Many people have a similar journey in life. Meeting someone special and deciding to spend the rest of your life with that person often leads to the big choice to start a new family. While many people go the usual route of the woman in the relationship, becoming pregnant and giving birth, not everyone has this option. Some women, for medical reasons, may be incapable or medically advised not to get pregnant, for example.
For couples that face these hurdles, surrogacy is one solution. This is where another woman agrees to become pregnant on behalf of a hopeful family. Once she gives birth to a baby nine months after pregnancy, she unites that child with the new parents, and family life begins.
However, one of the aspects of surrogacy is the use of the egg. It is possible to donate an egg for surrogacy, but how does this process work? What are the circumstances behind the decision of which egg is used?
The Gestational Surrogacy Process
The reason eggs can now be donated is because of a recent development in medical techniques known as gestational surrogacy. The first successful surrogacy using this technique happened in 1986. The technology is extremely sophisticated but involves an egg and a sperm fertilized in a laboratory setting. Upon successful confirmation of the fertilization, the egg is then carefully implanted in a surrogate mother, and special treatments are required to ensure the surrogate mother’s body doesn’t reject the fertilized donor egg as a “foreign body” that threatens infection and must be purged.
This is a technique that makes it possible for many more people to have a child—even one with direct genetic connections—that would otherwise need to consider adoption. However, the process for selecting an egg donation for surrogacy varies a lot depending on the preferences of the couple. There may even be additional screening considerations based on the decisions a couple makes. But what is the ideal egg donation?
When it comes to the surrogate mother, her physical health is one of the most critical factors. It’s not unusual for a couple to choose surrogacy because the woman in the hopeful family has health or medical considerations that pregnancy is impractical. So a hopeful family certainly wouldn’t want a surrogate mother to have similar medical concerns.
However, when thinking about egg donation, now the considerations also enter into genetic health. Congenital disorders are genetic medical conditions. They can be passed down along family lines, and diseases like cerebral palsy or cystic fibrosis can move from one generation to the next in a family. Even if a woman doesn’t manifest that particular congenital disorder, there is always the possibility that it can express itself in her children.
Because of this, sometimes hopeful parents will take the time to choose an egg donor that has a medical history of no congenital disorders. This is the best way to avoid bringing a long term medical issue into a family situation.
Screening May Be Required
In other instances, however, there may be “no choice” in running the risk of a congenital disorder. One of the most popular uses of gestational surrogacy is for the hopeful couple to donate the egg and sperm themselves. The result of this, as with traditional pregnancy, means the child has a direct genetic connection to both parents. In DNA analysis, the child would be considered the biological offspring of hopeful parents and have no genetic connection to the surrogate mother, which is usually the case in traditional surrogacies.
Of course, if one or both parents have congenital disorders in their family, this means that any child conceived with this sperm and/or egg is at risk of manifesting the disease. This is where an additional process known as Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis can be used if the hopeful parents are willing to pay for it.
PGD involves multiple fertilized eggs if there is a risk of congenital disorder transmission. Each additional fertilization adds to the cost of the surrogacy process. The eggs are then individually analyzed using PGD techniques to detect at-risk congenital disorders. This way, if any identified, those eggs can be rejected for use in surrogacy, leaving only the ones with no disorders as viable candidates for selection.
Making Your Choice
There may be other criteria for choosing an egg donation for surrogacy. Another common reason is ethnicity. A couple of African descent, for example, may want to have a child that is also of African descent. However, using the egg of the surrogate mother, who is Caucasian, will mean a child is of mixed ethnicity. If the hopeful mother’s egg is unavailable, another donor may be selected based on her ethnicity, to ensure the child born is still a “match” with the parents.
Depending on what your wishes are for your family, every couple will need to discuss and decide how they want to approach egg donation for surrogacy.