NEWS… BUT NOT AS YOU KNOW IT
If you were looking for a financial escape hatch to pay off student loans or mortgages by donating something that your body discards monthly, you should know something first.
You have better chances of making money by finding one of Cadbury’s elusive white chocolate Creme Egg than you do donating your own.
Unlike in the United States, there’s no economic profit to be made by donating your eggs in the UK.
If that hasn’t put you off egg donation completely, here’s everything you need to know.
In the UK it’s illegal to pay for egg donation, but donors receive a maximum compensation of £750 per cycle to cover costs, including travel, accommodation and child care.
If a prospective egg donor doesn’t complete the cycle, the clinic may compensate them on a ‘per clinic visit’ basis at the rate of £35 per visit.
Because you’re not profiting from a fairly invasive process, donation is done on a purely altruistic and voluntary basis.
Dr Geeta Nargund, medical director of CREATE Fertility, explains that potential donors ‘must be altruistic and have a wish help other women […] and they should also ensure they understand the legal implications and anonymity law in the UK before they decide to donate their eggs.’
After giving birth to her daughter, Kat, 28 and donor at Oxford Fertility, started to think about the many couples who don’t get to experience being a parent.
‘The overwhelming feeling of love and purpose made me look into it,’ she says.
‘I’d never really come across egg donation and it was only when I started googling how women in my situation could help with fertility problems it came up, and it made me consider it. It took me probably another couple of years before I properly considered doing it.’
Aside from needing to feel ready for the process itself, she wanted to feel completely comfortable with the legal implications of egg donation.
‘Any children born from an egg donation can obtain identifiable information about you once they reach 18, which means it’s likely they could find me.
‘So I had to be sure that I knew how I would react if that would happen and I knew I had to be confident in knowing exactly what was happening with my eggs, but also with my data, following the process.’
Professor Nick Macklon, director at The London Women’s Clinic explains that, due to the extensive screening process, only a small portion of women who apply to become donors are accepted to the program.
‘All donors undergo infectious and genetic screening tests, as well as undergoing a detailed medical history and screening checks with one of our consultants before they are allowed to take part in the programme,’ he says.
The Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA) and London Egg Bank set specific requirements in order to become egg donors. Egg donors must meet all the following criteria:
A woman will need to undergo counselling, blood tests and medical consultation prior to the start of treatment cycle,’ explains Dr Nargund.
She adds that a donor can withdraw from the treatment at any time before the eggs are fertilised.
‘Before egg collection, donors must take daily hormone injections for up to two weeks to stimulate the ovaries and ensure multiple eggs will be ready for collection.
‘She also must to undergo three to four ultrasound scans and a blood test to monitor the growth and maturity of follicles during the two-week period.’
There are potential side effects, of course. Because of the stimulating drugs there’s a (very small) risk of a condition called Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS), which can be fatal.
‘Once the follicles are mature, a final trigger injection is given, which is followed by the egg collection procedure 36 hours later.
‘The egg collection is performed under sedation and can last up to 20-30 minutes. After the egg collection, she will need to rest for around 30 minutes and will be allowed to go home when she is ready for discharge,’ explains Dr Nargund.
Kat tells us that the process was much easier than she thought it would be.
A fear of needles aside, she says it wasn’t as bad as she had prepared herself for, and despite working a demanding full time job, and the process being a strain on your body, it wasn’t too awful.
‘At first I was absolutely fine, then the further I got, and the higher the dose I took, I got kind of hormonal.
‘Having already been pregnant and having had a baby by this point myself, the best way I could describe it is I felt like I did in the first trimester of pregnancy.
‘So I felt quite bloated, a little bit off my food at times and quite emotional. But nothing I wouldn’t do again,’ she says.
The egg collection is a relatively safe procedure, but is not without potential complications. ‘There is a small risk of bleeding, pelvic infection and internal injury, but these risks are rare,’ says Dr Nargund.
If you chose altruistic donation (where you don’t know anything about the egg recipients), your involvement ends once your eggs are collected.
‘After the donor has provided her eggs, she has no more involvement in the further treatment or pregnancy,’ says Dr Macklon.
‘However, the clinic will offer a follow up check-up and, should an unlikely complication develop, the clinic will of course ensure she obtains all the care necessary.’
Kat’s now waiting for a full year after her donation to pass so she can find out if any live births have occurred from her donation.
‘They won’t tell me whether any of the recipients became pregnant and lost the baby, and they won’t tell me anything about the live birth, because I don’t need to know.’
‘I would like to know whether a live birth has happened because I’d like to know that what I did was helpful to somebody, and also because in the future when my daughter is old enough to understand I will tell her about this process because there will be people out there who share her DNA.’
Despite it being an invasive process, Kat says she’d do it it all again. ‘To me, giving the eggs away was sort of like giving blood in that it was helping somebody and enabling life.
‘Even not knowing where your eggs go, I found it hugely rewarding. To know that I was possibly even giving a woman or a couple who are unable to have children a chance filled me with so much joy and elation.’
Kat urges any woman considering becoming a donor to do it, but not without thoroughly thinking it through.
‘I would definitely urge anyone thinking about doing it to look into it properly. It is an invasive process and if it is successful and any live births come from it, it’s something that will be with you for the rest of your life.
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‘You need to be happy in yourself knowing that you’re doing this for somebody else, you’re not getting anything at the end of it.’
By donating your eggs you’re gifting the potential of human life and the chance for someone to start a family.
‘Most women feel a genuine urge to help other women who may not be in a position to have children using her own eggs,’ says Dr Nargund.
Many women turn to egg donors for several reasons, often after undergoing cancer treatments or premature menopause that left them infertile.
But, although it’s an incredibly selfless and generous thing to do, it should require careful thought.
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