A recent study from Emory University School of Medicine has shown that over the last 10 years the number of donor egg cycles performed in IVF has increased significantly and the birth outcomes have also improved. The study used data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention’s National Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Surveillance System (NASS). IVF clinics are mandated by federal law to report their data to this system on a yearly basis. It has become more socially acceptable in the U.S. to use donor eggs when battling infertility problems, especially for reproductively older women. Use of donor oocytes is an increasingly common treatment for infertile women with problems with egg quality or quantity (diminished ovarian reserve). Recipients of donor eggs are often over age 38 years, but can include much younger women as well.
The annual number of donor oocyte cycles performed in the United States increased from 10,801 in 2000 to 18,306 in 2010, the study found. They also found that the average age remained stable at 28 years for donors and 41 years for recipients. The recipient’s age was not associated with likelihood of good perinatal outcome. This means that even women in their late 40’s can have healthy babies with egg donation. In addition, the study showed that good perinatal outcomes—a single live‐born infant delivered at 37 weeks or later weighing 5.5 pounds or more—increased from 18.5 percent to 24.4 percent.
The study examined one important safety consideration for recipients and their babies: the number of embryos placed in each prospective mother’s womb. Since risks to both mother and babies increase with multiple fetuses, it is now recommended that patients and doctors use no more than two embryos and consider using a single embryo when the donor is under age 35. In 2000, single embryos were used less than 1% of the time; in 2010, they were used in 14.5% of cases, the study found. This reflects our increasing knowledge that pregnancies with one baby are inherently safer than multiple gestations. If the egg donor cycle produces several embryos, improved techniques for storing frozen embryos now allow very high pregnancy rates with frozen embryo transfer. This permits more single embryo transfers to occur which greatly increases pregnancy and perinatal safety for mother and baby.