation. We’re here to help you find your ideal egg donor, surrogacy agency and IVF clinic to see you well on your way to becoming parents. You can browse over 8,000 egg donors (the largest online database!), sort by your favorites, compare attributes and costs side by side and easily connect with the agencies of the ones you’re interested in. We’re here to support you as you search for your perfect match. Start your journey here.