Season 1, Episode 17

The IVF Donor Egg Cycle Conversation with Dr. Arieyu Zhang

When is it a good time to consider donor egg cycles over traditional IVF? Dr. Arieyu Zhang has some answers for us in this week’s episode.

Things like early menopause, health issues, same-sex couples, or failed IVF treatments are all reasons why using donor eggs over IVF, or more traditional fertility treatments might be recommended. In this episode, we’ll cover the process of going through donor egg cycles, the success rate of donor eggs, finding support through the decision, and the overall benefits of trying this method.

The fertility journey can be such a challenge, and how to approach it can be a difficult decision for families. But when it’s all done, and you have your baby, the little things like how it happened won’t be as important as having a healthy child — we’re just here to give you the best tools to get there safely.

 

 

Key Topics/Takeaways:

-Approaching the donor egg conversation [2:27]

-Why donor eggs? [6:49]

-Fertility treatment counseling and support  [9:18]

-Donor egg cycle success rates [13:25]

-How are donors screened? [16:12]

-Why babies born from donor eggs  have the best of both worlds [19:53]

-Pregnancy and the epigenetic imprint on your child [23:59]

-Donor egg cycle length [26:03]

-Choosing your donor [28:03]

-How to proceed with a known donor [32:03]

Watch the Episode

Read This Episode Transcript

Lorne Brown:

By listening to the Conscious Fertility Podcast, you agree to not use this podcast as medical advice to treat any medical condition in either yourself or others. Consult your own physician or healthcare provider for any medical issues that you may be having. This entire disclaimer also applies to any guest or contributors to the podcast. Welcome to Conscious Fertility, the show that listens to all of your fertility questions so that you can move from fear and suffering to peace of mind and joy. My name is Lorne Brown. I’m a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine and a clinical hypnotherapist. I’m on a mission to explore all the paths to peak fertility and joyful living. It’s time to learn how to be and receive so that you can create life on purpose.

Today on the Conscious Fertility Podcast we’re going to be talking about donor eggs and donor eggs cycles with Dr. Arieyu Zhang. I want to do a little introduction. I know Arieyu well because she’s over at Olive Fertility Clinic here in Vancouver, BC so Acubalance and Olive, we have this nice integrative relationship for our patients. But Dr. Zhang is a reproductive endocrinologist and an infertility specialist. She was born in Beijing, China and grew up in Ottawa, Canada. And Dr. Zhang received her medical degree from the University of Calgary, then went on to residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of British Columbia here in Vancouver. She then completed her fellowship in reproductive endocrinology in fertility at the University of Ottawa. She’s a registered sonographer in obstetrical and gynecology ultrasound with the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography. She’s also a clinical assistant professor at UBC and spends much of her time teaching fellows and residents.

She also sits on the REI Committee of the Society of OBGYNs of Canada helping develop national practice guidelines. And she also is a peer reviewer for reproductive endocrinology infertility journals. And she has a research background in fertility and psychology, which is why she’s a great fit for our conscious fertility topics today. And she understands the physiological impact of infertility on her patients, which I believe makes her a great asset in the field of fertility having that background. And obviously she’s committed to optimizing pregnancy rates while reducing treatment burden. And today we’re going to talk about donor egg cycles. And Arieyu, I was just wondering, how do you even breach this topic when you have to tell patients or advise patients about doing a donor egg cycle? Because I imagine most of them are really set on using their own eggs. So how does that conversation come up and who is the population that that this is being recommended for?

Arieyu Zhang:

First off, thank you, Lorne, for the lovely introduction and for inviting me to this podcast. That’s a great question. There’s lots of potential candidates for donor egg. In some cases, it’s a very clear reason why someone might need donor egg, and so the conversation might go a little bit easier on how to broach it. And sometimes patients already know coming into the consultation that they need donor egg. For example, if a patient has gone through early menopause, for example, and has no more periods and it’s very clear that they need donor eggs to conceive. And a lot of them have seen a gynecologist and were previously counseled on that too. Other times it’s definitely challenging as you say, as it’s not a couple’s first intention to conceive their family through donor eggs. I think for many people, their view is they want their own biological material and their own genetics to be carried forward to their offspring.

