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Oocyte donation for assisted reproduction

Mark V Sauer, MD
Section Editors
Robert L Barbieri, MD
William F Crowley, Jr, MD
Deputy Editor
Kathryn A Martin, MD


Oocyte (egg) donation is an integral part of modern assisted reproductive care. Originally offered to women with primary ovarian insufficiency (premature ovarian failure) or those who had genetic diseases who did not want to transmit the gene defect to their offspring, donated oocytes are now used by women with many reproductive disorders and commonly by women in later reproductive years [1]. Approximately 20,000 attempts at pregnancy using in vitro fertilization (IVF) with donated oocytes or embryos are initiated annually in the United States [2].

Oocyte donation is at present the only effective therapy for the treatment of infertility in women with ovarian failure and for the vast majority of women of advanced reproductive age. Details of the IVF procedure are discussed in detail elsewhere. (See "In vitro fertilization".)


The first human pregnancy resulting from oocyte donation was reported in 1983 in a woman who was ovulatory (and therefore did not require hormone replacement), but infertile [3]. The pregnancy ended in spontaneous abortion. Four months later, the first successful pregnancies from oocyte donation were reported in two women [4]. Again, both women had normal ovarian hormonal secretion and therefore a normal endometrium.

Soon thereafter, a successful pregnancy was achieved in a woman with ovarian failure, who required estrogen and progesterone to prepare the endometrium to receive the ovum [5]. Estrogen and progesterone were administered in a manner that mimicked the natural ovulatory cycle prior to conception, and were continued through the first trimester to support the developing pregnancy.

During the next few years, refinements in oocyte donation continued, and efficacy improved [6-9]. The refinements included:


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Oct 14, 2016.
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