Donor eggs in fertility treatments
Using donated eggs, or donor eggs, may be a fertility treatment option for some women who are unable to conceive naturally.
The use of donor eggs is becoming increasingly common, especially among women over 40.
An egg donor can receive up to £750 per cycle of egg donation.
Donor eggs may be recommended for circumstances, including:
- Premature ovarian failure, a condition in which the menopause has started much earlier than usual, typically before the age of 40
- Diminished ovarian reserve, meaning that the eggs that you have are of low quality - this can often be caused by age, since fertility drops off steeply after the age of 40
- Genetically transmitted diseases that could be passed on to your child
- A previous history of failure with IVF, especially when your doctor thinks that the quality of your eggs may be the problem.
Finding and choosing a donor
Most egg donation is anonymous, but some couples prefer to know their egg donor and take legal steps to contract for the donation of the eggs. If the donor knows the couple, the donor may wish to receive updates once the child is born or may even request visits. An egg donor contract that explicitly spells out the terms of any future relationship should always be used even when the donor is a close friend or relative.
If you decide to use donor eggs, ask your fertility clinic if they have available donors that they have already screened. Since some clinics have long waiting lists, you may prefer to find a donor through one of many egg donor agencies and registries. Finding a donor yourself can be faster than going through a busy clinic, but there is a serious disadvantage: you will have to interview the donor yourself rather than having a professional screen and evaluate her. It's crucial that donors be tested for any genetic disorders or diseases such as HIV. This is also true for women using donor sperm.
Egg donor programmes vary in their requirements, but most conduct extensive screening and provide you with detailed information about the medical history, background and education of the donor. The HFEA donor guidelines state that eggs should not be taken from donors aged 36 or over.
What to expect
The procedure for egg donation and implantation is similar to standard IVF treatment. After a thorough examination, the woman receiving the donor egg will need a course of hormone treatments to prepare her for the egg. If she still has functioning ovaries, she'll need oestrogen and progesterone treatments in order to make her cycle coincide precisely with the donor's.
Meanwhile, the donor will also be treated with hormones to induce superovulation. Once she is ready, the eggs will then be retrieved and fertilised. A few days later, the embryo or embryos are implanted in the recipient's uterus. She will continue to take hormones for about 10 weeks afterward.