So it is a bit more of a challenging conversation. A lot of the time, the person with ovaries in the relationship is older and they don’t have many eggs left or perhaps the eggs are poor quality or sometimes they’ve had an unsuccessful IVF cycle and it’s always a very sensitive conversation. Some of it involves seeing where they’re at in terms of how they see their family and how aggressive they want to pursue treatment. And some of it is getting a sense of, do you want to a child using a fertility treatment that has the highest success rates possible? And in many situations, that is using donor egg. But many other patients don’t want to consider using donor egg. They want to do everything they can using their own eggs but are not ready or will never be ready for donor eggs. So a lot of it is getting a sense of where the patient is coming from, what they’re interested in in terms of fertility treatments and options.

Lorne Brown:

And when they come to you, and let’s say they’re not ready for donor egg cycle, because it seems like there is a process, people have to go through the process. Very few. I mean there’s always the exception. Very few come in saying I’m ready and wanting to use donor egg cycles. If somebody is 40 and they’ve had repeated unsuccessful cycles, would you guys entertain and still allow people to continue to try with their own eggs or is there like now, no, you have to do donor eggs?

Arieyu Zhang:

It’s definitely a collaborative decision, because sometimes us as physicians, we don’t know. Perhaps they will achieve success at some point but it might require many, many cycles. And I wish I had a crystal ball. And sometimes success may come just with continued persistence. But in some cases, it is a little bit more clear cut as to when it’s no longer recommended to do IVF with your own eggs.

Lorne Brown:

Yeah. So is there like no, you have to do donor eggs? Or you will allow people to come to that place? I call it sometimes they need to find their closure so they may need one or two more cycles. So if they have infinite money and time, because money sometimes is the reason people will move into donor egg because they want to start that family now, and you can bring it up to them. You can either do another cycle with your own eggs, we may not get what you want, or we can move into donor egg where you have a higher success rate. But if money is infinite or IVF was free, in your practice, while you’re recommending donor egg, do you allow them to find their way to that closure so they’re going into donor egg ready knowing they’ve done everything they can?

Arieyu Zhang:

For sure, yeah, I would let them do another cycle. There’s certain times where I would tell them, look, if you go ahead with another cycle with your own eggs, it’s almost a certainty that the same thing will happen. But it’s not always the case. So if they’re just not ready for donor egg, then you’re just not ready. And so it’s always a decision that we make together based on where the patient’s at.

Lorne Brown:

Ari, can you kind of list just what are the common conditions that you see that you’re like, okay, maybe it’s time to move towards donor egg, and then we can talk a little bit more about the process and success rate that’s involved?

Arieyu Zhang:

I guess to finish answering your question, certainly in many situations where the patient is not quite ready for donor egg and they want to do more cycles of IVF, most of the time I think it makes sense. It’s worthwhile to try. But to add to that, there is a population of patients, particularly in women over 43, 44, where we know biologically that the vast majority of the eggs and the ovaries are abnormal and will not lead to a successful pregnancy where it’s a bit more of a stronger recommendation to go towards donor eggs. Certainly the chance of having a baby from one’s own eggs past the age of 45, 46 is exceedingly low and it’s extremely rare that IVF would be successful in that situation. So when a patient comes in and they’re in their mid or late 40s, then often the recommendation would be to go straight to donor egg.

Lorne Brown:

And then some of the things that are just not so much biological based on age or quality, but if you have two men, you have a gay couple, they’ll often use one of the men’s sperm and then they’ll use a donor egg, I’m assuming?

Arieyu Zhang:

That’s exactly it. Yeah. So there’s lots of reasons why someone might consider donor eggs. So if no one in the partnership has ovaries with eggs, such as same sex male couples, they need to use an egg donor. If the person has premature ovarian insufficiency and they’ve gone into early menopause, they would need an egg donor. Of course, if patients are older, they’ve tried IVF with their own eggs and that was unsuccessful. Those are the three main categories of people who might need donor eggs.

Lorne Brown:

And you guys do, I know, some IVF related cancer treatments. So some women after their cancer treatments also may need donor eggs based on the treatment for the cancer if it damages the egg quality I’m assuming?

Arieyu Zhang:

Exactly. There’s chemotherapy and radiation that can be toxic to the eggs and put people at risk of earlier menopause. And so some people have already come to us, already done that treatment, and we find that they have no eggs left to be able to have a successful IVF cycle and then they consider donor eggs as well.

