Egg Donation Process for Recipients

The UCSF Ovum Donor Program helps over 100 couples become parents each year. The process of having a baby through ovum donation may seem complicated, but our experienced doctors, nurses and counselors will guide you through the process step-by-step.

The Ovum Donation Process


The first step is an evaluation with one of our reproductive endocrinologists, who will discuss your treatment options and help you understand all aspects of the options available. If you decide to proceed with a donor ovum cycle, your doctor will tell you what you need to do to prepare. Your doctor will also perform a medical evaluation and physical examination to ensure your health wouldn't be jeopardized by pregnancy.

Cycle Preparation

To optimize the chances of success, your doctor will order several tests to identify and correct any abnormalities that could interfere with fertilization or implantation. These include a detailed semen analysis, a saline sonogram of the uterus and basic blood tests evaluating blood count, blood type and thyroid function. We also require that you're up to date on recommended health screenings, such as the Pap smear and, for women over 40, mammogram.

Though women achieve high success rates with egg donation throughout their 40s, the risks during pregnancy increase as women approach age 50. If you're 45 or older, we require additional testing to ensure you begin pregnancy in optimal physical condition. This testing includes a screen for diabetes, an EKG for your heart and clearance by a perinatologist, an obstetrician who specializes in high-risk pregnancies.

As part of your preparation, you will meet with our psychologist to discuss your plans for egg donation and to review the various decisions you will face now and in the future, should you have a child from egg donation.

Selection of Donor

Choosing a donor is an important step in the process, and a uniquely personal decision. We have several resources, including a psychologist with expertise in fertility and family building, to assist you.

You have the option of choosing a donor from the UCSF Center for Reproductive Health in-house donor pool, or from an outside agency. You may also have a known donor, such as a relative, friend or acquaintance, who you'd like to work with. Your reproductive endocrinologist can help you determine if your known donor is a good candidate.

If you're working with our in-house donor pool, our ovum donor coordinator will arrange a time for you to view donor profiles. You'll have access to information about the donor's background, medical history, educational level and family history. You'll also have the option of viewing photographs of the donors. Our in-house donors have undergone extensive screening, and we'll discuss any relevant findings from the screening process, including genetic screening and testing, mental health screening, infectious disease results and physical findings.

Once you've chosen a donor, the donor coordinator will confirm that she's free to go through the egg donation process during the time period requested. Then, information about your donor will be given to your doctor and nurse coordinator and your cycles will be synchronized.

If you select a donor from an outside agency, the agency will send information about the donor to our office for cycle coordination.

For more information, see our FAQ about how donors are screened and selected.


The donor and recipient's cycles must be synchronized so that the recipient's uterine lining will be ready for implantation when the donor's eggs are retrieved and fertilized. This is usually accomplished by administering birth control pills.

When the cycles are synchronized, the donor takes medications to stimulate the growth and maturation of a group of eggs. She's then monitored by ultrasound and blood tests for 10 to 14 days, until the eggs are ready to be retrieved. Meanwhile, you will be taking different medication to prepare your uterine lining for implantation of the embryos.

Egg retrieval and Embryo Transfer

Once the donor's eggs reach maturity, an egg retrieval is scheduled. Your partner or sperm donor will provide a sperm sample on the day of the egg retrieval for insemination of the eggs. When the embryos reach the proper stage for transfer — usually day three — you will return to the clinic for transfer to your uterus.

We typically recommend transferring one or two embryos from donor cycles. The decision of how many embryos to transfer will be discussed in detail with you by your doctor. The transfer of a single embryo reduces the risk of twins. Additional high-quality embryos from the cycle can be frozen and preserved to use at another time.

Deciding to Use Ovum Donation

Donor ovum can be a wonderful way for couples who can't conceive on their own to become parents. Nevertheless, deciding to pursue it can be a difficult process. Patients often come to this decision over time, after thinking hard about what becoming parents really means to them. Couples may consider other options, including adoption or not having children. Our psychologist is available to help you work through your thoughts and feelings about your various options.


Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.