One in a continuing series of discussions exploring a variety of issues relevant to our Intended Parents considering utilizing the services of a third-party egg donor.
What are the agency’s policies regarding fees and refunds?
You will find most egg donor agency fees are fairly standardized within an approximate range of $6,000-$8,000 depending on the cost-of-living of where the agency is located. We are starting to see some agencies adding on fees to the backend to cover expenses that were previously absorbed by the agency. Whether this is a trend that continues remains to be seen. If you find an agency that you think you might want to work with request an “Estimate of Cost” sheet before committing which will list the agency’s fees and other expenses associated with the egg retrieval process.
How payout on those fees are structured will differ from agency to agency but they are generally triggered by some defined milestone. For example, an agency may require 50% of their fee upon signing of the agency agreement with the balance due once the egg donor is medically cleared. Again, make sure you explicitly ask of each agency you are considering working with how their fee is to be distributed based on the designated timeline.
What about the agency’s refund and rematch policies?
This is another broad area of policy that is evolving as the egg donor business matures but which is open to wildly different parameters. Refunds obviously refer to a percentage of the agency’s fee being returned to the IP’s under specific circumstances. For example, an agency may refund 25% of their fee if an IP wishes to drop out of the process prior to the egg donor beginning medication or prior to her being medically cleared. Other less likely scenarios include the possibility of an egg donor flaking out or not living up to her agreement. Granted, this fortunately doesn’t happen very often but it CAN happen. Better to have a clear, complete understanding of the agency’s full refund policy upfront before signing on the dotted line than leave yourself open to an unpleasant surprise down the line.
A “Rematch” policy is a form of a guarantee that an IP will not be assessed an additional fee should a cycle not result in a successful outcome. Usually, but not always, this outcome is defined as a pregnancy. So, for instance, an agency will not charge the IP an additional fee for a second cycle if the embryos created from eggs retrieved from the first cycle did not result in a successful pregnancy. Frequently they are restricted to a given time frame, i.e. one year from the actual retrieval.
What you need to be aware of that at this point in time is that “Rematching” is an emerging policy that is still rife with potential confusion. We advise to proceed cautiously and take the time to fully understand the terms of any agency that offers some form of a rematch policy. For example, will the IP’s have the option to choose another egg donor or must they recycle with the same egg donor? Also, all rematch policies are usually subject to certain conditions, such as disallowing any embryos that have been subject to genetic or gender selection testing. You can quickly see how the devil is in the details and how quickly they can devolve into it becoming a mere marketing gimmicks.
What about the availability of frozen eggs?
We are starting to see some agencies and IVF clinics beginning to offer a “cohort” or set(usually between 5-8 eggs) of frozen eggs as a lower-cost alternative to the IP’s contracting for a full fresh cycle. The verdict is still out on the financial and medical advantages of the frozen egg option (we will be writing about this in-depth in a later entry) but if this is something that you think may be of interest to you, you’ll want to specifically inquire as to whether the agency participates in such a program.
One Final Question: How does the agency make you feel?
Much of our discussion so far has been focused on asking the right questions to get answers that are quantifiable and pretty black and white. But there is another aspect to the process that asks you to simply become aware of how you feel when talking to any particular agency. We’re talking about using your gut and intuition in formulating an opinion as to whether you want to work with an agency. Do you feel reassured? Do you get a sense that these are people you can trust if things should become turbulent? Do you feel respected and believe that you (and your egg donor) are going to get the personalized attention you both deserve throughout the process?
All egg donation processes are subject to the unpredictable whims of biology and the authority of a higher power over which you have little control. Despite the best efforts and advances in medical science, things don’t always go as hoped for. At these times it’s good to know you can lean on your egg donation agency for guidance and support. You have a right to expect that from your egg donor agency and shouldn’t accept anything less.
There’s no reason, despite any possible setbacks, that conceiving a child with the assistance of a third-party egg donor shouldn’t be an experience filled with joy and appreciation. Choosing the right egg donor agency, one that meshes well with your own personality and preferred way of doing business, might just be the secret ingredient to realizing the full potential of this special journey.