Egg Donor Process

Using an Egg Donor to Build Your Family

There are certain conditions which may prevent a couple from achieving pregnancy even with the use of advanced In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) techniques. If the egg reserve or sperm supply is significantly diminished, absent, or unusable, a third-party donor can help to overcome the obstacle and allow the infertile couple to become parents. At Fertility Centers of Illinois, serving the greater Chicago, Illinois area, egg donation or donated sperm are available for patients who are unable to provide their own.

  • IVF with Donor Eggs
  • Donor Sperm Insemination


A woman who has a condition such as premature ovarian failure or low ovarian reserve may need a donor egg in order to become pregnant. IVF with egg donation is also an option for a woman who carries a genetic disease that she wishes to avoid passing on to her child. The IVF process using donor eggs is similar to standard IVF, with a few slight variations.


Prior to being accepted to the egg donation program, a potential donor must undergo a full physical exam (including pap smear), psychological screening and counseling, and comprehensive testing for genetic conditions, infectious diseases, and substance abuse. A woman who is preparing to be the recipient of a donor egg must also be examined to be sure that she does not have a psychiatric disorder, serious chronic illness, or a substance abuse problem, and to confirm that she is healthy enough to carry a pregnancy to term.

The egg donation process begins with the matching of a donor and a recipient. Although egg donors are generally anonymous and the criteria for matching are primarily medical, the recipient will be given the opportunity to specify certain traits that she would prefer her egg donor to have. We will link you with our third party donor egg coordinator after you meet with our clinical psychologist, Marie Davidson, PhD (no charge) to address all concerns and questions. We will also set you up with one of several donor egg recruiters who will work closely with you to select a suitable egg donor. Couples match up race, religion, ethnic group, and physical characteristics. Once the pair is matched, the next step is cycle synchronization.


In order for IVF with egg donation to be possible, it is necessary to synchronize the menstrual cycles of the donor and recipient so that once the donor eggs are retrieved and fertilized they can be immediately transferred to the uterus of the recipient. This involves the use of medications to suppress the body's natural hormone functions and fertility drugs to produce the desired effects in a controlled and predictable manner.


When the two women's cycles are in synch, the egg donor will begin receiving ovarian stimulation medications to promote the development and maturation of multiple eggs. Once the oocytes are ready to be collected, the egg donation process is similar to a basic in vitro fertilization procedure. The eggs are retrieved through a transvaginal ultrasound-guided aspiration and are then combined with the sperm sample from the recipient's partner. When embryonic development is confirmed, one or two of the embryos are transferred to the recipient's uterus, and any remaining embryos can be cryopreserved for later use.

After embryo placement, the donor egg recipient will continue to receive hormone treatment (estrogen and progesterone) to encourage normal development of the endometrium and embryo. If pregnancy is confirmed, hormonal support will continue for four to six weeks and then be tapered off as the body takes over. If pregnancy does not take place, hormonal treatment will be stopped and the cycle will come to an end. Many recipient couples will have extra frozen embryos that can be used in the future.


Artificial insemination with donor sperm is an option for women who do not have a male partner and for those whose partners suffer from severe forms of male factor infertility. We work with a number of reputable sperm banks that follow the standards and procedures for screening, storage, and transportation that are recommended by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (

To ensure the safety of our patients, all donated sperm must be appropriately tested, cryopreserved, and quarantined before use. While the quality of sperm itself is not affected by the freezing process, cryopreservation does sometimes affect the fertility potential of sperm. Therefore, the average number of cycles necessary to achieve conception with frozen sperm is slightly higher than that of insemination with fresh sperm.


If you live in or around the Chicago, Illinois area and are interested in egg donation or want to know more about our donor egg program, please contact Laurence Jacobs, M.D.




In certain situations, IVF using donor eggs (DE) may be the best choice for a couple/individual to achieve the family they desire. Choosing an egg donor is a very private journey and each individual or couple will make their choices based on their personal goals. There will be physical, mental and/or emotional preferences in selecting an egg donor. Some of these situations include diminished ovarian reserve; advanced maternal age; absence or damage of ovaries due to surgery or treatment of a disease such as cancer; or the maternal predisposition to a genetic disease that could be passed on by use of her own eggs.

The first step in the DE process is to meet with one of the FCI full-time clinical psychologists or clinical social workers for counseling and consultation. It is vital to learn all the facts and be sure both partners are comfortable and ‘on the same page’ before proceeding. Important issues will be discussed, such as Who do you tell? Do you tell anyone? What do you tell the child in future years?

