Direct egg donation, or “directed” egg donation, refers to one type of donor arrangement. Broadly, egg donation falls into two major categories: directed and non-directed. These categories are sometimes called “known” vs. “anonymous” donation. However, with the ease of access to DNA testing kits, no donation can be truly anonymous anymore, so we do not use those terms. In a non-directed donation, the intended parents do not know any of the donor’s identifying information, and the donor and recipient do not contact or interact with each other.
On the other hand, with a direct egg donation, the recipient does know the donor’s identity. Often, the intended parents ask someone they already know to donate their eggs, such as a family member or close friend. Direct egg donation is legal, and can be an appealing option for some intended parents. However, it also comes with its own unique challenges and considerations.
How Does Direct Egg Donation Work?
The basic procedures involved in egg donation remain the same regardless of the type of donation arrangement. The egg donor goes through a process of ovarian stimulation and egg retrieval. The retrieved eggs are combined with sperm in a lab to develop a fetus, which is then transferred into the recipient’s uterus.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates all medical donation procedures, including both direct and non-direct egg donation. As part of these regulations, all donors must pass a series of physical and mental health screenings and infectious disease testing to ensure they can safely and effectively donate eggs. Candidates for a non-directed donation who do not meet the standards are not eligible to donate. However, in a directed donation, there are some instances where a known donor might not pass all the screening tests and still be able to donate to their friend or family member. In these instances, the intended parents are notified of the donor’s ineligibility, counseled as to potential risks of continuing with the donation, and then make an informed choice as to how to proceed.
Why Would I Use a Relative or Friend’s Donor Egg?
The main reason why intended parents consider a direct egg donation from a relative is the opportunity for a shared genetic relationship with their child. In particular, siblings share a close genetic relationship and might pass similar genes on to the donor-conceived child. For couples where both partners have sperm, family egg donation can be an opportunity for both partners to share a genetic relationship with their child: one partner through their sperm, and the other partner through the genes in their sibling’s egg.
Friends and family typically act as egg donors through an altruistic donor arrangement, meaning they do not receive compensation for their donation. This means that a direct egg donation may cost less when it comes to the procedure itself. However, the additional emotional, legal, and logistical challenges from this type of directed donation can outweigh the potential savings.
What Challenges Does a Direct Egg Donation Present?
Directed donations from friends or relatives pose unique challenges. It’s very important that everyone involved be fully informed and in agreement about:
- Physical and time commitments of the donor egg cycle itself
- Distinction between donating genetic material and “providing a baby”
- What role the donor will play in the donor-conceived child’s life, if any
- How much information to share with other friends and family members
- When and what information to share with the donor-conceived child
You should also consider logistical details, such as how many cycles your friend or family member is willing to go through, what happens if anyone changes their mind during the donation cycle, and what to do with any additional eggs or embryos.
These conversations are critical to make sure everyone is fully informed and on board. To that end, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) strongly recommends psychological counseling and legal consultations for both the donor and recipient in directed donor arrangements. We facilitate both direct and non-directed donor egg arrangements, and we require legal consultation and counseling for everyone involved.
Directed Donations Offer Specific Benefits – and Specific Challenges
Close relationships can be challenging to navigate, even without the added emotional stakes of fertility treatments. A directed egg donation from a friend or family member can be a beautiful and generous gift. However, it also has significant emotional and legal considerations. If you are considering a directed donation, it’s important to enter into it with clarity and full communication.