A Guide to Third-Party Reproduction

Nov 7, 2023


Alto Pharmacy

photo of a couple discussing third party reproduction options with their fertility provider
photo of a couple discussing third party reproduction options with their fertility provider
photo of a couple discussing third party reproduction options with their fertility provider

Third-party reproduction, which involves the use of a donor or gestational carrier, has made parenthood a possibility for many intended parents who would otherwise not be able to have children. Read on to learn more about your options for third-party reproduction.

What are the reasons to consider third-party reproduction?

Third-party reproduction refers to the use of any combination of donor sperm, donor eggs, donor embryos, or a gestational carrier in the family building journey. A person who receives these services and will raise the baby at the end of the process — whether as an individual or in a couple — is referred to as the recipient or intended parent. A donor or carrier is referred to as the third party.

It is a safe and effective option for:

  • Intended parents of any gender who plan to have a child as an individual

  • Couples affected by infertility or who face a high-risk pregnancy

  • Couples affected by a genetic disorder or other medical condition that could be passed onto a baby

  • LGBTQ+ aspiring parents

  • Anyone who would prefer not to carry a pregnancy for personal reasons

Types of third-party reproduction

Donor sperm

This is a third-party reproduction option for:

  • Couples and individuals affected by male infertility, specifically when a low sperm count or nonviable sperm is a factor

  • Women and people assigned female at birth who intend to have a child as an individual

  • LGBTQ+ couples

Donor eggs

This is a third-party reproduction option for:

  • Couples and individuals affected by female infertility, specifically when poor egg quality or a low ovarian reserve is a factor, or after unsuccessful IVF cycles without a donor egg

  • Men and people assigned male at birth who intend to have a child as individual

  • LGBTQ+ couples

Donor embryos

The difference between donor eggs and donor embryos is that an embryo has already been fertilized with sperm, meaning that you are using both a donated egg and donated sperm. In most cases, donor embryos were fertilized during an IVF cycle but not used.

This third-party reproduction option may be recommended for couples and individuals affected by female infertility, often in cases of untreatable or unexplained female fertility issues. It is also an option for couples and individuals with genetic disorders or other medical conditions that could be passed onto a baby.

Gestational carrier

This person carries and delivers a child for an individual or couple. This is a third-party reproduction option for women and individuals with female anatomy who:

  • Are experiencing uterine health issues or had their uterus removed in a hysterectomy

  • Experienced complications during a previous pregnancy or face an increased risk of pregnancy complications due to a health condition

It is also an option for male same-sex couples and men who intend to have a child as an individual.

A gestational carrier is different from a surrogate, who offers both eggs and uterus and is genetically related to the child they are carrying. In some states, a surrogate automatically receives parental rights given their genetic relation to the child. These rights must be legally terminated after the baby is born. Due to these legal complexities, it is much more common to use a gestational carrier.

Fertility treatments

Having a child through third-party reproduction also includes one of two fertility treatments: in vitro fertilization (IVF) or frozen embryo transfer (FET).

  • In the IVF process, eggs and sperm are fertilized in a laboratory and then placed into the uterus with the potential outcome of a pregnancy. It can be used to conceive with donor eggs, donor embryos, or donor sperm. Using a gestational carrier also requires the use of IVF.

  • FET is when an embryo is implanted into the uterus of a gestational carrier or intended parent. Medically, this process is the same as IVF and involves the same medications. It is used for various types of third-party reproduction, as the embryo may be transferred to the womb of an intended parent or gestational carrier, and eggs and sperm can come from intended parents or donors.

Known vs anonymous donors

There are many decisions to make when having a child through third-party reproduction, including using a known or anonymous donor.

Egg and sperm donors can be someone you know (known) or found through an agency or clinic database (anonymous). There are more legal complexities to navigate when using a known donor rather than an anonymous one, as an anonymous donor has already surrendered their parental rights.

When exploring your options for fertility clinics, you can ask for information about their donor database.

Common payment methods

Payment for third-party reproduction varies by situation. In most cases, the donor or carrier does not pay for any medical services or treatment and are often even given a stipend to participate. There are several options for funding the third party’s treatment:

  • Intended parents pay for the entire cost of treatment, making out-of-pocket payments directly to the clinic and pharmacy

  • A third-party entity, typically an escrow company, facilitates the payments

  • In rare cases, an intended parent will establish insurance coverage under the third party’s name to help reduce the expenses

Choose the right fertility pharmacy

Alto is here to support your journey into parenthood. Our fertility pharmacy care includes:

  • Temperature-controlled packaging that holds refrigerated medications at the right temperature the entire time they are in transit

  • Access to fertility-trained pharmacists and resources including injection training guides

  • Transparent pricing and support with savings

  • An easy-to-use app for all medication management, from delivery scheduling to refill tracking and more

Interested in learning more about how Alto can support your fertility journey? Request a price quote online or reach out through secure in-app messaging.

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.