A couple that has decided to start a new life together as a family is about to undertake a rewarding, challenging, lifelong journey. Unfortunately for some, the biggest challenges happen right at the start, such as an inability to naturally conceive, or safely bear a child in pregnancy. Women with heart disease for example, are medically advised to avoid pregnancy since the incredible demands this makes on a body would endanger both the mother and the child during the pregnancy.
Thankfully, today these considerations, while considerable, are not impossible to overcome. One alternative couples have for having a newborn of their own to raise in a new family is through surrogacy. Surrogacy is when a hopeful couple contacts another woman that has been medically evaluated to be suitable for undertaking pregnancy and birth of baby safely. They form an agreement where the woman consents to become pregnant and, after the baby is born, unites that child with the couple that wants a baby.
Today, a process known as “gestational surrogacy” allows for the hopeful couple to donate their sperm and egg to be fertilized in a lab. That egg is then implanted in the surrogate mother, but she has no genetic ties to the baby. When the baby is born, it has, as with traditional pregnancies, a 50% DNA mix of both the hopeful mother and father. However, gestational surrogacies are not always preferred or possible.
When Is An Egg Donor Required?
There are several reasons why a couple hoping to start a family wouldn’t automatically jump to gestational surrogacy as their default method. One of the most obvious is the cost. For people who aren’t wealthy, surrogacy is already an expensive investment, but expenditure for gestational surrogacy can sometimes double or even triple the total cost of surrogacy.
For others, gestational surrogacy isn’t possible because there is no woman in the couple, as is the case with same-sex male couples. Other circumstances may mean a woman has no eggs to be collected as specimens to use in gestational surrogacy. Women with ovarian cancer, for example, may not have had the opportunity to harvest and put their eggs in cryogenic storage, so there is no egg they can use.
Picking A Donor
There is no one “perfect donor” for surrogacy concerns. Different people will have different needs and hopes for a family that play a role in determining who would be a perfect egg donor. In general, however, there is one quality that can be universally agreed upon as ideal for an egg donor.
All other things considered, an egg donor is preferred not to have any disorders that are transmitted genetically. This is often a big risk in traditional pregnancies, where if a man’s family has a history of Down’s Syndrome, this can be passed onto a child, or if a woman has Autism Spectrum Disorder, this can be transmitted to the baby. Given a choice, with an outside egg donor, it is always preferable to select a donor that has a “clean” genetic medical history, with no family disorders that can affect a baby.
For some, a perfect egg donor is measured by how closely she adheres to the genetics of the hopeful woman in a couple. This is often the case where a couple wishes for the baby to have some DNA relation to the woman’s family still, and so seek out another family member to donate an egg, or even act as the surrogate mother.
It’s not unusual for some family members to donate eggs or agree to an altruistic surrogacy to maintain a family line that still has a genetic resemblance to the hopeful mother. If the hopeful mother herself has no available eggs to donate, this is the next best thing.
In many cases, another criterion for egg donation is the ethnicity of the donor compared to the hopeful family. It’s understandable, for example, if an Asian couple prefers to find an egg donor who is also of Asian ethnic descent to have a child that still bears some ethnic resemblance to the couple. In the same way, a couple of African descent may wish, for a more harmonious childhood, to have an egg donor also of African descent.
Even if there is no strong physical resemblance to a couple, ethnic similarities can sometimes be important to people wishing to start a family. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with an egg donor from a completely different ethnicity either, but this is a choice that needs to be discussed among the couple.
As always, it’s impossible to come up with a universal solution to the perfect egg donor. Genetic health will always be a major factor, but other qualities will vary a lot depending on the wishes that the hopeful parents have about their family and circumstance.