Egg donation is getting more coverage in the media, but not all the information available is true or applicable to every situation. Women need to use egg donors for a variety of different reasons, such as having had treatment for cancer or premature menopause as well as older maternal age or to avoid passing on genetic conditions.
Donating your eggs to someone to give them the gift of a child is a very generous thing to do but does require careful thought. At The London Egg Bank, our experienced and caring staff will guide you through the process and talk through any concerns that you may have. Below we discuss some of the most common myths that we encounter.
Although babies may result from the use of your eggs, without sperm fertilising the egg to form an embryo no child will exist. Scientifically speaking you are giving away an egg in its unfertilised form and not a ‘child’. Another woman will carry the embryo inside of her, nurturing it until it is born and give birth to a baby. You have given that woman the ability to have a child through the gift of your eggs rather than giving away your baby.
Although there are risks associated with any procedure, egg donation is generally very safe with no known long-term risks. Donating eggs is highly unlikely to affect your fertility, or interfere with any plans you may have to start or extend your own family. You will be given information on risks such as a tiny chance of infection after egg collection, and there is the risk of a condition called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). Most cases of OHSS are mild and resolved by drinking plenty of water each day and using mild pain-relieving medicine, such as paracetamol. If we are concerned that you are at risk of developing moderate or severe OHSS, you will be excluded from the egg donation programme.
You will not use up your supply of eggs as no extra eggs are used in the process of donating. Eggs that would usually be discarded by the body are instead encouraged to complete the development process through the use of hormones.
It would be untrue to say that the procedure is not uncomfortable but based on our experience donors do not usually complain of pain but some minor discomfort. The hormones used to stimulate egg growth can cause some bloating and irritability while the egg collection procedure is done under sedation so you will not feel any pain. Some women experience mild cramps following egg collection, but in most cases, these are alleviated by over the counter painkillers.
In the UK acting as an egg donor is a voluntary process, so you are not paid for your eggs. Instead, you will receive expenses – money to cover things like travel and childcare. This amount is set at £750 per cycle of donation by The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) who regulate the fertility industry. Where a prospective egg donor does not complete the cycle of donation, the clinic will compensate the egg donor on a ‘per clinic visit’ basis at the rate of £35 per visit to the clinic.
From 2005, any person born using donor eggs/sperm will have the right to non-identifying information about their donor at 16 and identifying information at 18. The reason for the removal of anonymity was recognition from the HFEA people should be entitled to information about their genetic make-up for medical reasons, social reasons and ethical reasons. By waiting until 18, there isn’t a small child asking questions about its heritage but a young adult who would have grown up with his or her own family. If they do want to access more information, there is a definite process that the young adult will have to go through which will entail him or her making an application to the HFEA to get access to this information. The HFEA will then contact a donor to let him, or she knows that they have received such a request and they will manage things from that point.
You will receive counselling to think about the implications of being an egg donor before you donate any eggs and this will include thinking about how you will feel if any person born through donation wish to contact you in the future.