B speaks to Tracey Sainsbury, a Fertility Counsellor at The Lister Fertility Clinic, about some of the most common myths about egg donation. A must-read if you are considering IVF via egg donation.
For many couples who have struggled to conceive, using donated eggs could be the answer to completing a longed-for family. However, demand currently outstrips supply, with many potential donors put off by worries about the procedures involved or the implications further down the road. Tracey Sainsbury, Fertility Counsellor at The Lister Fertility Clinic, part of HCA Healthcare UK, which operates one of the longest running and successful egg donation programmes in the UK, aims to dispel some of the misconceptions about egg donation and explain why it can be a rewarding choice for both the donor and the recipient.
MYTH: Only women who are currently undergoing IVF can donate their eggs
Tracey says: “Anybody can explore the possibility of egg donation and since 1988 more than 1,000 women have altruistically donated their eggs (ie, donated eggs independently of any fertility treatment of their own) at The Lister Fertility Clinic. It’s an amazing, generous gift and we work with each woman individually to see if donation is appropriate.
“If you are planning to undergo IVF treatment you can look into donating some of your eggs to another woman at the same time; this is called egg sharing.” We’ll only allow you to share your eggs if it won’t have a detrimental effect on your own chance of success.”
MYTH: Egg sharing will make my own IVF treatment more complicated
“This is not true. If you decide to share your eggs as part of your IVF treatment it can sometimes take a little more time, as the clinic matches you with a suitable recipient and carries out screening tests. Your cycle would also be synchronised with that of the recipient using hormonal treatment but that’s not something that would make your own treatment more complicated.”
MYTH: Egg donation is painful
“I often provide advice to women who are thinking of donating their eggs, and this is one of the common worries that I hear,” says Tracey. “Egg donation involves many of the same steps as traditional IVF, so you will go through the same daily injections to help stimulate egg production, although most women find this more of a minor inconvenience and wouldn’t describe it as painful.
“When it comes to the egg collection, we do this under general anaesthetic to help minimise the discomfort but you will be in and out of hospital in a day and don’t have to stay overnight.”
MYTH: Donors will be contacted by “their child” further down the road
“There is some truth to this myth, as laws passed in 2005 mean any offspring a donor has helped to create will be able to access the donor’s identifying information (full name, date of birth and last known address) once they are 18.
“An egg sharer’s details will be kept on file by the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA), the independent regulator of fertility treatment, where they are carefully protected and are not available to the general public. Only those with a right to this information by law, namely donor-conceived people aged 18 or over, will have access to it.
“We ensure all donors are comfortable with the implications of donating eggs and remain available to provide support following treatment if needed.”
MYTH: Anyone can donate their eggs
“We would encourage anyone interested in egg donation to get in touch with us to find out more about it. Donors, by law, have to be aged 21 to 35 without any history of inheritable conditions in their family. Ideally a donor would also have a BMI of less than 30 and a normal egg reserve. They’ll also be taken through some screening tests and a full medical history will be recorded.
“Anyone who does donate their eggs will be seen by a counsellor on their first visit to discuss the ethical and legal aspects of egg donation and to ensure they are comfortable with and fully understand what is involved.”
MYTH: If I share my eggs while going through IVF I will have less chance of my own IVF working
“This is not true. Many women are interested in egg sharing as it can make IVF treatment more affordable. But egg sharing at The Lister Fertility Clinic is only possible if it won’t be detrimental to your own chance of success.”
MYTH: Egg donation is traumatic for the donor
“This is false. The whole team at The Lister Fertility Clinic provides an exceptional level of care to all of the women involved, whether sharing or receiving eggs. For women who do decide to share their eggs as part of their own IVF treatment, they have the chance to help someone else complete their family and it is an incredible gift.”
MYTH: The woman I donate my eggs to may contact me afterwards
“Women considering egg sharing should be aware that egg recipients will be provided with non-identifying information such as height and ethnicity. However, at no point will the egg sharer’s name be revealed to the recipient.”
MYTH: I’ve heard that because I already have a child, I’m excluded from egg sharing or donating my eggs
“We welcome women who are experiencing secondary infertility with proven fertility, so please do come along and learn more about egg sharing. We also welcome women who have completed their family who want to help others to try to become mothers.”
Tracey Sainsbury is a full time fertility counsellor at The Lister Fertility Clinic and co-author of Making Friends with your Fertility