One of the most common treatments offered at Reproductive Health Group is IVF treatment using donor eggs. We regularly receive questions about egg donation, the treatment process, the donors, waiting lists and screening. Our latest blog is aimed at answering our most common questions, but if you have a question not detailed below, you can ask one of our experts.
Frequently Asked Egg Donation Questions
How does the egg donation process work?
Egg donation requires a series of steps to be followed:
- Recruitment and screening of a potential matching donor
- Tests of the recipient to ensure she has the potential for embryos to implant and carry a pregnancy to term successfully
- Independent counselling of both recipient and donor, as appropriate
- Co-ordination of recipient and donor cycles, as appropriate
- Control of the recipient cycle with the oral contraceptive pill, and /or the suppression of hormones by an injection of GnRH-analogue and subsequent treatment with hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
- Fertilisation of the donated eggs with the recipient’s partner sperm or donor sperm, as appropriate
- Transfer of the resulting embryo(s) into the recipient’s womb (uterus)
- Freezing of any supernumerary embryos, as appropriate
- Continuation with HRT support after the transfer of the embryo(s)
Can anyone receive donated eggs
There are certain criteria we apply before we will consider a woman for egg donation. These apply to those receiving eggs from an unknown donor recruited by the Reproductive Health Group:
- Women’s age less than 52 at the time of treatment
- Have no medical contraindications to pregnancy
- Have a uterus capable of carrying a pregnancy
- Have undergone appropriate counselling and screening tests
Where are donor eggs obtained from
At the Reproductive Health Group donor eggs are obtained from one of the following sources:
Altruistic unknown donor. A woman who wishes to donate eggs for altruistic reasons and volunteers herself to the clinic. She may have heard of the need for egg donation through a story in the media or through a friend who suffers from infertility. She may also be introduced to the recipient and to the clinic via an egg donation agency. This donor will be unknown to the recipient, but will still be registered as a donor and adhere to the gamete donation’s regulations in the UK.
Altruistic known donor. The patient (recipient) herself may introduce a prospective suitable donor to the clinic. This woman may be either a friend or close family relative. In this case the prospective donor may donate to the recipient known to her; however, she may also donate altruistically to an anonymous recipient within the clinic, if she wishes so.
Egg Sharing. The patient (recipient) receives eggs from another woman undergoing IVF treatment who doesn’t have any known problems with her ovarian reserve and for whom IVF is recommended because of male or tubal factors of infertility. Separate information is available about egg sharing.
How are donors screened
Irrespective of the source of donor eggs, the screening of donors is carried out according to Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) standards and agreed good practice guidelines. In addition to a careful medical and family history, the following tests are routinely carried out on all prospective donors before embarking onto the egg donation programme.
- Full blood count and Atypical antibodies
- Blood group
- Karyotype (Chromosome analysis)
- Cystic Fibrosis screening
- HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C
- Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
- Hormone tests (FSH, LH, E2 and AMH)
- Pelvic ultrasound scan
Repeat viral screening tests are also carried out immediately before each donation at the time of the baseline ultrasound scan prior to commencing the hormone stimulation.
Are egg donors paid?
We do not pay donors. The law prohibits payment of gamete donors in the UK. Currently legislation permits donors to receive reasonable out of pocket expenses incurred during their donation treatment. We will arrange for the reimbursement, as appropriate, or would have evidence available that the donors have been reimbursed.
Do you have a waiting list for donor eggs?
In a fresh donor egg cycle, there are elements of uncertainty involved – the donor needs to comply with the treatment and to respond satisfactorily to ovarian stimulation, and there is no guarantee of the number of mature eggs that will be produced. Using frozen eggs removes these uncertainties as the eggs have already been collected and the mature ones are ready for use.
Do you accept egg donation recipients from outside of the UK?
We accept patients from all over the world for IVF treatment with donor eggs at our Cheshire fertility clinic.
Is there any attempt made to match donor characteristics with me?
Yes, as much as possible. When a donor becomes available, we would make you aware of various physical characteristics as well as education, occupation and interests. You would be able to choose whether you find that donor a suitable match to you or alternatively you could choose to wait for another available donor.
How much information about a donor can I receive?
In addition to the donor’s name, maiden name, date of birth, address and place of birth, we are also required to record non-identifying information such as eye colour, height, weight, hair colour, occupation and interests.
Can the egg donor change her mind at any time during the treatment?
