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How to Find An Egg Donor: A Guide for Gay Men Pursuing Surrogacy

An LGBTQ+ family-building expert breaks down the process of finding the right egg donor for your surrogacy journey.

April 24th, 2024 | 12 min. read

By Mark Leondires, MD

Choosing an egg donor is one of the first big decisions you'll need to make as a dad-to-be pursuing surrogacy. In this guide, we provide a comprehensive overview of the emotional, medical, and legal aspects to help you navigate the process of finding an ideal egg donor.

In this article:

The Basics of Egg Donation 

Egg donation is a process where a woman donates her eggs specifically for the purposes of assisted reproduction (i.e. to help an individual or couple build their family). This special person will contribute their genes to 50 percent of your future child’s genetic makeup.

For same-sex cisgender male couples, donated eggs can be fertilized with one or both partners' sperm via in vitro fertilization (IVF), depending on the couple's preferences and current fertility. The resulting embryos can then be transferred to a gestational carrier (commonly referred to as a surrogate).

If you are embarking on a surrogacy journey as a single dad by choice, the process will remain largely the same - with the exception of not having to decide which partner's sperm to use during IVF!

Egg Donor Screening

Most egg donors are young women between the ages of 21 and 30, with at least a high school degree, a body mass index (BMI) under 30, and a healthy lifestyle.

Candidates must undergo a rigorous screening process to become a potential egg donor, which involves comprehensive psychological and medical health screening, a background check, and a consultation with a medical professional.

Gestational Surrogacy 101

For most hopeful dads-to-be who choose to grow their family through IVF and surrogacy, this journey will involve the help of an egg donor. The donor's eggs are retrieved at a fertility clinic, then combined with sperm from one or both partners in an IVF laboratory to create embryos.

Because of this, your egg donor is genetically linked to your child - as opposed to your gestational carrier (often referred to simply as a surrogate), who carries the pregnancy and delivers your baby, but isn't genetically linked.

Gestational vs. Traditional Surrogacy

The main difference between these two types of surrogacy is the genetic connection between a surrogate and the baby they are carrying.

With gestational surrogacy (the modern, commonly practiced form), the surrogate has no genetic link to the baby, while traditional surrogacy requires the surrogate to also act as the egg donor (thus creating a genetic connection with the baby).

Does the "perfect" egg donor exist?

What makes an egg donor right for a family is inherently subjective and varies greatly depending on the priorities, values, and desires of the intended parents. While one couple might prioritize certain genetic traits or educational backgrounds, another might focus more on the donor's health history or personal interests. 

Choosing the right donor is more about aligning expectations with reality than finding that "perfect" person who checks off every box on your wishlist. Here's why:

Personal Priorities and Values

For some, the perfect donor may share similar physical traits, cultural background, or intellectual interests with the intended parents, fostering a sense of continuity in the family lineage. For others, the health and medical history of the donor takes precedence, prioritizing the future child's potential well-being above all else.

Genetic Considerations

From a medical or genetic standpoint, a "perfect" donor might be someone who has a clean bill of health, no history of inheritable diseases, and a successful track record of donations (if applicable). However, even with thorough screenings, there is always an element of unpredictability in genetics that can render the notion of perfection elusive.

Emotional and Psychological Compatibility

Some intended parents seek an emotional or psychological connection with the donor, even if it's just through reading their profile or a letter. They might look for someone who shares their values, dreams, or has a personality that resonates with them.

This emotional compatibility can be just as important as any physical or genetic criteria.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

The "perfect" donor also aligns with the intended parents’ legal and ethical standards.

This means having clear, mutually agreed-upon contracts that respect the rights and responsibilities of all parties involved. Ethical considerations, such as the donor's autonomy and the welfare of the child, play a crucial role in this context.

Reality Check: Flexibility and Openness

The search for the perfect egg donor often requires a balance between ideal traits and the reality of human complexity.

Flexibility and openness are vital, as rigid criteria can limit options and prolong the search. Embracing the uniqueness of each donor and focusing on the ultimate goal of building a family can guide intended parents toward a fulfilling choice.

