Using a donor egg is typically not a patient’s first choice when going through the IVF process. Many patients want a biological connection to their child, even when a donor egg may provide a greater chance of the couple being able to conceive. Opening my patient’s minds to using a donor egg is not about manipulation or thinking that I know better when it comes to this very personal decision. It means giving them all the information they need to make an informed decision about donor eggs and helping to distinguish fact from fiction.
Open Your Patient’s Mind, but Don’t Push
As a healthcare provider, it is important to understand the grief your patients are feeling when it comes to having trouble conceiving. You are here to help and inform, but are ultimately not the decision-maker and not here to control how your patient chooses to proceed. I have found it helpful to leverage the Kubler Ross stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) when talking with my patients. They may not be in the right state of mind to discuss donor eggs because they are so focused on the path to conception that they already have in mind. Give your patients time and try to meet them where they are at, rather than suddenly pushing an alternative approach like using a donor egg.
Discuss More Promising Pregnancy Rates Amongst Donor Eggs
Donor egg pregnancy rates are higher than non-donor pregnancy rates. This is a great fact to bring up to patients who have been having trouble getting pregnant and might be feeling hesitant about using a donor egg. A donor egg may help save time and money throughout the IVF process, and may ultimately help the patient achieve their dream of a successful pregnancy.
While donor eggs do result in a higher pregnancy rate, make sure your patients know that this method is not a 100% guarantee, and that each patient is different regarding the success of their treatment.
Talk With Your Patient, Not At Them
Nothing is black and white when it comes to fertility treatments, and making value judgments or creating black and white scenarios is not helpful to any patient. Yes, we are doctors and have spent our lives studying infertility and helping our patients start families. However, it is also important to put away our medical hubris and talk with the patient, not at them. Listen to them and get to know how they are feeling and why or why not they might want to consider a donor egg. Express to them how much you want them to conceive, and how you have their best interests in mind, along with how a donor egg could be a solution.
Always reiterate that this is the patient’s decision, not yours. You are a resource, not a decision-maker! Acting as a trusted advocate and support for your patients will help them trust you and your guidance, which may open their minds to the idea of a donor egg.
Accept that Many Patients are Not Interested in Donor Eggs, and That’s Okay
As doctors, it is our responsibility and obligation to inform our patients of all reasonable options when it comes to achieving their goals of conceiving. I like to use statements such as “I am not telling you that you should proceed with a donor egg. I want you to know that you are a great candidate for egg donation.” This is a statement devoid of judgment and allows the patient to think about if this is something they even want to consider. For some patients, donor eggs are not something they will ever be interested in or comfortable with – and that is okay.
Acknowledge How Grief, Shame, and Hope are at Play
Fertility problems run so much deeper than having trouble conceiving. For many, infertility brings up deep feelings of grief, shame, and slight hope. Acknowledge that all feelings your patient is experiencing are valid and normal, and that having trouble conceiving is NOT a reflection of their self worth or means that something is wrong with them. Acknowledge how your patient is feeling with affirmations that are true, such as “I know you work hard on being healthy and you have a good chance of having a healthy pregnancy.”
How Have You Helped Open Your Patient’s Minds to Using a Donor Egg?
As doctors, fertility specialists, and patient advocates, how have you helped open your patient’s mind to using a donor egg? I love hearing what methods are working best for other healthcare providers and seeing how we can have the most positive impact on our patient’s lives – regardless of whether or not they choose to move forward with a donor egg. Please feel free to contact me so we can discuss this topic further.