Lorne Brown:

And because that biological drive to want to use your own eggs, what kind of support do you guys offer to the psychological side of it for helping them to come to terms with, okay, I’m going to have my family but it may not be exactly how I thought I would get there? Is there support that you guys that’s available to these men and women to help them on this journey as they come to terms with using donor eggs in their IVF process?

Arieyu Zhang:

We do and it’s not actually something that we just offer, but it’s actually a requirement by Health Canada that anyone who’s considering using donor eggs or donor sperm or surrogates, any kind of third party reproduction requires that the person, the intended parents seek counseling. So it’s not a test, it’s not kind of a checkbox, but it’s more of a conversation for the patient to be had with a counselor. I think they ask a lot of good questions and get their concerns and questions addressed. And so, we require that everyone sees a counselor and we also offer support groups at Olive for patients and recommend other things like mindfulness for fertility for patients and there’s resources for that too.

Lorne Brown:

Do you ever see anybody that has regrets? Because it’s been my experience that it takes a lot of energy and process mentally to come to terms to do donor eggs. And then once they’ve made that decision and they do the donor eggs cycle and they get a baby, I’ve only heard one regret. This is the only regret in my 20 plus years of practice is that I can’t believe I wasted so much time doing all these IVF cycles. I could be holding this baby sooner. So it’s a good regret. They love their baby so much that they just wish they had brought this baby to life even sooner than they had.

Arieyu Zhang:

I suppose that’s a good regret to have. I personally haven’t seen the opposite regret where they have a baby and they regret not trying more with their own eggs. I do have instances where a patient was kind of mentally accepting of donor eggs because she was a bit older and single and said, well, I know that when I look into my baby’s eyes it will be mine and I know that, okay, throughout whatever I’ve done, whether my own eggs or donor eggs, I was waiting for you. It was just right. It’s not so much where the egg came from but once she has her baby, that would be it. And also I see women too who maybe have already had a child who are now older contemplating their second baby. And, of course they’re older and their eggs are older and many people don’t want to pursue donor eggs because they feel, okay, I don’t want to be too aggressive with this if I don’t have a baby.

I already have have one, it’s okay, I’ll leave it at that. But some still want to pursue having that second child and in many cases, donor eggs would give them the highest chance of that. And I had patients who did donor egg for their second baby and haven’t heard any regrets from them. And even some of them expressed doubt that they would have the same kind of bond compared to when they were using their own biological eggs. But one patient said that, I had doubts, but definitely don’t have any issues bonding and it was all as if she had delivered her own biological child.

Lorne Brown:

It seems like we have those shared experiences, because a lot of the women I see, some of them struggle going into the donor egg, but none of them in my practice have that doubt or regret after. Like you said, they look in their baby’s eyes and it’s their baby they love. It just feels right. It’s good to know for women that are listening because some of them are thinking about this now and they’re having that same thought. And so I guess that’s to be expected. That’s what all the other women have gone before you, a lot of them struggled to come to that place. It really was soul searching, a lot of support counseling and then when they went through it, the process, and they get to hold their baby through the donor cycle, thus far, no regrets.

They all, it’s their baby, 100%, all them. You talked about the success rate. What is the success rate? If somebody’s trying on their own in their prime, I was told that it’s 20, 30% every cycle in your prime. What is it with donor egg cycles? What are you guys seeing using donor egg cycles? What’s kind of the success rate that’s out there? Because my understanding, this is much higher than their typical using your own eggs in your prime naturally.

Arieyu Zhang:

For sure. Well, when you’re using donor eggs, so you’ve already created an embryo from that donor’s eggs with the sperm. So if you’ve already created an embryo from a donor egg, the success rate of that embryo is roughly 60 to 65% pregnancy rates, and the risk of miscarriage is equivalent to that of the egg donor, the age of the egg donor, which is they’re usually in their 20s, so you have about a 10% risk of miscarriage. And that’s per embryo. And often with these donor egg programs, they offer assured refund structures where they offer essentially a live birth or you get all of your financial commitment refunded to you, in which case, that donor egg can have up to 100% success rates. You just keep doing embryo transfers until you have a baby.

Lorne Brown:

Wow. So that’s nice to know that you guys have that prior program where there’s that risk sharing. So what I heard is they can continue going until they have a live birth, and if they don’t, then the financial part at least is reimbursed.

