What happens once I’ve found a match?
You’ve selected a donor, talked directly with the egg donor agency and discussed the match. Now what? The agency and your fertility clinic team will begin next steps, including the legal and medical processes for you and your donor.
There are many reasons why you may need to go through a surrogacy journey. If you've talked with your fertility specialist and have determined that gestational surrogacy is necessary for you, the next step is to learn more about the surrogacy process. Ask your Tulip Fertility coach for more information about surrogate matching.
The agency interviews potential egg donors, verifies all of their information, educates them about the process and then provides support to the women who decide to donate. The donor agency also acts as a liaison between future parents and the donor. You’ll need to first sign a match agreement with the agency, who then sends it to your fertility clinic. The agency may also send previous cycle records to your doctor to review. The agency makes sure the donor understands when she has to attend appointments, books her travel and liaises with your clinic. They are there to ensure that the cycle moves ahead as smoothly as possible.
The agency will provide you with a cost sheet outlining all fees, compensation and a schedule of when these have to be paid. You usually don’t need to pay everything up front, but you’ll need to pay a portion of the agency administration fee upon signing a match agreement and usually fund an escrow account to cover other costs.
Your donor will visit your clinic for a one-day screening appointment. During this time, she’ll meet with the clinic staff, your doctor and a mental health professional. Your donor will undergo thorough fertility and genetic testing, as well as a mental health evaluation.
Your egg donor will undergo genetic testing to determine her genetic carrier status. Each person’s unique genetic makeup means that we are all technically carriers of something, so doctors are careful that the combination of genes passed along to the child minimizes the chances of genetic disease. Your genetic counselor will evaluate the results, and the family health histories of both your egg donor and the genetic father/sperm contributor, then help determine the course forward to ensure that, genetically speaking, there is a good match.
Your donor will visit your clinic around day three of her menstrual cycle to have a full fertility and health screening. She’ll also meet your clinic team, including your fertility doctor. The screening will include a physical exam, pelvic exam, ultrasound, and blood tests to check her hormone levels to improve the odds of getting a healthy embryo. She’ll also undergo FDA-required tests for sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, HPV and Hepatitis B.
Health screening for the intended father is just as important as your egg donor’s medical screening - healthy sperm help create healthy embryos. Your doctor will order testing to include genetic testing and sperm analysis. This will give you a better sense of the intended father’s own fertility and will include sperm count, motility and velocity, morphology, and volume. Men will also have their own screening to test for HIV, Hepatitis B, and other sexually-transmitted diseases. If you’re using a sperm donor, these tests will all be done before the sperm is made available.
Once your chosen egg donor has the approval of your doctor, legal agreements will need to be signed. The donor cannot start taking hormone injections until this stage is completed. Both you and your donor will be represented by attorneys who will provide legal counsel as you review the contract. Egg donor contracts are usually standard, but it’s critical that the donor and the intended parents understand what they are signing and what’s expected of them.
Once you’ve chosen an egg donor and signed your contracts, there are several more steps in your fertility journey. First, your donor will take hormones to sync her menstrual cycle to the intended mother’s. Next, the egg donor’s ovaries will be stimulated with follicle stimulating hormones (FSH) to allow multiple eggs to mature enough for retrieval and fertilization. She’ll be monitored throughout the whole process, usually every day, so your clinic team can track how her eggs are maturing. The egg donor will take one last hormone injection at the peak of her stimulation phase. Lastly, the egg donor will go to your clinic for the egg retrieval. The egg retrieval is a surgical procedure, so she’ll be given a mild sedative and the eggs will be retrieved using a small cannula. The eggs will then be combined with the sperm in a petri dish to fertilize naturally or injected directly into the eggs using ICSI.
After fertilization, the embryos will be left to grow and develop for several days. On day five, one or two embryos (now called blastocysts) will be graded for quality and transferred into your uterus. If you are using a gestational carrier or wish to become pregnant later, then your embryos will be frozen and you will undergo a Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) at a later date.