What is a Donor Banking Cycle?


From time to time an egg donor may be asked to take part in a donation before the intended parents have lined up a surrogate. This process is called a “banking” cycle. While you may not know if this is the intention of the family you’ve chosen to work with, it’s not a bad idea to understand what it means.

In a nutshell, if you are donating for a banking cycle it will have no impact on your journey or experience at all. You will take the same medications, go to the same doctor appointments, and complete the same egg retrieval that you would if a surrogate was actively awaiting your eggs. The difference comes after your part in the process is completed. Once the retrieval is completed, the parents may choose to create embryos and freeze them for later use, or freeze the eggs to be fertilized at a later time.

There are a wide variety of reasons that intended parents may choose to complete a banking cycle as opposed to using them immediately. Here are a few of the reasons we often see leading to intended parents choosing this option.

  • Donor Timeline. Once we have been retained by the intended parents, they are given an estimated timeline for how long we anticipate it will take to match them with their surrogate, and access to our online database of egg donors. In some occasions, the intended parents will find an egg donor they feel strongly about. In these cases, it is unfair to ask that donor to wait for a potentially extended period of time before moving forward with her donation process. In these cases, the intended parents would opt to move forward with an egg donor banking cycle  and freeze the embryos to use in an embryo transfer once they are matched with their surrogate.


  • Surrogate Black Out Dates- Similar to concerns over the donor’s timeline, a surrogate’s schedule may also play a part in the decision to bank donor eggs. If the intended parents are already matched with their surrogate before selecting an egg donor, there is a chance that the surrogate has “blackout dates.” This means that, during their matching phase, she provided them with certain dates that she’d be unable to complete an embryo transfer, usually due to travel. While we can usually work around this to prepare for a cycle with the egg donor, sometimes it is easier to just complete a banking cycle for use after the surrogate’s blackout dates.
  • Dual Parentage- Frequently in our same sex couple cases we find that the intended fathers both wish to donate their genetic material to the creation of an embryo. In this case, both would leave sperm samples with the clinic with the hope of transferring one biological child each into the womb of an awaiting surrogate. However, sometimes an egg retrieval can produce a low number of viable eggs for fertilization. In this case, the parents may opt to do a banking cycle at that time, and a repeat cycle with the same donor in the future. This option allows the intended parents to create half siblings with each sharing a biological link with one of the fathers.
  • Other Considerations- There may be other considerations that go into the choice to bank donor eggs or embryos as well. Banking embryos has become increasingly popular due to advanced testing options and increased success rates.

Apart from the instances where a repeat cycle with the same donor would be needed, the decision to bank frozen embryos or eggs will be unnoticeable to you.

Kim Bergman, PhD, a licensed psychologist of 26 years, has specialized in the area of gay and lesbian parenting, parenting by choice and third party assisted reproduction for over two decades. Dr. Bergman has created a comprehensive psychological screening, support and monitoring process for intended parents, surrogates and donors. She is the co-owner of Growing Generations and is a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the American Psychological Association, the Los Angeles County Psychological Association, the Lesbian and Gay Psychotherapy Association, and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. She is on the national Emeritus board of the Family Equality Council. Dr. Bergman writes, teaches and speaks extensively on parenting by choice. Along with co-authors, she published “Gay Men Who Become Fathers via Surrogacy: The Transition to Parenthood” (Journal of GLBT Family Studies, April 2010). Dr. Bergman’s is the author of the book, Your Future Family: The Essential Guide to Assisted Reproduction (Conari Press 2019) as well as the children's book You Began as a Wish (Independent Press 2019). Dr. Bergman created her own family using third party assisted reproduction and she lives with her wife of 35 years. She has two adult daughters.