Frozen donor egg banks, FDA approved procedure

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It's the news Karen and Jim Arnaiz never thought they would hear. They would soon become parents.

After Karen's hysterectomy, the couple tried in-vitro fertilization and had the embryo implanted in a surrogate. But that pregnancy ended in miscarriage. That's when they turned to something new in the world of infertility treatment: a donor egg bank.

Until now, only fresh eggs were used in donor programs. But this past fall, the FDA approved a once experimental procedure which freezes eggs.

“The egg is a very large cell and it gets damaged easily in a freezing process,” explained Dr. Michael Levy, a fertility doctor with Shady Grove Fertility Center. “But that's been fine-tuned to the point it's done incredibly fast and no damage occurs when it is done right.”

Now, like sperm banks, egg banks can have huge data bases of donors. One donor can now supply one lot of eggs for use by several recipients. Then frozen eggs are stored and kept ready to ship at anytime, anywhere in the country and inseminated and implanted into women wanting to have a child. All of this, egg banks claim, has dropped the price of this type of fertility treatment in half.

“You can select your donor, you can have those eggs shipped to your facility and you can be going through treatment in less than a month,” said Heidi Hayes, Donor Egg Bank USA.

Six months ago, Jim and Karen went through the Egg Bank's online profile and picked their donor, who lives in the southwest U.S. Her frozen egg was shipped to Rockville, inseminated with Jim's sperm in Rockville and the embryo was implanted into their surrogate who lives in Colorado.

“Our doctor was hesitant using my eggs in the first place because of my age,” said Karen Arnaiz. “But when we told him we were using a donor egg he said ‘Congratulations you're going to have a baby.’”

In three months their son is scheduled to arrive.