Arieyu Zhang:

Exactly. And that’s really nice to know that despite the huge financial commitment, there is a guarantee at the end of it that they will bring home a baby. And so that’s really nice to know that after all the uncertainty of all these multiple IVF cycles with your own eggs, that there is a treatment that can actually offer a guarantee.

Lorne Brown:

And that must hopefully give some confidence that the success rate must be pretty good if they’re willing to do that. So, that’s good.

Arieyu Zhang:

Yeah, they would not be interested in having that guarantee if it did not work well for them.

Lorne Brown:

And that’s why moving towards a donor egg, like somebody just trying naturally in their prime, in their late 20s, in their early 20s, is a 20 to 30% each cycle and you’re saying 60% plus. So donor egg, somebody’s looking for their best chance, highest chance of having a child, especially at any age. But in your 40s and beyond, then donor egg really gives you an opportunity to grow your family.

Arieyu Zhang:

Exactly.

Lorne Brown:

What’s the process then here? And let’s talk about, for our Canadians at least that are going to be listening, because I know every country has their rules, but we know the Canadian rules. Back in the day, my early 2000s when I was practicing, the donor eggs were like, they had to kind of sink the recipient, the woman that’s going to receive the embryos with the donor in the states. It was kind of really bizarre how this was happening back in the day and it’s changed now at the time of this recording. So can you walk us through how people get to do donor eggs? It sounds like it’s almost like the dating app where they can look at donors and kind of choose certain characteristics and qualities. So how is this process working? How do they get to find out their donor? And what about ethnicity? Is there ways to, if people want the child to look similar to them, right? So sometimes people want to choose ethnicity. So can you walk us through the process of what a woman and or a man couple would be doing through a donor egg process?

Arieyu Zhang:

For sure. Even to backtrack, what you’re referring to are the anonymous egg donation programs where there’s banks of hundreds of donors out there with, you’re right, their ethnicity, age, even educational background, their hobbies, full profiles. So that’s all available and there’s various egg banks, especially in Canada, that mainly work with. The other way is to go with someone that you know, such as a friend or a family member, who essentially gifts you her eggs and goes through the process of IVF, obtains the eggs that way, and then create embryos there with the sperm of choice.

So kind of two routes, known and anonymous, which is now called non-identified egg donation. And how the non-identified egg donation works is people receive information on the donor egg companies, they each have their own egg banks, they have certain criteria that the patient is looking for. So they essentially choose one. And often all the egg donors are screened for genetic diseases and that is matched against the profile of the sperm provider to make sure that there’s no rare genetic condition that both the egg and sperm carry. So there’s genetic screening involved and really it’s a very personal decision how that person, how the person or the couple picks their egg donor.

Lorne Brown:

And at all of, do you have that kind of set up, or do you get them in touch with the donor aid company?

Arieyu Zhang:

Exactly. We have a nurse coordinator who gives the patient the information about the donor egg companies and then the patient seeks out the companies directly and picks an egg donor through their websites.

Lorne Brown:

And then the difference between doing an IVF with your own eggs and a donor egg cycle is for the recipient. It’s like a frozen embryo transfer for her. She’s just being, her line is being prepared to receive the embryo, and the embryo is being created in your lab. So you take the donor egg and then the sperm of her choice, create the embryo in the lab, and then that gets transferred.

Arieyu Zhang:

Exactly. So depending on which donor egg company you work with, the company will either ship us frozen eggs, then we thaw them in our lab, fertilize them with the sperm, create the embryos and freeze them. Or we ship the company the frozen sperm and they create the embryos in whichever lab it is, often the States, create the embryos there and freeze them and ship them to Olive. So either we receive the frozen eggs or we receive the frozen embryos. And generally we do frozen embryo transfer cycles. So whatever embryos are created from those frozen thawed eggs, then there’s no synchronization involved, we just freeze them then we know what we have, and whenever it’s most convenient for the patient and her menstrual cycle, we then plan that frozen embryo transfer.

Lorne Brown:

And so from the individual’s perspective, it’s like they’re doing a frozen embryo transfer.

Arieyu Zhang:

Exactly.

