Choosing and evaluating an egg donor is the first step towards pregnancy for gay men. The next step is a semen analysis, which also includes a genetic screening. From there, the egg donor and surrogate are often cycled at the same time. This means the donor is put on medications to stimulate the production of eggs while the surrogate is put on medications that help prepare the uterus for implantation. The actual retrieval is done with anesthesia using an ultrasound and a very small needle, so the donor is as comfortable as possible. Fertilization from either one or both dads is the next step before growing and transferring the embryos.
Known worldwide for his expertise in complex reproductive matters, Dr. Kolb is one of the largest providers of egg donation and surrogacy in the United States. His practice is also known for helping to develop and implement cutting-edge technologies in the genetic screening of embryos, along with new laboratory technologies and highly efficient, patient-centric treatment. He has received the Los Angeles Magazine Super Doctors award since 2010 and the European Society of Human Reproductive and Embryology award for outstanding scientific research.
For our gay couples looking at egg donation and surrogacy, there’s two ways to start down that road of egg donation. Some will come in with a known donor. Some are looking at anonymous donation. And I really encourage them to really understand what they’re looking for in a donor. It’s a very personal journey. So that’s the starting point.
Your donor will undergo a medical evaluation. We’re looking at her general health. We’re looking at factors that may affect the outcome of your treatment or the health of your child. These include genetic screens, screens that test the health of the eggs as well. And once the donor’s gone through this process, if everything’s okay, we’re able to more forward with the treatment at that point in time.
So for our guys, we always want to start with a semen analysis. Just because there’s an ejaculate doesn’t mean there’s healthy sperm there. For most of our patients, they’re going to be just fine. A lot of our patients are coming great distances in for treatment. So for those patients, we’re often freezing the sperm samples to be actually used for the treatment. It doesn’t harm the sperm to do that. It doesn’t jeopardize your pregnancy rates.
Part of the process, you have infectious disease screens. This is mandated by the FDA. It also puts your surrogate at comfort moving forward. We’ll also do genetic screens on you as well. Really we want to put you in the best position of having a success cycle and treatment.
So for the treatment process, for a variety of reasons, we may do a banking cycle on our donor where she’ll go through treatment. We’ll freeze the embryos after they’ve been created and they’ll be used later with the surrogate. Often we’re doing a fresh cycle, which means both the donor and surrogate cycle at the same time. We use birth control pills to help us accomplish that.
The egg retrieval itself, I always really want to ensure our intended parents, it’s a very safe and comfortable process for our donors. It’s done in a surgery center. It’s done with anesthesia, so our donors are comfortable. We use an ultrasound and a very small needle used to retrieve the eggs. It takes about fifteen, twenty minutes.
So for many of our gay patients, the question comes up—can I fertilize from each partner. And it’s something that we do actually quite frequently. So we’ll take the eggs, give each intended parent about half of them. Fertilization will occur on the day of egg retrieval. The embryos are always kept separate so we can identify which embryos came from which partner. Most IVF laboratories will grow these embryos for five days. The embryos are kept in a very secure lab. They’re monitored. So you’ll get periodic updates as to how the embryos are growing. If there’s genetic screening done, this is often done at the blastocyst stage, or when the embryos are about five days old. The transfer will frequently occur the next day. So the whole process is occurring in a single IVF lab and in a very secure environment. But it’s an exciting process because you’ll be getting updates every couple days from your doctor as to how the embryos are doing and how things are moving forward.