The Role of Professional Guidance

Fertility clinics and egg donor agencies (sometimes referred to as "egg banks") can provide valuable assistance in navigating these complex considerations.

These family-building professionals are experts in matching donors with intended parents based on a comprehensive understanding of both parties' needs and preferences. Their experience can help temper the quest for perfection with a realistic and compassionate approach.

A Lifelong Connection

No matter what you're looking for, the bottom line is this: the donor you choose will be a part of your future child's story forever.

Rather than seeking an unattainable ideal, focus on what matters most to you and your partner, be open to different possibilities, and rely on professional guidance to lead you to the donor who is right for your unique journey.

Donor Conception 101

Get our free Donor Conception Guide to learn more about the possibilities of using donor eggs, sperm, embryos, and/or working with a gestational carrier.

Get My Guide

3 Questions to Ask Before Your Search Begins

The pathway to parenthood can be overwhelming, whether you’re at the start of your surrogacy journey or a few steps into the family-building process. Let's discuss three key questions to consider as you move forward with finding your egg donor. 

1. Do you understand the legal aspect?

Before embarking on your journey, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the legal process for surrogacy and egg donation in your country or state. Laws vary widely, and what’s permissible in one region might be restricted in another. 

2. Are you financially prepared?

It's important to be prepared for the financial commitment that comes along with surrogacy.

The process of egg donation and surrogacy can be expensive, as you will be covering a variety of costs for the egg donor, fertility treatments, and the gestational carrier - as well as agency fees, legal costs, and other financial components.

Note: Feeling overwhelmed and wondering how you will be able to afford surrogacy? You don't need to have all the answers right now! There are many different experts, advocates, financial grants, and other support that can help make it more manageable.

3. Do you feel emotionally ready?

It's important to check in with your partner (if they're on this journey with you) and decide if you are both emotionally prepared to start the surrogacy process. Counseling can be beneficial to navigate the complex emotions and logistical challenges that may arise throughout your experience.

Where to Find An Egg Donor

Many dads-to-be feel overwhelmed by this part of the process - but don’t worry! Your fertility clinic care team should always be on hand to help you navigate this important choice, and will also complete some of your donor's screening.

Intended parents can match with an egg donor in a few different ways:

1) In-House Egg Donor Program

This is a program linked to your chosen clinic, and the option that is often the most expeditious and cost-effective, as the donors may have already completed the necessary screening required by your clinic.

One potential drawback to this kind of program is that there may be a smaller group of donors to choose from. If you have a particular ethnic background or physical trait that you’re hoping to find, this might not be the best choice for you.

2) Egg Donor Agency

This is an independent entity that recruits, pre-screens, and presents you with appropriate egg donor candidates. A donor agency may be a great option for you if you are searching for particular physical characteristics (i.e. red hair and green eyes).

However, keep in mind that there may be a fee to use the donor agency.

Note: Your clinic may have different guidelines and screening requirements for egg donors than this agency, so there may be additional testing costs incurred.

3) Known Donor

A known donor can be a family member or friend, and is typically someone already in the intended parents' lives before they start their family-building journey. This process may also be referred to as 'directed donation'.

While many hopeful parents think that this must be the easiest and most cost-effective way to expand their family, there are many legal, screening, and mental health considerations to consider before going this route.

With so many places to look to find this special person, how should you narrow down your search? Let's talk about what to consider as you move forward with the matching process.

How to Choose Your Ideal Egg Donor

There are many important factors to consider when searching for the right egg donor for your surrogacy journey, including the following:

Family History

Because your future child will be inheriting the egg donor’s genes as well as yours, so it's important to take your potential donor's family tree into account. Many genetic conditions, ranging from cystic fibrosis to sickle cell anemia, can be inherited.

Knowing the family history allows for specific genetic testing if there's a suspected risk of inheritable conditions. It can also reveal patterns of health issues that might not be apparent in the donor's health alone, but could influence your future child's genetic predispositions.