Lorne Brown:

Just the same way. It’s interesting because I’m thinking of my colleague, Randy Lewis, back in, I think it was around 2005, this goes way back, Arieyu, but 2005 to 2008ish. But she was sharing about how curious she was about these donor egg cycle babies and she came from the place of we’re young, physically young, but spiritually mature when we have our kids. And so we have these kids and we’re physically strong, we can abuse our body and we have these babies but we really don’t have our life in order. We’re trying to figure out who we are, we’re trying to establish ourselves. Or if you conceive later in life, like you’re in your late 30s or early 40s, you’re spiritually mature but physically, as she said, there’s a lot of abnormal eggs that just don’t have the physicality.

And so, the child gets the spiritual maturity of being raised by a mother who knows who she is, but physically they might have inherited not such a strong gene pool. And she says the donor babies, the babies from donor egg cycles, get the best of both worlds. They’re getting the physicality from a younger egg and they’re going to be gestated and raised by a woman that has, as she put it, has her shit together. She spiritually should, right? And she said, these kids are going to be really special because they got both the physicality and the spirituality as their environment. I always think about that when I think of women that go through donor cycles, how the start that their children have is pretty cool.

Arieyu Zhang:

Yeah. And the good news with this is the egg ages quite dramatically, particularly past the age of 40. But the uterus doesn’t age in the same way. And that’s why donor egg works so well is that women can conceive and carry a pregnancy and most of them have a healthy pregnancy well into your mid to late 40s. And that’s quite possible, because the uterus is, despite the maturity of us as people, the uterus kind of stays the same age and has its ability to carry a pregnancy to term well into our, we could be frankly menopausal and still do it. So it doesn’t age quite the same way as eggs do. And even though yes there are higher risks of being pregnant at higher ages, the ability to carry a pregnancy is still there.

Lorne Brown:

So the risk, when you talk about the higher risk, the uterus as you’re saying doesn’t seem to age like the ovaries, so the uterus, but it’s more like our liver, our heart, other organs may have issues, kidneys, blood pressure during the pregnancy. So those are the risk factors you’re talking about, I think.

Arieyu Zhang:

Exactly. And pregnancy is kind of like a stress test for the body and as we get older we may not tolerate physical stress as well. Just same in pregnancy. There’s high risk of high blood pressure in pregnancy, developing diabetes, needing a C-section. All of these risks go up gradually as women get older.

Lorne Brown:

And I like, you were talking earlier in our discussion is that these women will go through their process and some of them will continue to try to let them do other cycles and they end up conceiving with their own eggs. So it’s not always it turns out they have to do donor eggs. And it reminds me of patients we’ve seen where a lot of them are like, I’ve been told to do donor eggs, but I’m just not there yet. And they want to have a couple more tries. And we’ve worked with women as well where they’ve gone on to conceive naturally after IVFs, unsuccessful cycles, or just based on their age or their FSHAMH. They’re told their best chance, which is true, best chance is to do donor eggs.

And so there’s still that chance that it may happen with your own eggs. However, as we’re talking today about donor eggs, if you’re looking to start your family as quickly as possible or grow your family and you’re looking for your highest chance and you have certain blood levels, history, age, then donor egg is one of those opportunities that we should be, not that we should be, that we are grateful for that the technology exists, that this demographic can now still grow their families because of this technology that exists and that we’re able to get these donor eggs.

Arieyu Zhang:

A lot of times people balk at the idea of doing donor eggs because the baby would not have their half of the genetics. And for many people, that’s really important. Understandably so. But I always say there is something about not just genetics that you’re contributing, but the epigenetics of the baby. That’s quite important. The way that genes are turned on and off in utero is affected by your lifestyle. How you carry that pregnancy for that long does affect ultimately the health of the baby too. So the fact that you are carrying that baby and being pregnant, that in itself can affect the ultimate life and outcome of that child. So there’s more to it than just contributing your half of the chromosomes.

Lorne Brown:

When you really think about it from the biological side of it, it starts off with just this, an egg cell, that’s all. And then this bean is built, right? So it’s just a blueprint. And the food you eat, the thoughts, the feelings, as you’re calling, the epigenetics, the environment that’s going to turn on and off genes is going to impact this health blueprint of your child. And I always share that, yeah, you’re going to get some genetic code from somebody else, but your baby’s going to have all your neurosis based on how you are on your pregnancy and how you raise your child.

Arieyu Zhang:

Yeah, how you raise your child.

