Choosing an Egg Donor Agency
How should one measure the success of an egg donor agency? On the face of it one might say, “Well, it must be the number of pregnancies achieved!” “Is it?” Is the number of pregnancies achieved not the result of more factors than an egg donor agency can take credit for? After all, the fertility clinic and doctors and their treatment protocol, the age of the donor and her fertility screening, the quality and quantity of the sperm used to fertilise, the ability of the uterus to facilitate the growth of the embryo. These are all factors that must be optimal in order to achieve a pregnancy.
The fact is that all egg donor agencies in South Africa are governed by certain criteria that ensure donors are viable as fertile egg donors. These factors include egg donors being between the ages of 18 and 35, having a certain and optimal BMI and being screened before an egg donation cycle is undertaken. These factors result in all agencies being created equal as regards the actual donor. Or does it? How does one rate an agency? What after all is the role of the egg donor agency?
We conclude that the role of the agency includes both “passport” factors and “differentiating factors.” Passport factors are standard practices that allow an egg donor agency to remain viable and attractive to recipient parents. They include: promptness in dealing with enquiries, a professional and understanding approach and first-hand knowledge and experience of the IVF process.
What then differentiates one agency from the rest, if it is not the number of pregnancies achieved, the level of professionalism and first-hand experience? Well, as recipient parents… what would be most important to you…what would be the differentiating factors for you? Would you not want to know about the donors, whose genes you choosing, inside and out? Surely her grades at school, her tertiary education, her sexual orientation, how her grandparents may have died, whether she or anyone in her family suffers from one of 97 different conditions that may be passed on genetically, her parents hair and eye colour, their height and body frame…the list goes on and on.
The fact that not all egg donor agencies take the interest, time or effort to make as much information available as possible to prospective parents means that all egg donor agencies are not, in fact, created equal. At the end of the day, when that little miracle is born, don’t you agree it’s worth having made an informed decision? After all, as potential egg donor recipient parents, isn’t it worth it for you to take care in choosing an agency that gives you all the information? If you are not being provided with detailed information on a donor, ask yourself why.
A summary of factors to consider when selecting an egg donor agency to work with:
- Efficiency:How quickly does the agency respond to your emails or communication? Are they available 7 days a week? The process that you are about to undertake relies on efficient, prompt and after hours service. Start as you wish to continue.
- Preferred agencies: There are preferred agencies operating in South Africa. Is the agency referred by ALL leading fertility clinics or are some excluded? If there is a clinic that has selected not to work with a particular agency, call the clinic and ask them why. Our experience of the leading South African fertility clinics is listed at the back of this book.
- Personal attention & experience: Do the agency owners deal with you directly? Do they have personal experience of infertility? This is a very personal journey and your agency support can often be as necessary as the support of your clinic and doctor.
- Face to face agency contact: Unless you are not based in South Africa, request a personal face to face meeting with the agency. This will be valuable both in terms of establishing a rapport with the persona in the agency that will assist you in selecting your donors and will provide an opportunity to have any questions you may have answered.
- Reviewing adult pictures: Will the agency be prepared to review your adult pictures against those of the donor? Will the agency share those pictures with the clinic in order to verify their comments?
- Egg donor database: Do you have a wide choice of donors? Choice in selecting your donor is possibly the most important factor that an agency can provide for you.
- Donor age: The age of a donor is arguably one of the most important factors as a prediction of her fertility. We suggest that a donor should not be over the age of 33 – this maximises her fertility based on the age of her eggs. Some agencies may try to “sell” you an older donor but we suggest this a risk that one need not take.
- Cost: If an agency is charging a match and management fee way below the market norm, ask yourself why. Do not compromise on quality of donors or service for price.
- Refunds & second attempts: In the event that the donor does not pass her medical and psychological screening, after you have selected her and paid the agency match fee, are you guaranteed a 100% refund as should be the case. Furthermore, if your first attempt is not successful, will the agency give you a reduced fee for a second attempt with the same or another donor?