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Egg Donation

Egg donation is a process in which one woman donates her eggs to help another woman who is unable to produce her own eggs. Our Egg Donation programme is an option for the following groups of women:

  • Women who were born with ovaries containing no or very few eggs (such as Turner's Syndrome)
  • Women whose ovaries stopped working prematurely (Premature Ovarian failure)
  • Women who have undergone chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer
  • Women who had their ovaries removed for certain gynaecological diseases
  • Women who produce poor quality eggs or embryos.
  • Women who carry an inheritable genetic disorder like haemophilia
  • Women who repeatedly fail to respond to ovarian stimulation in an IVF programme
  • Women whose apparently normal eggs repeatedly fail to fertilise in an IVF programme, or whose embryos repeatedly fail to implant

Donors may be a relative or a friend known to the recipient receiving the eggs, or can be an altruistic anonymous donor. Because altruistic egg donor recruitment is difficult, waiting lists for this form of treatment are often prolonged to several years unless the patient is able to find a donor herself.

Egg donation treatment has generally good success rates providing the donor is younger and the recipient's womb is normal.

The challenge of egg donation revolves around synchronising the recipient's menstrual cycle with that of the donor's, which facilitates the most successful outcome. To achieve this, the recipient is placed on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) which allows us to manipulate her cycle as required. If cycles cannot be synchronised, the donor's eggs can be fertilised and any resulting embryos frozen for use in a future cycle.

Donated eggs from volunteers are fertilised with sperm from the recipient's partner. Following fertilisation, the embryos are transferred either into the uterus of the recipient.

There is an increasing demand for egg donation treatment and most centres have a long waiting list. With the present state of technology, unlike sperm, unfertilised eggs are not easily frozen. There are no egg banks, like there are sperm banks, and therefore the supply of eggs is dependent on benevolent women donating their eggs or patients undergoing IVF treatment "sharing" their eggs.

By far the most successful method of ensuring that sufficient egg donors are available, is to encourage recipients joining the programme to help in recruiting their own donors. These donors may be known to the recipient or remain anonymous.

Couples and donors undergoing treatment with egg donation require counselling prior to commencing treatment, particularly in cases where the donor is known to the recipients.

Donors should be under the age of 36, and preferably have completed their own family. We try to ensure that both donors and recipients share similar physical characteristics such as skin colour, eye and hair colour. All our donors are screened according to national guidelines. This includes tests for HIV, Hepatitis B and C, cystic fibrosis, syphilis and chromosomal abnormalities. The donor undergoes a similar stimulation protocol as described in an IVF cycle, with egg collection usually being performed vaginally.