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Egg donation

Egg donation is a procedure that harvests eggs from suitable donors to help another person to have a child.

Gynaecologist tending to a patient ahead of an egg donation procedure
This is a procedure that harvests eggs from suitable donors to help another person to have a child. As a donor, you are free to withdraw consent to egg donation at any time before embryo transfer.

Egg donors should:

  • Be under 36 years of age
  • Be in good health and have no personal or family history of hereditary disease (cervical smear, tests for HIV, Hepatitis B and C, plus tests to exclude current or past history of transmissible diseases are done). Chromosomal analysis and screening for cystic fibrosis are also carried out
  • Preferably already have children of their own

Your natural cycle will be suppressed using a medication called Buserelin. This stops the production of the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinising hormone (LH), and normally takes about two weeks. The ovaries are then stimulated to develop a number of follicles, each containing an egg.

When enough follicles have developed to an appropriate size, an injection of human Chorionic Gonadotrophin (hCG: a peptide hormone produced in pregnancy that is made by the embryo soon after contraception and later by part of the placenta) is given late in the evening. This leads to ovulation 40-42 hours later and egg collection is timed to take place 36 hours after the hCG injection. The procedure may be performed under local or general anaesthetic.

The procedure, which takes about 30 minutes, is carried out using vaginal ultrasound. It is strictly recommended not to drive after this procedure.

A needle is guided along the probe through the vaginal wall and into the ovary. Each follicle in turn is punctured and drained of the fluid it contains. The embryologist examines this to determine whether an egg is present.

On average eggs are retrieved from about 80 per cent of mature follicles. The eggs recovered will be inseminated using sperm provided by the recipient’s partner or donor. Those that fertilise will be cultured in the embryology lab.

Two, three or five days after the egg collection, the recipient will go to the centre for an embryo transfer. Up to two of the resulting embryos will be transferred to the recipient's womb. Spare embryos may be cryopreserved (frozen) for future use by the recipient, provided you have given consent for this.

Possible complications:

  • Hot flushes, headaches, mood changes and vaginal bleeding may be experienced during the first stage of treatment
  • Sometimes sickness, headaches and general irritability can occur before the egg collection
  • Some lower abdominal discomfort is common, but mild painkillers should settle this
  • A small amount of vaginal bleeding is normal – use sanitary towels rather than tampons
  • You may have a spontaneous multiple pregnancy because your ovaries have produced a number of eggs that have not all been retrieved. Use a barrier method of contraception or don’t have sex until you’ve had a full period
  • Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) may occur if the ovaries overstimulate and produce large numbers of eggs or high levels of oestrogen, but this rare

This is not a definitive list and symptoms will vary with each patient. Please ask your consultant for more information.

You should be able to go home a few hours after the procedure. You will feel drowsy for the rest of the day. You will need someone to take you home as will be unable to drive.

The egg donor and recipient remain anonymous to each other, though you can find out whether the treatment has been successful and the year of birth and gender of any child conceived. Following the change in the law in 2005 all UK donors are now identifiable to any child conceived from their donation when the child reaches the age of 18. The implications of this will be discussed extensively with you.

Every clinic within the UK that offers egg donation must be licensed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). Under UK law, any woman who gives birth to a child is regarded as the legal mother, regardless of the genetic origins of the child. Her husband / partner is regarded as the legal father. The donor has no parental rights or legal obligations.

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