The donor can change her mind up until the embryos created from her eggs are transferred in to the recipient’s uterus. Information shared at the time of consultations, selection and counselling are meant to be sufficiently clear and thorough such that a prospective egg donor will have withdrawn her offer long before treatment has even started.
What screening tests are required for the recipient?
A woman referred for treatment with donor eggs will normally have undergone assessment under the referring gynaecologist or in some cases by the GP. It is important, however, for us to confirm the following:
- That you are not capable of producing your own suitable eggs
- That you have a uterus capable of carrying a pregnancy
- That your husband or partner has sperm which are capable of fertilising eggs, or that you have agreed to use donor sperm
- That you are not carrier of HIV, Hepatitis B and C
- That you agree to further investigations, including blood tests for CMV, blood group and atypical antibodies and ultrasound scans
- Swabs from the cervix and the vagina to exclude infection
Do you offer counselling?
It is a requirement by our clinic that any woman who is considering treatment with donated eggs should attend counselling. We have a counsellor based at the Centre for Reproductive Health and as much as we can, we will arrange the appointment at a time that suits you. The purpose of counselling is to provide you with the opportunity to discuss, independently of the clinical staff, all the possible implications of undergoing egg donation so that you are able to make the decisions that are right for you, including whether or not to proceed with treatment using donor eggs.
What is involved for the recipient of the embryos?
The recipient will have to attend for 2 or 3 ultrasound scans during the treatment cycle to ensure that the lining of the uterus (known as endometrium) is developing in response to the hormone regime. The embryo transfer is a relatively simple procedure, which is almost always carried out without sedation or anaesthetic. It involves the passage of a fine catheter through the cervix and then into the cavity of the uterus. It is akin in discomfort terms to having a speculum passed and a smear test taken.
Will I require time off work?
No, from a physical stand point. However, you may feel some psychological benefit from a few days rest.
How long will I have to wait to proceed with egg donation?
Once a decision has been made to offer you treatment using donor eggs, the first task is to find a suitable matching egg donor. If you are reliant on us to find you a donor, then you will have to consider going through the egg sharing programme or being referred to an egg donation agency or alternatively be prepared to wait an indefinite length of time. If you are able to introduce a suitable egg donor to the clinic then your wait will be considerably shorter.
How many eggs will I receive?
This depends on the number of eggs collected from the donor. If the donor is an anonymous altruistic donor provided by our clinic or via the egg donation agency you will be the sole recipient of all eggs collected during that cycle. Although we screen donors to the best of our ability, we cannot guarantee how many eggs may be collected or that all eggs are mature and suitable for in-vitro fertilisation.
If the donor is an egg sharer, you would receive half of the eggs collected from that cycle. We would go ahead with the egg sharing agreement if you were to receive at least 4 eggs. Please refer to our egg sharing information document for further details.
If you have recruited the donor then you will receive all the eggs that your donor has produced. Every donor will respond differently to the drugs used to stimulate ovaries. Although a number of tests are carried out on the donor before she starts treatment we cannot guarantee the number of eggs that will be collected and those that will be suitable for in-vitro fertilisation.
How many chances will I get?
For each cycle you will get as many cycles as the number of available embryos, including fresh and frozen. The same applies to the event your donated eggs fail to fertilise and form embryos. Given the young age of most donors and their history of proven fertility, we would normally recommend the transfer of only 1 embryo. However, ultimately it is the recipient decision to have up to 2 embryos transferred at any one time.
How much will IVF with donor eggs cost?
The current charges for in-vitro fertilisation treatment using donor eggs are stated in the published RHG Fertility Fees Schedule.
How likely is this treatment to work?
This depends on a number of factors, which you will discuss in detail with the consultant at the time of your appointments. Available data show that the clinical pregnancy rate per cycle of donor eggs started ranges between 40-50%. The clinical pregnancy rate using frozen eggs is comparable with that of fresh eggs.
If you are interested in learning more about egg donation and IVF using donor eggs, our first point of contact is Nikki Francis, our egg donation coordinator. Nikki can be contacted by email at email@example.com or by phone on 01925 202180.
Nikki is available to answer any queries you may have, either before or during your treatment and is now available for informal one-on-one meetings, where you can discuss treatment options and take a tour around our clinic, the Centre for Reproductive Health, and see our state of the art facilities where your treatment would take place.