Egg Donation - the gift of life
Donor eggs are a very precious and important gift . Providing donor eggs may enable a couple to have a child that would otherwise have been impossible. If you are interested in donating eggs or require an egg donor, we hope that the following information will be useful. Our staff will be happy to answer any queries you may have and you can be assured of absolute confidentiality at all times.
Why do people need donated eggs?
Some couples are unable to have a child because the female partner is unable to produce eggs and no amount of drugs can stimulate her to do so. There are several possible reasons for this:
- Born without normally functioning ovaries e.g. Turner's syndrome
- The ovaries have been removed because of tumour, cyst formation or endometriosis
- The ovaries have stopped functioning prematurely (premature ovarian failure)
- Chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment for another condition e.g. cancer
There are other reasons why a woman may require donated eggs. She may be carrying an abnormal gene, the ovaries may be functioning but are not suitable to have eggs recovered from them in IVF treatment, or the eggs which are retrieved may not fertilise or develop into normal embryos.
In any of these cases the only way a woman may be able to carry and give birth to a child is by another woman donating eggs to her. To donate eggs and enable a woman to have a child she would otherwise not have, is a wonderful gift and a very generous and courageous thing to do.
What is involved for the donor?
- Preliminary discussion to ascertain suitability
- Screening tests
- Independent counselling
- Stimulation of the ovaries to produce a number of eggs
- Monitoring the response to stimulation
- Admission to hospital for a few hours to remove the eggs
- Follow-up to ensure that there have been no problems with the procedure
Can anyone donate eggs?
There are certain criteria we apply before we will consider a woman for egg donation. The woman donating eggs should normally be
- less than 35 years of age
- have given birth to at least one healthy child
- have no significant health issues which would increase the risks to the donor
- have no illness or infection that may be transmissable to either the recipient of the eggs or a baby which may result from the treatment
Can anyone receive donated eggs?
There are certain criteria we apply before we will consider a woman for treatment with donor eggs. These apply to those receiving eggs from an anonymous donor recruited by the clinic:
- Women's age less than 48 when placed on waiting list or less than 50 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
What screening tests are required for donors?
There are standard protocols for screening donors. A detailed medical history will be taken to include any past or current history of physical or mental illness. Details of previous pregnancies will be required, particularly in relation to any difficulties in conceiving or carrying a child. It is very important that we know if there have been any abnormal babies born in the donor's family or to the donor- abnormalities which may pass to another generation through the eggs. In addition to these details donors will be specifically tested for the following:
- Blood group
- Hepatitis B & C
- HIV (Aids virus)
- Cystic fibrosis carrier gene
- Cytomegalo Virus (CMV)
These tests can all be carried out on a single blood test. However, donors should consider the implications if, in the very unlikely event, a test such as HIV or Hepatitis were to be found positive. If this were to happen, we would arrange all additional medical support and counselling as necessary.
It will take about 6 weeks to complete the screening tests and obtain the results, during which time the donor will also have counselling. This should require no more than two visits to the Centre, each about one hour.
What screening tests are required for the recipient?
A woman referred for egg donation will normally have undergone some assessment under their referring gynaecologist or GP. It is important, however, for us to confirm the following facts. This may involve further tests being carried out:
- That she is not capable of producing your own eggs
- That she has a uterus (womb) capable of carrying a pregnancy
- That the husband or partner has sperm which are capable of fertilising eggs
- We test all patients undergoing IVF, ICSI and Egg donation for HIV and Hepatitis
- Swabs from the cervix to exclude infection
Payment for donors
The law prohibits payment of donors by Centres. However we are allowed to pay the donor reasonable expenses e.g. travel fares to and from the Centre and child care costs incurred during the egg donation treatment.
What are the legal implications of donating eggs?
Legally, donating eggs is similar to donating blood or sperm. Once the eggs have been donated and the embryos resulting from fertilisation of the eggs have been used for treatment, the donor has no legal rights to or responsibilities for the embryos or children which result from them. The recipient of the egg will be the legal parent of the child that may result.
By law, identifying information about the donor is obtained and recorded by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority on their confidential registry. When a child that results from treatment reaches the age of 18 they are allowed to obtain information identifying the donor. In addition any child reaching the age of 16, if they ask, can be told whether the person they wish to marry is related to them.
Other than the circumstance of a child wishing to know the identity of the donor when they reach the age of 18 as mentioned above, at all other times the donor's name will be kept confidential. Indeed it is a criminal offence for the unauthorised disclosure of the identity of a donor. There is only one exception to this: a child may be able to sue a donor or clinic in the event of it being born with a disability as a result a failure of a donor to disclose information regarding inherited disease. In this case the court may require the HFEA to disclose information about the donor under the Congenital Disabilities act (1976).
Will the donor's eggs be used to treat more than one recipient?
Yes possibly. Donated eggs are a very precious resource and there are usually many more patients waiting to receive donor eggs than there are donors. It would be our intention, therefore with your agreement to use half your eggs for one recipient and half for another. This would depend on the number of eggs you produce.
Can donors change their mind?
Yes, you can change your mind up until just before the embryos created from your eggs are replaced in the womb of the recipient. Of course information, selection and counselling is meant to be sufficiently thorough such that, if you are in doubt, you will have withdrawn your offer long before you reach this stage.
What information about the donor is kept on record?
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, hair colour, occupation and interests.
The law requires that you give written consent to the use and storage of donated eggs and any embryos produced by them. You will also be asked to consent for us to contact your GP for information about your medical history.
How much time will be required off work?
Donors will require a minimum of two days off work on the day of egg removal and the day after. Depending on how you feel you may be able to return to work thereafter. There is no medical reason for you to be off work any longer unless you don't feel up to it. During the monitoring of the stimulation phase we normally carry out scans early in the morning - between 8am and 9am so as not to interfere with your days schedule. If you prefer we can carry out scans at other times in the day. Recipients would benefit psychologically from a few days rest after the embryo transfer.
Are there any dangers in egg donation?
Nothing in life is free from risks and egg donation is no exception. The risks are, however, small and serious complications relatively uncommon. The following are the possible risks with their incidences in percentage terms in parentheses.
- Pelvic infection (0.3%)
- Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (1-5%)
- Haemorrhage (0.3%)
Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome is the most common serious complication. It is caused by the ovary producing too many eggs in response to the drug stimulation. The condition results in abdominal distension and discomfort. We specifically monitor the donation cycle for signs of this and, if they indicate, we would stop the programme. When ovarian hyperstimulation occurs it reverses completely over a matter of 1-2 weeks. It may become a more serious problem in a 1% of women undergoing egg donation and very rarely it can be life threatening. Deaths have been reported as a result of OHSS but you are 10 times more likely to die following natural childbirth than from donating eggs. From the recipient's perspective there are virtually no dangers in the actual donation cycle. The only procedure to undergo is the replacement of the embryos which is a simple undertaking. The main risks relate to those of a pregnancy and specifically the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy or multiple pregnancy, the risk of which is increased in all woman undergoing IVF and related treatments.
If you require further information please contact the Centre for Reproductive Medicine at UHCW NHS Trust and ask for the Egg Donation coordinator, Sister in charge or one of the medical staff. Tel (024) 76968884 or (024) 76968889