At Fertility Centers of Illinois (FCI), we have our own in-house egg donor program with a team of experts specifically dedicated to collaborative reproduction. Our Donor Egg team personally recruits, screens, and matches all of the egg donors in our anonymous donor egg program. FCI’s secure online database allows you to explore all the egg donor profiles for your specific desired criteria.  If you are not satisfied with any of the many FCI in-house egg donors, there are several excellent local and national donor egg agencies I have worked with for decades. I always encourage my patients not to ‘settle’ on a donor or rush into selecting a donor. Take your time when making such an important decision. You will still work with the FCI Donor Team even if you choose to use an outside donor egg agency. Regardless how the egg donor is selected, I will be clinically managing my couple and the egg donor.

Typically, the egg donation process involves matching the female recipient with an egg donor who has been screened with a full physical examination, as well as psychological screening and counseling and comprehensive testing for genetic disease, substance abuse and infectious diseases. All egg donors will have excellent ovarian reserve (egg supply) confirmed. Women choose an egg donor based on various characteristics, such as race, religion, ethnicity, and physical characteristics such as eye color, hair color and similar looks. (They get to see numerous photos of the egg donors). Egg donors are generally women between the ages of 21 and 30.

Matching recipients with donors and menstrual cycle synchronization in egg donation with fresh eggs can be very challenging. Instead, we now stimulate the egg donors, retrieve the eggs and then after fertilization with the male partner’s sperm, allow the best embryos to develop to day 5 or 6 before freezing (vitrification) of the embryos. Usually the following month, the recipient will then undergo an FET (Frozen Embryo Transfer) cycle to transfer the frozen/thawed embryo(s).

Because of advances in egg freezing technology, now there is another option for patients - donor egg banks, using previously frozen eggs. The survival of eggs following the older, slow-freezing technique was very low, as were pregnancy rates, often due to damage to the egg cells caused by ice crystal formation during the freezing process. Vitrification involves a newer flash-freezing technique where the delicate egg, once unfreezable without damage, can now be safely preserved for future use. In the process of vitrification, an egg is placed in a small volume of the vitrification medium and is then cooled at an extremely rapid rate. This fast freezing eliminates the formation of ice crystals in the eggs. Following this freeze, the eggs are stored in liquid nitrogen until such time as it is to be thawed and fertilized by a sperm.  

 There are a few advantages to frozen egg donation:


  • Just like with fresh egg donation, the egg donors are carefully selected and screened physically and mentally.
  • Choosing to transfer embryos from frozen eggs from a bank means the donor has already been screened and accepted… and the frozen eggs are available; in a fresh egg donation cycle, the donor may not qualify to donate during the screening process.
  • The egg donor recipient can have a frozen egg cycle more quickly, usually within one to two months, vs. a fresh egg cycle, which typically takes three or more months depending on donor availability, screening and IVF stimulation cycle , followed by an FET cycle.


On the other hand, most egg banks will not take infertility insurance. Those couples that have infertility insurance may be better served by doing a fresh egg donor stimulation. In addition, with most egg banks, one pays for 6 eggs at a time. After a fresh egg donation cycle, a woman may have many extra embryos to store for her future use. This is not necessarily the case with an IVF cycle from frozen donor eggs.

In general, pregnancy rates are very high and quite similar whether using frozen donor eggs from an egg bank, or using fresh donor eggs and developing frozen embryos for a subsequent frozen embryo transfer.

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For many decades, reproductive endocrinologists have had good success freezing embryos (fertilized eggs) but very poor success freezing unfertilized eggs. However, in order to fertilize an egg (oocyte), one must have sperm available. In the past we have cared for many single women who are comfortable getting pregnant with anonymous donor sperm because they are getting older and running out of time. Women are born with all of their eggs. The biological clock keeps ticking. A woman’s fertility decreases after age 35 and is dramatically reduced after 40 (often requiring donor egg). The newer technology (vitrification) for successfully freezing unfertilized eggs is a major improvement over previous techniques and allows women more options.


The survival of eggs following the older, slow-freezing technique has been very low, as have pregnancy rates, often due to damage to the egg cells caused by ice crystal formation during the freezing process.   Vitrification involves a better flash- freezing technique where the delicate egg, once unfreezable without damage, can now be safely preserved for future use.   In the process of vitrification, an oocyte is placed in a small volume of the vitrification medium and is then cooled at an extremely rapid rate. This fast freezing eliminates the formation of ice crystals in the eggs. Following this freeze, the egg is stored in liquid nitrogen until such time as it is to be thawed and fertilized by a sperm.


There are several indications for egg freezing (Vitrification or Cryopreservation) including:


  • Young women facing the loss of reproductive function due to upcoming chemotherapy, radiation, and/or surgery for cancer may wish to preserve their eggs.


  • Women who want to defer pregnancy until later in life, either because they do not have a “significant other” or simply have social and/or professional needs that require them to delay childbearing.


  • After an egg retrieval, male partner can’t produce a specimen, or semen specimen is very poor.


  • Religious reasons-- Couple wants to limit the number of eggs fertilized so as to not have too many extra or frozen embryos.   A process I named “Limited IVF”.