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More Women Using Donor Eggs to Conceive After 40

Katlyn Joy |29, October 2013


A new study published online at JAMA or the Journal of the American Medical Association and presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the International Federation of Fertility Societies, which was held Thursday, October 24, 2013, found an increase in the number of IVF procedures involving donor eggs.

The research came from Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, and utilized data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Surveillance System. Since all fertility centers are required to report their data to this agency, the research for the study included information compiled from over 95 percent of IVF procedures performed in the US.

The researchers found that the numbers from 443 fertility clinics the number of donor egg procedures increased from 10,801 in 2000 to 18,306 in 2010. This number included both fresh and frozen eggs.

However, the overwhelming majority of IVF procedures are still done using a patient's own eggs, with their partner's or a donor's sperm. In 2010, 89 percent of IVF procedures used a woman's own eggs versus a donor egg.

According to Evan Myers, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, N.C. "Donor eggs are still often seen as a last resort. For most people, the desire to have a child that is genetically from both parents is very strong."

This is despite the fact that older women are less likely to end up pregnant when using their own eggs, instead of donor eggs from a younger woman. The average age of egg recipients was 41 versus the average age of 28 for donors. This number remained stable from 2010 back to the 2000 data.

Approximately a quarter of women who used donor eggs in 2010 had what doctors classify as an optimum outcome; a single baby weighing at least 5 and a half pounds born at least 37 weeks. This had increased from 18.5 percent gaining an optimum outcome in 2000.

"There's still room for improvement but the trends are encouraging for couples increasingly looking for ways to extend child-bearing years," says lead researcher, Jennifer Kawwass, a fellow in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the Emory University School of Medicine.

It's notable that negative outcomes did not increase with age for those women who used donor eggs. "The fact that poor birth outcomes did not increase as the ages of egg recipients increased suggests that using donor eggs from younger women may help prevent pregnancy complications usually associated with a woman's age – something that should be further studied," stated Myers in an editorial accompanying the study in the journal.

Another aspect that the study looked into was multiple births. The reproductive medicine society recommends to patients and doctors that only one embryo be transferred in cases where the mother is under 35. The reason is that risks in multiple birth increases with more than one baby. However, in 2000 single embryos were used just 1 percent of the time and in 2010, 14.5 percent of the time.

It's most likely due to the fact that patients would prefer to risk having twins and improve their chances of bringing home at least one baby. It is also often a financial consideration. Some patients also are eager to have twins, hoping to undergo the procedure only once and have two children.

For those using fresh eggs in 2010, 56 percent brought home babies, and two-thirds had a singleton birth. Fewer than 1 percent had triplets while one-third had twins. In looking at births at 37 weeks or more, and at a healthy weight, only 1 percent of triplets met the criteria, while 25 percent of the twins did and two-thirds of the single babies did. Similar data was not collected for those using frozen eggs.

An aspect not studied in the research was data on the donors. Donors typically receive 00 to ,000 to undergo a month of fertility drug treatments followed by the egg retrieval procedure. Myers stated more research does need to be done in this area, particularly to see how many donors suffer from a condition known as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. This condition can cause abdominal pain, weight gain and other symptoms.

Katlyn Joy is a freelance writer with a Master's of Arts in Creative Writing. She is mom to seven children, and lives in Denver, Colorado with her family.

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