Lorne Brown:

Yeah, you can’t blame the donor. It’s going to be you. So it’s still, like you said, you have great influence on the behaviors and the health of this child. You get to impact it, because again, it started off as one cell that you got donated, then you have your partner’s, the male sperm. Now you have two cells and then it becomes trillions of cells, right? And they need instruction. And we’ve learned now that we’re not necessarily what our genes are, but we’re what our genes express, as you shared with epigenetics.

Arieyu Zhang:

And how it interacts with the environment.

Lorne Brown:

And that’s the Olive Acubalance integration idea too. Because we consider ourselves like the epigenetic doctors, we’re all about the diet, the lifestyle, the emotions, things that are going to help turn on and off genes. And so I like the fact that you’re talking about epigenetics here. If somebody says they’re ready to do donor egg cycles, realistically, what is the time from when somebody says, I’m ready and willing to do a donor egg cycle to grow my family? How long will that take based on there’s so many steps that seems to be involved from going into the embryo transfer stage?

Arieyu Zhang:

Of course, a lot of it depends on how long it takes for the person to choose their egg donor. But if that’s a pretty quick process, the rest is really, number one, you wait, you want to make sure all of your testing is up to date. So most of the time you want to make sure that the uterus is normal. So that usually takes a month or two to do the testing on the uterus. You want to make sure you’ve done your genetic screening. So that’s usually, say the sperm provider does a screening for extended carrier screening for genetic diseases. So that takes about a month to do and a lot of these can happen at the same time. You need to see a counselor, which sometimes takes a couple weeks to coordinate that. Once that’s really done and it can all be done roughly altogether, that takes say a month or two.

Then if a person is going with a donor egg company, you give payment to the company. They have the donor eggs are already frozen and really ready to be shipped as soon as they receive payment and shipment takes a couple of weeks. So you could essentially have the eggs arrive probably within a few months of you deciding to proceed with egg donor if you can choose your donor and see a counselor and to get all your testing done recently quickly. And then once the eggs have arrived, it’s simply picking a date to thaw the eggs, create the embryos. And about a week after that, you would know how many embryos you have available to transfer. Once you have the embryo, it’s usually lining that up with the uterus,. You wait for the period to come and then can do the embryo transfer roughly three weeks after that. So all in all, a few months.

Lorne Brown:

What kind of support or coaching do you help around choosing the embryo? I just for a moment thought about somebody going in there and looking at where they went to school and all those things and I think I would be afraid I’m going to choose wrong. So do you guys find that? Are people, they kind of get choice paralysis? Again, I really want to know what you’re seeing.

Arieyu Zhang:

Yeah, there is that for sure. And egg donors that are ethnic minorities, certain types of minorities are harder to find. For example, Asian Chinese donors. I have a lot of Chinese patients and they find it can be difficult to find a Chinese donor. So those can sometimes take a bit of searching and waiting for the right donor to come along. Other times, people do get really hung up on the little things and it is almost like dating where you want to find that perfect profile. But the key is really not to get hung up on those little details. You’re really just picking a provider of the genetic material but not them as person. So I find that some people do have trouble.

I suggest they see counselors and talk with their friends and family. And one thing that I did see in a counselor’s letter to a patient who is trying to guide them through how to pick a donor is perhaps looking at the profile and finding characteristics that resonate with their loved one’s characteristics. For example, if they have their father who enjoys music or their father who is really good at math or has some other characteristics or personality that they see in that donor. Things that are important to them to look for, things like that versus details like highest level of education or things on paper.

Lorne Brown:

Yeah. Thanks for sharing that. The fertility journey can be such a challenge. And this is another one. And the good news part is if and when it works, when you get to grow your family, hold your baby, all the stuff you went through seems to just be okay. It was worth it, right? But geez, it is a journey. So I kind of want to recap and just jump in and tell me if I’m off on anything. So from the donor cycle process, once you’ve created the embryo, it’s like a frozen embryo transfer and you line up with the cycle and you do your medications and it’s about three weeks until the transfer happens from that bleed to transfer.

And before that, it can take a couple of months because they have to do counseling, there’s genetic testing, there’s imaging and testing to make sure the uterus is receptive and they have to choose the donor. That could be exactly relatively quick depending on what they’re looking for in ethnicity. And it could be really long if you find it difficult to choose. And it still requires in Canada a referral. So they need to be referred to their IVF clinic, have that consult with you, and start that process. So referral from their medical doctor.

