What are my fertility donation options?

Embryo transplantation tips

One of the possibilities that has opened up with the development of IVF and its associated treatments is the facility to donate sperm or eggs to couples or individuals who are not able to conceive.

Donor eggs

Women may require donor eggs for a number of reasons. It could be that the egg store has depleted with age or that the ovaries are missing or no longer functioning due to illness or a genetic problem. In these cases, it is possible to request an egg from a donor programme.

The majority of eggs are donated by young, healthy women under 36 who have completed their families and wish to donate their eggs for altruistic reasons whilst being sterilised. This means that in some cases the eggs will be young and more likely to turn into embryos than the recipient’s. In the past, most donor eggs came from a surplus collected in the IVF process but this is no longer the case as less eggs are collected due to improvements in the freezing process. Eggs are now often sourced through an agency where the eggs have been donated for altruistic reasons.

The process is similar to normal IVF although it involves two women. The menstrual cycles of the donor and recipient will be synchronised to give the best chance of allowing an embryo to grow on the uterine wall.

Sperm donation

Sperm donation will usually be from men in the age range of 18 to 41 and a detailed profile will be built up of the individual donor so that the best match can be made for the recipient. It is a highly personal decision and whilst photographs cannot be shown to preserve anonymity, the depth of the profile will include likes, dislikes, hobbies, for example, and this will be helpful in making the selection.

In some cases, the recipient will have a donor in mind, maybe a family member or friend and in these instances there will be a rigorous screening process to ensure that the sperm is suitable.

Are there any advantages of a donor programme?

  1. Egg sharing: this is a solution designed to help couples who cannot afford IVF treatment. They share their eggs with another paying couple and receive free treatment themselves. If enough follicles aren’t produced then we can discuss the options with both couples. The recipient could receive all the eggs and the donor would get another free IVF cycle or the donor couple could pay for the treatment and take all the eggs.
  2. Screening reduces possibility of genetic defects etc. Because all donated sperm and eggs go through a rigorous screening process for a whole range of defects it increases the possibility of developing a healthy embryo.

The social problems with being a donor or recipient

Most clinics will provide an anonymous service whereby only information pertaining to the health, race and age of the donor is provided. Under UK law the donor has no rights of access to the child nor any financial obligations. However, it is worth noting that donor status is actually non-anonymous which means although the recipient has no information about the donor the child is legally entitled to this information when he or she turns 18.

At Chiltern Fertility, we can discuss all the implications of egg or sperm donation and whether it is the treatment option you should explore. Fill in the contact form to arrange our fertility expert Mr Julian Norman-Taylor. If you wish to check availability, click here to look at our online booking calendar.