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Eggs and Fertility 101

There are many reasons why a woman or couple chooses to use an egg donor in order to have a baby. Infertility, age, genetics, and medical conditions are some of the more common reasons heterosexual couples use an egg donor to start or build families. It’s important to note that even though this article will primarily focus on female factor fertility, male factor fertility is underrepresented in our social understanding of why infertility occurs. According to RESOLVE, The National Infertility Association, infertility statistics in the U.S. can actually be broken down into 1/3 female factor, 1/3 male factor, and 1/3 both female and male or unexplained.

For cases in which female factor fertility is responsible for the inability to conceive, or it is suspected, it can help to understand exactly why a female’s eggs play such a significant role in her ability to conceive without fertility care or third-party reproductive (a donor). Many women are used to hearing that they have a biological clock that is ticking. Although this phrase and insensitivity regarding female choice is unfortunate, there is medical truth here. Your age really does play a role in conception and pregnancy – it’s the reason why women under the age of 35 are advised to wait until they haven’t been able to conceive naturally for a year, whereas woman 35 and older are advised to wait for six months, then reach out to a fertility specialist.

For women, fertility peaks during your 20’s and decreases as you age. The quantity and quality (ovarian reserve) of your eggs are both affected by your age, and 35 is considered to be a woman’s “fertility cliff.” This is another unfortunate and perhaps misleading phrase, as there is no real drop-off after this cliff. You will not cease to be fertile after blowing out the candles on your 35th birthday, but age 35 is the around the time when fertility specialists agree that it can become more difficult to conceive on your own. For women whose age plays a role in having a lower ovarian reserve, an egg donor can be used.

Each month, one egg (ovum) is produced during your menstrual cycle. This one egg has a journey involving many parts of your body that all need to function in a certain way in order for it to meet sperm and create an embryo. For women who have decided to use an egg donor, you already likely know the reason for this decision. Perhaps ovarian reserve is responsible, or a medical condition. Perhaps your family has a history of a genetic condition you do not wish to pass on to your children. Regardless of your motivation, egg donation offers women who face the difficult decision to use another woman’s eggs are given the opportunity to have a child they may not have otherwise been able to have.

Related Topics: Egg quality