HOPE Egg Donation – Portland OR USA



“An egg donor agency with genetic expertise helping parents create healthy families” 

Growing Families speaks with Serena Talcott Baughman about her new egg donor agency – Hope Egg Donation, Portland OR (USA) 

Serena is head and co-founder of Hope Egg Donation located in Portland, Oregon USA. Her background and knowledge are extensive, and she holds a master’s degree in genetic counselling from the University of British Columbia. Working with egg donors and recipients for the past 9 years, Serena saw a real need for a more streamlined and detailed approach to egg donor screening. 

Serena is passionate about providing more support to donors and parents than is typical in the industry.  

Finding an egg donor truly is one of the most important decisions you will make on your journey to growing your family. It can also be one of the most complicated. HOPE was founded to guide parents through the process with a real focus on industry guidelines and genetics.  

  • Tell us about your background within the fertility industry? 

The clinic I worked for at the start of my career was extremely focused on international couples who needed to utilize an egg donor and surrogate to start their families.  About 40% of our patients were from outside the US, and would travel to us for our expertise, particularly in genetics.  It was important to them that we were carefully screening their egg donor’s family history and doing expanded carrier screening for the recipients and donors to minimize the risk for genetic diseases.   

  • You worked for over 9 years at a leading IVF clinic as their genetic counsellor, did you always hope to open your own agency one day? 

Not at all! Our internal egg donor program was very robust and focused on genetics.  It was only when I became more involved in screening donors outside of our program that I saw a need for a different agency model.  Clinics run by medical providers like doctors and nurses and third-party reproduction experts know the ASRM guidelines and screen donors very carefully. The agency model is different, and everybody approaches donor screening differently. It was only through working with recipients who had chosen an agency donor that I realized the huge differences between the clinic and agency model and recognized that I may be able to improve on the agency approach.   

  • There are so many donor agencies in the US. What do you recommend Intended Parents consider when selecting their agency? 

Two things –  

Medically, I would encourage IPs to ask their agency if they are using ASRM guidelines to screen their donors. These guidelines state that all egg donors should be interviewed by a certified genetic counsellor. One study showed that a genetic counsellor obtained new information not on a family history questionnaire 75% of the time, which shows that the typical agency approach of just having donors fill out a form is not sufficient.  Many agencies do utilize genetic counsellors to screen their donors, but some do not. Also, ASRM provides clear guidelines on things that may exclude someone from donating.    

Logistically, I think agencies should offer full refunds if a match does not proceed for any reason.  It is very frustrating for IPs to end up feeling “stuck” with an agency because their deposit or agency fee is not refundable.  

  • What are the primary crucial factors for intended parents to consider when undertaking this journey? How valuable is the genetic screening process? 

Every individual or couple has different priorities when they are selecting an egg donor.  For some it is cost, for others it is a certain timeline or genetics and family history.  Or it could be that they want their donor to be tall, blonde and have an Ivy League education.  Those priorities will lead IPs in hugely different directions on their journey.  If genetics is a primary focus, there tend to be two important things to consider – reducing the risk for genetic disease before creating embryos through a family history assessment and genetic carrier screening and then providing family history information to donor conceived people so their medical providers can care for them through the lens of the donor’s history too.  Studies show that this becomes even more important for donor-conceived people as they become adults and start their own families.  

  • What are the main points of difference that make your agency stand out from the crowd? 

Hope is the only agency owned and run by a genetic counsellor. We intend to remain small so that we know our donors (and IPs!) well and can support them prior to a match, during a match, and even long after babies are born as new diagnoses and genetic information arising later are not particularly uncommon and it is the agency’s responsibility to receive and share that information with families.   

  • You offer a refund policy if a match does not proceed. Why did you feel this was such an important part of your agency ethos & vision? 

We think this is another thing that makes us stand out.  It was especially important to us that IPs were only paying our agency fees if they started a cycle.  There are many reasons why IPs may not feel comfortable moving forward with a donor, or a donor may end up not feeling comfortable proceeding.  We did not want IPs to feel that they were obligated to find another donor with Hope because they could not get their deposit back.  We want everyone to find their dream donor, and if that is not one of ours, that is ok.    

  • Where do most of your clients/ IPs come from? 

I feel incredibly lucky to have made strong connections in the industry over the years, who are referring their patients to Hope.  Men Having Babies is a valuable partnership for us, and many surrogacy agencies are sending their patients to us as well.  We have also recently partnered with Growing Families Global which we are excited about. Currently our inquiries are split evenly between IPs who live in the US and those who live in Europe, Asia, or Australia.  

  • What percentage are same sex couples vs heterosexual couples? 

It is split evenly, leaning a little more toward same sex couples.  

  • How do you screen and select your Egg Donors and what criteria is required to be considered as part of the HOPE profile? 

Hope follows ASRM guidelines, so we accept healthy applicants between the ages of 21-34 who have no family history that is suggestive of hereditary disease.  Or, if their family history is suspicious for hereditary disease, they are given the opportunity to consider genetic testing for themselves to understand if there is a single-gene condition in their family. Once a donor is matched, they will then undergo medical, genetic, and psychological evaluations to ensure they meet those criteria for donation.  

  • Any other points and words of wisdom you would like to share with our readers and IPs? 

One thing that can be overlooked in the process of choosing an egg donor is your own family history.  Hope is also available to do family history assessments for IPs, regardless of whether they are matching with one of our donors, to understand if there is any additional testing that they may want to consider prior to creating embryos.  Knowledge is power – if we know there is an increased risk for a certain condition, we can rely on protective factors and avoid risk factors in hopes of avoiding or postponing onset of symptoms.  For example, if there is an increased risk for diabetes coming from the sperm or egg, protective factors like a healthy diet and weight and regular exercise may prevent diabetes entirely. Fertility genetic counselling and testing are all about getting ahead of genetic disease so parents can know that they did everything in their power to have healthy children. https://www.hopeeggdonation.com/