Arieyu Zhang:

Yep, exactly.

Lorne Brown:

And the success rate, can you repeat the success rate that you guys are seeing for people that are using anonymous donors?

Arieyu Zhang:

Every time an embryo is transferred, about 60 to 65% of those people get pregnant.

Lorne Brown:

And to put that in perspective, that’s very high compared to the age group that are trying with their own eggs?

Arieyu Zhang:

Exactly. Like for example, if we’re transferring embryo from someone who is 40, you can have success rates, like the national average is roughly 30% per embryo transferred and someone who’s transferring an untested embryo for someone who’s 40, and beyond that, perhaps even lower than that.

Lorne Brown:

And you and I have not seen anybody with regrets that have done the donor egg. It’s their baby.

Arieyu Zhang:

Exactly. No regrets.

Lorne Brown:

Yeah. It’s just the journey of getting there requires some resilience and support.

Arieyu Zhang:

Exactly. If a person is wanting to be a parent and say, if you’re open to being a parent by any means, certainly then the best means is often with donor eggs.

Lorne Brown:

And then the known donor, I just wanted to touch on that. We see that, but it doesn’t seem as common. This is where you look for a friend or relative to donate their eggs. And you guys obviously that you look at their age and that donor, that’s the known donor, still runs through some testing to make sure they’re a good candidate to donate their eggs?

Arieyu Zhang:

Same thing, the potential egg donor also gets a referral from their family doctor or walk-in to see us. They get some testing arranged. And mostly we’re interested in knowing, their age is really important in terms of overall egg health, how many eggs they have, so some ovarian reserve tests. And then of course we talk about the process, what it would all entail for the potential egg donor. Egg donors, the main thing in Canada is that it’s an altruistic process, so people wanting, known egg donors are not allowed to give or receive payment for egg donations.

So it’s all done altruistically. But of course you get reimbursed for receivable medical expenses. So often the legal fees, the treatment fees are covered by the intended parents. So what’s involved is there needs to be legal contracts in place. Both parties seek counseling and then the egg donor does all of their testing and the physical examination, lots of screening, blood tests and ultrasounds, physical exams to make sure that they’re physically emotionally able to be a suitable egg donor.

Lorne Brown:

And what an altruistic and an incredible gift that a friend or family member can give to somebody else so they can grow their families. So beautiful. Again, I want to thank Dr. Arieyu Zhang for sharing some information on donor egg cycles. You can find her over at the Olive Fertility Center here in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and we again at Acubalance go onsite at Olive. There’s been many times that we do the acupuncture leading up to the transfer day on transfer day to support uterine receptivity implantation. And it’s always nice to see how excited they are on that day to receive their embryos. And then when they come back nine months later with their baby, no regrets how happy they are. It’s great to collaborate with you guys and just to help people grow their families. It’s quite a treat.

Arieyu Zhang:

Definitely. It’s so rewarding seeing the babies.

Lorne Brown:

Yeah. Ari, thank you very much for your time today and I’ll see you on site one of these days.

Arieyu Zhang:

Thanks so much, Lorne.

Lorne Brown:

Thank you so much for tuning into another episode of Conscious Fertility, the show that helps you receive life on purpose. Please take a moment to subscribe to the show and join the community of women and men on their path to peak fertility and choosing to live consciously on purpose. I would love to continue this conversation with you, so please direct message me on Instagram at Lorne Brown official. That’s Instagram, Lorne Brown official, or you can visit my websites, lornebrown.com and Acubalance.ca. Until the next episode, stay curious, and for a few moments, bring your awareness to your heart center and breathe.

Arieyu Zhang

Arieyu Zhang

Dr. Zhang is a Reproductive Endocrinologist and Infertility specialist. Dr. Zhang was born in Beijing, China, and grew up in Ottawa. Dr. Zhang received her medical degree from the University of Calgary, then went on to residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of British Columbia. She completed her fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the University of Ottawa. Dr. Zhang is a registered sonographer in obstetrical and gynecologic ultrasound with the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography.

 

Where to Find Dr. Arieyu Zhang:

Olive Fertility Centre 

Instagram (@olivefertility)

Hosts & Guests

Lorne Brown
Arieyu Zhang

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