Finding an Egg Donor

Where to Look, Questions to Consider, and Whether You'll Meet the Donor

Brown egg with large white eggs
Andy Roberts / Getty Images

If your doctor has recommended egg donor in vitro fertilization (IVF), and you’ve decided to pursue this path to parenthood, you've probably got a lot of questions. Namely, where will you find an egg donor and how do you decide on the right one?

The good news is that you don’t need to figure this out completely on your own. Your fertility doctor and a counselor familiar with donor fertility treatmenst should be able to help you work through your specific options. We've got answers to all your basic questions below, too.

Where Will I Find an Egg Donor?

There are multiple sources for finding an egg donor. You may look into only one of them or consider several before you select the option that fits your family best.

Your Fertility Clinic

The fertility clinic providing your IVF treatment may have a database of donors themselves. Some clinics will only work with an egg donor that's already part of their program and will not allow patients to use a separate agency. Other clinics offer more flexibility. When using an egg donor associated with your clinic, you may pay slightly less than you would through an agency. However, your options for donors may be more limited.

An Egg Donor Agency

There are a number of agencies whose sole business is finding potential donors and connecting them to intended parents. An agency may be more expensive than going through your clinic, but as noted above, your pool of potential donors is likely to be much larger. They may also be able to help you find an egg donor with specific traits or characteristics that you desire.

An Egg Bank

Relatively new to the scene in egg donation, an egg bank can offer a slightly less expensive option for egg donor IVF. With an egg bank, the donor has already gone through the donation cycle, and their eggs have been cryopreserved. An egg bank is usually the least expensive option per treatment cycle, excluding using someone you know personally.

However, the eggs are retrieved and frozen far in advance of your cycle. This may impact your odds for success (see more on this below). Also, the quality of the egg bank and the eggs themselves can vary widely. Currently, egg banks are not required to publish success rates, so the efficacy of using their eggs is hard to compare with other options.

IVF Egg Sharing

It’s also possible to have another infertile couple be the egg donor, which is called IVF egg sharing. In this case, the donor would be another couple at the same fertility clinic that is going through IVF but doesn’t have known ovarian fertility factors.

The infertile couple donating their eggs may be able to get a slight discount on their own IVF cycle by “egg sharing” with another couple. Success rates will vary, and there is a possibility that there will not be enough eggs for both the donor’s IVF cycle and the couple needing the donor eggs. If that happens, the donor gets first priority on the eggs available.

Can a Friend/Relative Be My Egg Donor?

A friend or relative can donate eggs to you if they pass the psychological and medical screening required of all egg donors. An advantage of having a family member donate their eggs is that the child would be more closely connected genetically to the parents, even if not directly.

Technically, the donor could come from a female or male partner’s family, but often many family members on the man's side (if there is one) would automatically be excluded due to genetic risk and ethical problems, depending on their genetic relationship to the person whose sperm is used.

Also, another consideration is that if a family member or friend is the egg donor, they can remain in contact with the child. They would not be the child’s legal or cultural “parent,” but they could have a relationship.

However, there are some potential disadvantages of using someone you know as a donor:

  • Emotional complications, including possible feelings of resentment, jealousy, regret, or even sadness (if the cycle fails)
  • Possible legal complications, which could arise if the donor decides to challenge who the “real parent” is or if the couple gets divorced
  • Psychological consequences, especially if decisions that normally are made by the parents get entangled with the donor’s desires
  • Worse IVF success rates, if a donor screened by a clinic or agency would be a better choice

Also important to know is that a family or friend doesn’t usually receive an honorarium for the donation. This is also why egg donor IVF with a known donor is less expensive—you don’t have to pay the donor for the time and trouble of donating unless you decide to do so.

Before a friend or family member agrees to be screened as a potential donor, they should also know what’s involved before they commit to the process. There is a lengthy screening process as well as the egg harvesting procedure.

What About Placing a Personal Ad?

Some couples decide to find an egg donor by placing or answering personal ads. Be aware that this can be risky. There are scammers out there looking to trick intended parents. (Additionally, there are also scammers looking to trick generous egg donors.)

However, there are some situations where seeking out an egg donor via personal ads is the best option. Perhaps you are looking for someone very specific, such as a graduate from a particular school and/or from a certain ethnic and/or religious background who has specific hobbies or talents.