Your fertility clinic will help you determine whether you and a potential donor carry the same genetic traits for diseases or disorders. Here at Illume Fertility, we have a full in-house genetic counseling team to help intended parents navigate complex conversations around genetic compatibility.

Medical History

An egg donor's medical history is a cornerstone of the egg donation process, with the potential to significantly impact the health and well-being of both your future child and your gestational carrier (surrogate).

Information about an egg donor's reproductive health, including any history of fertility issues, pregnancy complications, or menstrual irregularities, is crucial. These factors can influence the success rates of IVF procedures and the development of an embryo.

Mental Health History

The psychological well-being of the donor is just as important as their physical health.

Mental health conditions can be hereditary, and understanding the donor's mental health history, including any treatments or medications, is important for assessing potential risks to a future child.

Donor Qualities

When choosing an egg donor, you will consider factors such as physical traits, health history, educational background, and any other characteristics important to you. Many couples also consider the donor’s motivations and personality through their profiles or letters (if available).

Each hopeful dad-to-be will search for a unique set of characteristics. These may include:

  • The donor's ethnicity 
  • Certain likes or dislikes
  • Certain skill sets
  • Level of education

Remember: Your child will inherit the physical traits of not just your donor, but your donor’s whole family! If you’re looking for specific physical markers such as height or dark versus light hair, make sure that your donor isn’t the only one in her family who has that characteristic.

Who can help me/us make this decision?

All of the above factors (and many more) will come into play when choosing an egg donor.

Speaking with a psychologist or social worker who has helped other LGBTQ+ parents-to-be navigate through the donor selection process can be helpful. It's important to explore your (and your partner's) feelings about this decision, as they can be quite complicated.

Some couples may need to find a way to make a decision, especially when they have slightly (or even vastly) different priorities. For other couples, choosing an egg donor is simple and straightforward. Every situation is unique.

Meet Adeel & Anthony

A gay couple shares their surrogacy experience and what's it has been like to raise their twins, Anya & Adam, in a family with two dads. 

Follow Their Journey

The Why of Choosing Your Egg Donor

While all of the aforementioned factors are crucial when choosing your donor, the following may be the most important point for you and your partner when you think about life with your future child.

With the advent of genetic testing and mainstream DNA analysis kits (think: 23andMe), the era of "anonymous" donors has come to a close. You should know that your future child will almost certainly be able to find out all about their genetic background, as technology continues to advance - even if you decide to choose an anonymous donor.

More parents-to-be are now opting for known egg donors who are open to future contact with the child (or children) who result from their donated eggs. This is a very important conversation to have with your partner (and/or with a counselor), since it will impact your child's life forever.

Note: You may also want to explore the perspectives of donor conceived adults, who share their experiences through organizations such as Donor Conceived Community.

Looking Towards the Future

When choosing your donor, think about the things you want to be able to tell your child about their conception story and why you made this choice. Rather than focusing solely on physical characteristics, you may want to tell your child that you connected with specific hobbies or interests listed in their donor’s profile.

Perhaps you felt connected to them because of a shared cultural heritage, or a similar family structure. Perhaps you use a known donor, and in the future, you’re able to tell your child about the special gift that this person gave you.

No matter how you find your egg donor, always trust your intuition, keep an open mind, and take the guidance of experienced family-building professionals into account as you navigate this important step towards parenthood.

Ready to find your egg donor?

Reach out to our team for more information on Illume Fertility's egg donor database or to schedule a surrogacy consultation with an expert.

Finding an egg donor is a critical and complex step which involves careful consideration, planning, and emotional readiness. By taking the time to understand the process, consider all options for finding a donor, and address legal, medical, and emotional aspects, you can enter into this remarkable journey towards parenthood with confidence.

Remember, every family’s journey is unique. What matters most in this process is the love, care, and commitment you’re ready to offer as intended parents. Finding the right egg donor to help you build your future family is just the beginning. 

Mark Leondires, MD

Dr. Mark P. Leondires is Medical Director and Partner in reproductive endocrinology at Illume Fertility and is board-certified in both Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility.

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