How could I become an egg donor?
In the UK, 3,924 women used egg donors to have a baby in 2016 according to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). In 2006, 1,912 (or around half as many) women made use of this procedure. If this number has doubled in ten years, this is partly because more people these days are aware of this method of conception, but also because more women are willing to donate their eggs to another woman or couple (straight or LGBT) in order to help them have a baby.
Egg donation is a fabulous and very noble act that gives hope to women and couples who are looking to create their own family. Whether you’re seriously considering donating your eggs or are just curious, why not read on to find out how to become an egg donor and how the donation process works.
Who needs egg donation?Sometimes, women can’t become pregnant with their own eggs. This could be due to the fact they’ve undergone chemotherapy, that they've experienced early menopause or are carrying a genetic disease that could be passed on to their baby.
Conceiving via IVF with donor eggs is, therefore, one of the few options they have left to finally become a mum. Although this means they won’t be genetically related to their child, they will have the chance to carry and give birth to their baby.
Additionally, gay couples may also require egg donation if they’re looking to have a baby via surrogacy.
Who can become an egg donor?Want to become an egg donor? That’s amazing and admirable! However, before you search for a fertility clinic, first ensure that you meet the HFEA requirements for donating eggs:
- You’re aged between 18 and 35. Fertility clinics may accept older women to donate their eggs, but only under certain circumstances (if you’re donating to a family member, for instance)
- You are fit and healthy
- You don’t have any hereditary diseases in your family
- You don’t have any genetic disorders that you could pass on to the baby or the mum
- Some clinics require their donors to have a BMI (body mass index) below 30.
How can I donate my eggs?If you’re looking to donate your eggs, the first thing to do is find a licensed fertility clinic that recruits egg donors. If you’re considering donating to a relative, you must make sure that the clinic you’re selecting accepts known donations. You can usually contact them online or by phone.
The second step is to complete a detailed egg donor application form that includes personal information, medical history, and lifestyle information. You’ll also have the opportunity to chat with a nurse about your motivations and the egg donation program.
Next, if the clinic thinks you could be a suitable donor, you’ll be invited to an appointment with someone from the donation team. At this juncture, you’ll be provided with more details concerning how the process works.
You’ll also be encouraged to meet a counsellor to talk more about the implications of the donation for you, your partner and your family. You’re also welcome to express any worries or questions you may have.
Next step is to undergo blood tests and ultrasound scans to verify that you’re healthy and to check your ovarian reserve (i.e. the quantity and quality of eggs left in the ovaries at any given time). Knowing how many eggs you have, as well as if they are in a good health, is crucial for the donation process.
Additionally, you’ll be asked about your medical history as well as any potential genetic diseases that you or other members of your family may have. You’ll have to undergo additional tests such as blood tests and provide urine samples.
Before being able to donate your eggs, you must sign the HFEA egg donation consent forms. However, if for some reason you change your mind, you can always withdraw your consent later, all the way up until the moment that your eggs are used. Finally, once your details have been added to the database and a match is found, you can start the donating procedure.
What’s the donation treatment like?Donating your eggs is like the beginning of the IVF process. You should be aware that the procedure is much more demanding than sperm donation and lasts for about a month. The whole process is rather intensive, requiring injections as well as surgery in order to retrieve your eggs. Here’s how it works:
1. First, you must suppress your natural hormone production. To do so, you’ll be given medication that you can take as a daily injection or nasal spray.
2. You will be asked to attend the clinic for a transvaginal ultrasound scan. This monitoring is necessary to decide when to start ovarian stimulation, which is a hormonal treatment that will help to boost the production of mature eggs via daily injection. You can do it yourself, or ask a friend, a member of your family or a professional to do it for you. This may seem a little complicated at first, but don’t worry, a nurse will show you how to do the injections and they are there to answer all of your questions.
3. Whilst you’re undergoing the ovarian stimulation (which lasts around 10-14 days), you will have regular ultrasound scans and blood tests to observe your ovaries and hormone levels, as well as to ascertain the optimum moment to collect the eggs.
4. Once your body has responded positively to the medication and your eggs have reached the right size, it’s time to inject yourself with a hormone called “human chorionic gonadotrophin” (or hCG). The egg donation team may call it “the HCG trigger shot”.
5. One or two days later, your eggs are collected under sedation. The collection usually lasts for about 20-30 minutes and you should be able to go home a few hours later. The procedure is quite painless, however, it’s best to get some rest for a day or two afterwards.
Are egg donors paid?In the UK, egg donation must be altruistic and it’s illegal to pay someone for their eggs. Accordingly, there is no such thing as “selling” or “buying” oocytes.
However, as the egg donation process requires a great deal of your time and is rather demanding, you will receive £750 compensation per donation cycle, to cover your expenses (such as transportation, accommodation, childcare, loss of earnings and any other costs produced by the donation).
If you're not a permanent resident of the UK, you may be entitled to the same compensation as UK donors. However, your overseas travel expenses won’t be covered.
Will donor-conceived children know my identity?It’s very important to understand that the intended parents will have access to your non-identifying information at the time of donation. Moreover, children conceived thanks to your donation will be entitled to access your identifying information at the age of 18. This means that they will be able to know your full name and obtain your last known address, as well as your date and place of birth.
Additionally, if you want, you have the possibility to write a personal description and goodwill message to the future parents and any kids born as a result of your donation.