For the fortunate majority of healthy young women, fertility is something to be taken for granted. For them, planning a family revolves more around social, economic and personal circumstances than their ability to conceive. For others, however, the experience of infertility can be heart breaking. One of the ways to bridge the divide between these two situations is egg donation. In our growing social awareness of the need for women to help other women, this is one of the most direct and powerful ways to do so.
In this article we look at many of the commonly asked questions about egg donation. These range from eligibility and how exactly the egg donation procedure works, to issues around anonymity, compensation and whether you will know the outcome. If you are considering becoming an egg donor, have a look at our IVI Egg Donor UK video, and read on.
Why become an egg donor?
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is the government body that inspects and regulates all UK fertility clinics. According to their statistics, about 2,000 children are conceived each year in the UK with the help of a donor. Without this generous contribution, many people would be unable to fulfil their dreams of having a family. By the same token, research into new techniques and treatments, plus the training of a new generation of embryologists, would simply not be possible.
There is a variety of reasons for the thousands of women who cannot conceive using their own eggs: they may have had cancer treatment preventing their ovaries from functioning normally or previous treatment attempts with assisted reproduction techniques might have failed. Whatever the reason, sometimes the only option is egg donation. This is where you come in.
Who can become an egg donor?
The HFEA has a set of eligibility criteria that potential donors must meet. Some of these are in order to protect the health and wellbeing of the donor, while some are to do with the suitability of the eggs for use in assisted reproduction. To meet the HFEA requirements, you should:
Be between the ages of 18 and 35, fit and in good health: The reason for this is that eggs of the best quality are produced before the age of 35. After this point, small genetic changes start to affect both the quality and quantity of the eggs produced. These can lead to a higher risk of miscarriage or genetic abnormalities.
Have no family history of genetic disorders or inherited disease: A number of health checks are necessary to make sure that no serious diseases or conditions are passed on, either to the baby or the mother.
Be within the normal height/weight range, with a BMI between 20 and 30: This is because a healthy weight is an important factor in how well someone responds to fertility medication. Outside this range, there could also be a risk to your own health.
Not be trying to conceive: This is partly to avoid a potential conflict of interests. Additionally, with the nature of the fertility medication involved, you would be at high risk of a multiple pregnancy if you were trying to conceive at the same time as being a donor.
What is the egg donation procedure?
When you first visit the clinic, we discuss your family history and carry out basic health checks. You also meet the fertility counsellor to talk through the medical aspects and implications of egg donation. Our donation coordinator draws up a plan and keeps in touch with you about results.
The stimulation treatment starts on the second day of your period and consists of daily hormone injections that stimulate your ovaries to produce a multiple number of follicles (that eventually contain an egg). Two or three clinic visits take place over two weeks to monitor progress, involving ultrasound scans. Once follicles reach a certain size, an injection is used to induce the ovulation and the maturation process of the eggs. About 36 hours after this, you attend an appointment for egg retrieval. The process takes around half an hour and is carried out under sedation. And that’s it! The risk of complications is low, usually the great majority of women just experience some bleeding or cramps that feel like period pains, but these will only last a few days.
What about compensation?
There is no payment involved in being an egg donor in the UK, it is purely an altruistic act of generosity. Travel and reasonable time-off-work expenses are allowed, and in our IVI clinic we give £750 for this. But you cannot put a price on the gift of life and most donors are delighted to be able to help a woman or couple fulfil their dreams.
Can I remain anonymous?
Regulations around donor anonymity in the UK changed in April 2005. If you donated before then, you can remain anonymous. Now, donors are identifiable to their donor-conceived children.
At age 16, donor-conceived children can ask for certain information about you, such as your physical characteristics, ethnicity, your birth year and country of origin. In addition, the parents can ask for this information at any time after the birth of their child. At age 18, children are entitled to further information including your full name, currently and at the time of donation, and your latest recorded residential address.
Come and talk to us at IVI
As laboratory techniques and procedures advance, we are able to help more and more women and couples achieve their dream of becoming parents. But behind each of these happy endings there lies the unique and irreplaceable generosity of another woman. Come and talk to us if you would like to be one of them. Have a look at our FAQs about egg donation, call on freephone (800) 0418189 or fill in our online contact form. We’d love to hear from you.