Infertility. Assistance From a Third Party

When couples do not achieve pregnancy from infertility treatments, they may choose to use a third party to have a child.1 Assistance can consist of:

Sperm Donation

Couples can use donated sperm when a man does not produce sperm or produces very low numbers of sperm, or if he has a genetic disease. Donated sperm can be used with intrauterine insemination or with IVF.


Egg Donation

This can be used when a woman does not produce healthy eggs that can be fertilized. An egg donor undergoes ovary stimulation and egg retrieval steps of IVF. The donated egg can then be fertilized by sperm from the woman's partner, and the resulting embryo is placed into the woman's uterus.

Egg donation may be particularly helpful1 for women who:

  • Have primary ovary insufficiency (POI)
  • Have had chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • Have had surgical removal of the ovaries
  • Were born without ovaries
  • Are carriers of known genetic diseases
  • Are infertile because of poor egg quality

Surrogates and Gestational Carriers

If a woman is unable to carry a pregnancy to term, she and her partner may choose a surrogate or gestational carrier.

A surrogate is a woman inseminated with sperm from the male partner of the couple. The resulting child will be biologically related to the surrogate and to the male partner. Surrogacy can be used when the female of the couple does not produce healthy eggs that can be fertilized.


In contrast, a gestational carrier is implanted with an embryo that is not biologically related to her. This alternative can be used when a woman produces healthy eggs but is unable to carry a pregnancy to term. If needed, egg or sperm donation can be used in this situation.

  1. American Society for Reproductive Medicine. (2012). Third party reproduction (sperm, egg, and embryo donation and surrogacy): A guide for patients. Retrieved June 11, 2012, from
     (PDF - 223 KB) [top]


Assistance From a Third Party
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of 
Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)

Geosalud, August 11, 2013

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