Infertility is a prevalent concern affecting many individuals and couples worldwide. In the UK, approximately one in six couples face difficulties conceiving, leading them to seek alternative methods to fulfill their dreams of parenthood.
The process of donor eggs
IVF involves the process whereby eggs and sperm are collected from a couple and mixed in the laboratory. IVF with donor eggs is when a woman (recipient) needs to receive eggs from another woman.
The sperm is used to fertilise the eggs that have been collected from a suitable donor. The donating woman will have received fertility drugs in order to improve her egg production.
After fertilisation has occurred, one of two embryos is then transferred to the recipient woman’s uterus. Prior to the transfer of the embryo the recipient’s uterus would’ve been prepared using medication in order to receive the embryo and hopefully have implantation occur.
Different types of donors
There are three different types of donors used in the UK:
- Known donors
- Altruistic donors
- Egg sharing donors
Some women know another woman who is willing to donate eggs directly to them - this is called a known donor.
This could be a friend, relative or someone else they know. Known donors must attend the fertility clinic for an initial consultation and screening. This screening includes blood tests and scans. Women who undergo known donation will receive all the eggs that the donor produces.
The cost of the ultrasounds, consultation and investigations is normally taken care of by the recipient (the woman receiving the eggs). They may also be asked to pay a £750 donor compensation fee in some clinics.
These donors are unrelated to the recipients and donate for altruistic reasons. These are anonymous donors who are normally recruited by the fertility clinic.
Often donors must attend the fertility clinic for an initial consultation and screening. All altruistic donors go through the stages of IVF with no benefits to themselves other than the knowledge that they are helping a recipient to hopefully achieve their longed-for goal of having a family.
Some clinics have a frozen egg bank whereby donors are constantly being recruited; this helps to reduce the long wait sometimes associated with using donated eggs. Altruistic donors are compensated a maximum of £750 per cycle.
Egg sharing donors
Egg sharing donors go through their own IVF cycle and donate half the eggs they produce to an anonymous recipient. They will go through the same health checks and blood tests that any donor would undergo. Once the test results are available providing a suitable recipient is found, treatment can then be scheduled.
If a couple decides to egg share during their own treatment cycle, there is normally a discount associated with their treatment costs.
Women who want to donate:
- Must Between the ages 18-35
- Must undergo counselling.
- Must undergo a full medical, obstetric, gynaecological, and family history.
- Must not have an inherited disorder.
- Must have all their screening tests returned as normal.
Who needs egg donation?
Any woman who has concerns about their fertility can explore the possibility of egg donation. It may be an option for women who:
- Have no ovaries or has have them removed.
- Have had cancer treatment which has damaged ovaries.
- Are post-menopausal.
- Are producing too few or poor-quality eggs.
- Have tried conceiving with IVF and has been unsuccessful.
- Have had recurrent miscarriages.
- Have a high risk of passing on serious inherited disorders.
What information do you get about the donor?
All information given to the recipient about donors is non-identifiable. Recipients are told about the following:
- Relevant medical history
- Body type
- Eye colour
- Hair colour
- Skin tone
There is normally a fee to enrol on the egg donation programme. The fee differs from clinic to clinic but ranges between £500- £1000. The fee is normally non-refundable and goes towards recruiting donors and egg sharers.
The waiting time for egg donors varies depending on the ethnicity and donor criteria.
Legal requirements with egg donation
It is a legal requirement for all donors to be registered with the HFEA donor register. If a donor-conceived child is over the age of 16 years old, they can apply to the HFEA directly to find out any non-identifying information that is held about the donor and if there are any donor-conceived siblings.
If a donor-conceived child is over the age of 18, they can apply to the HFEA directly to find identifiable information about the donor. Identifiable information about the donor which is available to a donor-conceived child from 18 includes:
- Full name
- Date of birth
- Town and district where they were born.
- Last known postal address
Who are the legal parents in egg donation?
The recipients of the donor egg are the child’s legal parents providing they have completed the necessary consent forms. A donor has no legal claim to any child born from their donation. Both the donor and the recipient will be asked to be sign consent forms where this is clearly stated.
If you are considering fertility treatment or have concerns about your fertility, it's essential to consult with a healthcare provider or fertility specialist who can provide personalised guidance based on your unique circumstances. myTamarin experts are here to support you through your fertility journey - If you have access through your employer we recommend you book a 1-1 consultation to help you navigate and understand your fertility.
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