When Enough is Enough...
By Francis Polansky, M.D.
It is hard to stop trying to get pregnant. We, humans, have a very strong instinct to procreate with our own eggs and sperm.
Of the three major causes of infertility (egg quality, sperm quality, Fallopian tubes function), In Vitro Fertilization bypasses the Fallopian tubes altogether, it almost always corrects for male infertility, but it cannot improve one's egg quality.
A "biologically perfect" egg fertilized by a “biologically perfect” sperm is needed for the creation of a “biologically perfect" embryo, which can not only implant but also continue to develop into a baby. Most human eggs and sperm and thus most human embryos are less than "biologically perfect" and cannot result in a live birth.
Young, fertile women have "biologically perfect" eggs within their ovaries, but these eggs start to gradually disappear around the age of 32 to 33.
Most women forty and older no longer have "biologically perfect" eggs. Some do. There can be a discrepancy between the chronological age of a woman and the "biological age" of her ovaries. There are women older than forty conceiving on their own, as exceptions, but also women much younger than forty who can no longer conceive successfully with their own eggs. Whether for such young women, this is an inherited condition or a result of one's lifestyle, is not known.
It can take many years of fertility tests and unsuccessful treatments to arrive at the conclusion that a successful pregnancy with one's own eggs is not going to happen. This can be a very painful revelation. Yet, there is a possible way out: Donor Egg IVF.
Before you say, "Me? Never!" hear me out. Yes, the baby would get one set of genes from the dad and another from an egg donor, but you, mom carrying the pregnancy, would make that baby your very own. There is a whole new science of epigenetics that describes how our environment modifies the gene expressions and possibly the genes themselves.
The epigenetic marks transmitted from the mother are a fine-tuned mechanism to control gene activation during the complex process of early embryogenesis. And this maternal influence continues throughout the pregnancy. You will imprint yourself onto the baby! By the time your son or daughter is born, that baby will be biologically yours.
There are several ways how to go about using donor eggs. If you are lucky enough to have a sister, a cousin, or a niece who is willing to donate eggs for you, you may be able to preserve your "blood link".
Most women do not have anyone as a possible egg donor within their extended family. They will end up choosing between using a living egg donor (typically anonymous) from an egg donor agency and purchasing frozen donor eggs from an egg bank.
Either way, the eggs would be fertilized with the partner's sperm to create embryos, and your endometrial lining would be prepared to receive and support the embryos. This is a quick and straightforward treatment.
If you succeed and get pregnant, by the time your treatment at a fertility clinic is finished, you are off all medications, the pregnancy is taking care of itself, and no one can tell it from a pregnancy conceived at home on your own.
Let me finish by listing all the advantages of the Donor Egg IVF treatment:
- You will likely have a very high probability of success: 50+%.
- You will experience the pregnancy, take care of the baby, and make it your own.
- Once your treatment is over in a fertility clinic, nobody, including your obstetrician, needs to know how you conceived.
- You will experience the labor and delivery of your child!
- Your name as the child's mother will go on the birth certificate.
- It will be up to you (as a couple) whether you share with the child or your family members how you conceived.
And one more very important piece of information: Your uterus "does not grow old". There is no biological need to be rushing into using donor eggs, and you should probably not do it until and unless both you and your partner feel comfortable conceiving with somebody else's eggs.