Egg Donation Overview

A successful pregnancy requires a healthy egg. This egg is being fertilized through Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). Learn more from our pregnancy pictures.
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To become pregnant, a woman must first produce a healthy egg. But some women have poor quality eggs or no eggs at all. It's difficult for these women to become pregnant or carry their pregnancies to term. While adoption has long been a viable option, some women consider other reproductive options, including the use of donor eggs.

Each year, approximately 100,000 women go through the process of having their eggs harvested. Of those 100,000 women, about 10 percent do so to become egg donors. The other 90 percent have their eggs harvested for their own fertility treatments [source: Boston Globe].

Through assisted reproductive technology, or ART, eggs are surgically removed from a woman's ovaries, combined with sperm in a laboratory and then returned to the woman's uterus (or donated to another woman) [source: CDC]. ART techniques include Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer (GIFT), Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer (ZIFT), Tubal Embryo Transfer (TET) and the type that's best known, In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). ART has been used to help women become pregnant in the United States since the early 1980s. The first baby conceived from a donor egg was born in 1984 [source: New York Times].

In 2005, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported data from about 400 participating fertility clinics in the U.S. That year, more than 134,000 ART cycles were performed, resulting in nearly 39,000 babies [source: CDC]. Women using donor eggs made up 12 percent of those ART cycles, and more than 50 percent of those cycles resulted in live birth [source: CDC].

So who chooses to use donor eggs? What's the process donors must go through to have their eggs harvested? Read on to find out.