Disclosure: This guest post is sponsored by Donor Egg Bank USA
Recently I was contacted by Heidi Hayes, the CEO of Donor Egg Bank USA, a service that helps parents grow their families using donated eggs. Heidi offered to share some insight into some of the most well-known alternatives to natural conception. I thought this information could be helpful for some of my readers, especially those who struggle with infertility and are looking into their options.
A little about Heidi - Heidi Hayes is the CEO of Donor Egg Bank USA. She has more than 20 years of healthcare experience and has worked extensively in the field of reproductive endocrinology. Having been unsuccessful at traditional IUI and IVF treatments, Heidi personally understands the struggles of infertility. After many years of trying to conceive, she ultimately built her family through adoption and donor egg treatment. She always believed that if she didn't give up, her ultimate goal of becoming a parent would someday become a reality.
Adoption, Surrogacy, IVF, Egg Donation, and More: A Guide to Infertility Alternatives
by Heidi Hayes
If you have been trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant, or have recently been diagnosed with infertility, it can be a devastating blow. Your vision of the future, your plans of a happy family might seem like they are slipping out of reach. However, there are a lot of other possibilities to consider. Intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilization (IVF), adoption, surrogacy or egg donation are all options available to you, and depending on your personal circumstance, they may even be the perfect solution. In this infertility guide, we will look at several alternative fertility options, any one of which might be right for you. Don’t give up on your dreams. The grief, the anxiety, the disappointment you have been coping with can have a happy ending after all.
IUI or IVF: What’s the difference?
Intrauterine insemination, or IUI, could be right for you if your partner has a low sperm count or decreased sperm mobility, or if you suffer from certain cervical problems, including scar tissue, that may inhibit the sperm’s ability to get where it needs to be. The IUI process is significantly less expensive and invasive than IVF, but may not be right for you if you have moderate to severe endometriosis, a history of pelvic infection, or disease of the fallopian tubes.
In-vitro fertilization, or IVF, is a much more complex procedure. It involves retrieving eggs (which can be yours, or from a donor) from the ovaries and fertilizing them in a lab, then transferring the resulting embryo(s) to the uterus. You might be a candidate for IVF if you have had your fallopian tubes removed, or if they are blocked or damaged. Genetic disorders, ovulation disorders, uterine fibroids or male factor infertility are reasons that many try IVF. Women who decide to conceive later in life often opt for IVF using donor eggs, as egg viability and the potential for birth defects increases significantly as our bodies age.
The IUI/IVF process
The process for both IUI and IVF begins with a course of fertility medications that stimulate egg production. You will need to undergo a variety of tests, some to determine your uterine health, and later on to ensure the uterine wall is ready to support a pregnancy. If you opt to use your own eggs for IVF, you will need to take medication to increase egg production and go through an egg retrieval procedure, during which eggs are taken from your ovaries to be fertilized in the lab. If you are receiving eggs from a fresh donor (meaning a friend, relative or qualified donor), you will both need to undergo hormone treatments to align your cycles so your body will be ready to accept the embryo at the same time the donor is ready for retrieval. The transfer is usually done about three to five days after the extraction and fertilization, barring any complications.
Using frozen donor eggs
Using frozen donor eggs is a popular choice among women who opt for IVF. This allows you to choose a donor from a pre-screened database of options. Unlike with fresh donor cycles, frozen donor databases offer donors from all parts of the country, meaning there is a wide variety to choose from. Frozen donor egg banks work in much the same way as a sperm bank. One of the attractive aspects for many women is that they don’t have sync their cycles with the donor’s - you can start your cycle immediately, as soon as your body is ready. It is, essentially, conception on your terms.
Building your family through alternate methods:
Surrogacy is another viable option for some. Many same-sex couples opt for surrogacy, as do couples or individuals who may have medical issues with getting pregnant. A surrogate can be a member of your family, a good friend or found through a network that screens potential surrogates. Using a surrogate generally means going through an IVF cycle to extract your eggs for fertilization, but depending on your situation, you could also decide to use donor eggs. Your surrogate will have to prepare for the transfer in the same way you would if you were undergoing IUI or IVF yourself. Fertility drugs would be administered to stimulate the body to accept the pregnancy, and then the transfer would take place. Many women and couples develop close relationships with their surrogates and report having a very positive and fulfilling experience through the pregnancy and birth. If you cannot carry a child yourself, a surrogate could be an option.
Adoption is another way of building your family, and for women and/or couples who can’t conceive in the traditional way, it is a way to fulfill a lifelong personal dream, and give a child a loving home and family that they wouldn’t otherwise have. There are so many adoption agencies through which you can connect with babies, as well as children of all ages. While adoption may not be right for everybody, it is worth exploring to see if it is a good fit for you.
On raising a child that is not “your own”
The stigma of raising a child that is not biologically related to you is a very real thing. Coming to terms with being unable to conceive and carry a child in the usual way can take some time for individuals and for couples. There may be significant grief over unrequited expectations, as well as struggles to breastfeed and even in naming the baby. Even in the case of IVF using donor eggs, many women have reported a sense of loss over the genetic connection, while some express fear that they won’t be able to bond with the child. In almost all of these cases, the worry goes out the window as soon as they hold their bundle of joy for the first time. Parenthood, after all, is its own reward.