If you’re going to try the personal ad route, proceed cautiously. Consider whether it would be better to hire an agency to find your specific request, instead of looking on your own.

How Should I Select an Egg Donor?

Deciding which egg donor to select is a personal, and sometimes, emotional process. The most commonly given advice is to select an egg donor whose profile sounds like someone you would like to be friends with.

But will an egg donor who sounds like the perfect friend lead to a child who is like the donor? That’s impossible to say. It comes down to the nature versus nurture debate—and chance.

Choosing an egg donor who has a perfect SAT score and graduated at the top of their class at Harvard does not mean your donor-conceived child will follow the same path or have the same traits. Plus, later in life, you may find that the qualities you thought were most important may shift.

Only you can decide which characteristics feel the most important to you. Some criteria potential parents might consider include:

  • Athleticism
  • Intelligence markers (IQ scores, SAT scores, college attended)
  • Overall health and wellness of the donor
  • Personality and hobby descriptions offered in the donor profile
  • Physical appearance
  • Religious affiliation
  • Similar physical appearance to the intended parents

Which criteria are most important to you? There's really no wrong or right answer. This is a good topic to discuss with a counselor familiar with IVF and fertility issues, as well as your partner if you are going through this process as a couple.

Will We Meet Our Egg Donor?

Unless you’re using a friend or family member, it’s unlikely you'll ever meet your egg donor. But it's not completely out of the question. Some clinics and agencies offer “known” or “semi-known” donor contracts.

In these cases, you may meet the donor before your cycle. There may also be the possibility to have some sort of ongoing relationship after the child is born. That relationship may only be through written communication or may also include face-to-face connection.

Some semi-known donor contracts allow the child to contact their donor in the future, if they desire. This doesn’t necessarily mean the donor and intended parents will meet or have contact otherwise.

Later in life, some donor-conceived children (and their parents) wish they knew more about the donor who helped bring them into this world. A semi-known donor contract allows some form of contact.

Important Note

Due to changing laws and private organizations that aim to connect donors with their offspring, there is also a possibility that you or your child could end up meeting or hearing from the donor in the future even if you originally decided to use an “anonymous” donor.

For example, The Donor Sibling Registry helps connect donor offspring to their genetic siblings and even to the donor. This can occur regardless of whatever original contract was signed.

How Much Does It Cost?

Fertility treatments, by and large, are expensive and often not covered by insurance. Using donor eggs is no exception. Prices will vary dramatically from state to state and clinic to clinic.

Expect the cost to be well in the thousands for a batch of eggs (you'll purchase several eggs at a time to improve your odds of one successful IVF treatment), often around $15,000 to $40,000 or more. You'll pay more for fresh rather than frozen eggs. It usually costs more to find eggs that match specific requests, as well.

Does It Work?

While your personal likelihood of success using donor eggs will depend on your particular fertility issues, generally speaking, using egg donors has been shown to be quite successful. Fresh eggs from a healthy, young donor are the most likely to result in positive outcomes (which is why they are the most expensive). This varies, but under optimal circumstances, studies have found IVF using fresh donor eggs to have a pregnancy rate of around 50%, with a success rate of about 30% for frozen eggs.

A Word From Verywell

Contemplating using an egg donor to have a baby may feel scary, frustrating, hopeful, disappointing, and/or exciting—maybe all at once. There are so many possibilities, questions, and unknowns, and most importantly, there very well may be a beautiful baby in your arms at the end of the IVF donor egg journey.

1 Source
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Coates A, Bankowski BJ, Kung A, Griffin DK, Munne S. Differences in pregnancy outcomes in donor egg frozen embryo transfer (FET) cycles following preimplantation genetic screening (PGS): A single center retrospective studyJ Assist Reprod Genet. 2017;34(1):71-78. doi:10.1007/s10815-016-0832-z

Additional Reading

By Rachel Gurevich, RN
Rachel Gurevich is a fertility advocate, author, and recipient of The Hope Award for Achievement, from Resolve: The National Infertility Association. She is a professional member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and has been writing about women’s health since 2001. Rachel uses her own experiences with infertility to write compassionate, practical, and supportive articles.