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Egg, Embryo & Sperm Sharing

Egg, Embryo & Sperm Sharing

Egg donation is a vital service that women provide to assist couples who are unable to have children. There are a variety of reasons why a woman may be unable to use her own eggs. She may have found that her own eggs are of a poor quality or that there is a risk of her transferring a genetic disease to the baby, such as haemophilia or cystic fibrosis for example.

Donated eggs can also be used for further research into Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) which has enabled many infertile couples to become parents.

Using a donated egg is not an easy decision to make. The choice of the donor, whether known to the couple or anonymous, and the ethical aspects need to be considered. Whether to tell family, friends and even the child that has been created through egg donation may have to be dealt with. Psychological counselling may therefore be very helpful for couples who have difficulty making any of these decisions.

Egg Donation Cycle

The egg donation cycle is the co-ordination of the donor’s menstrual cycle with that of the mother to be and is achieved with the help of birth control pills. Once synchronised the donor is.then given fertility drugs to increase the number of eggs maturing during her cycle.

During a natural pregnancy the lining of the uterus thicken while the body increases the level of hormones needed for the conception. When donor eggs are used, the uterus of the mother to be must be prepared to receive the egg artificially during the egg donation cycle. Her oestrogen levels will be assessed to match those of the donor so that her uterus be prepared to receive the embryo. A day before the eggs are retrieved from the donor, progesterone is given to the prospective mother either vaginally or by injection. The
donated eggs are then retrieved and fertilised in the laboratory with her partner’s sperm using IVF (in vitro fertilisation).  The donor’s involvement in the procedure then ends.

Each IVF treatment cycle, using donated eggs, has a 25% to 40% chance of success. During the process of IVF several eggs may be fertilised to optimise a successful conception so extra embryos are sometimes created. These extra embryos can be used if the couple’s first treatment cycle fails. If the couple want to have more children in the future the embryos can be frozen and kept in storage for up to ten years. Sometimes couples decide that their family is complete and agree to donate their embryos to another infertile couple. Studies on IVF treatment using embryos show that there is about a 20% to 25% chance of pregnancy per cycle. Usually, two to three embryos are transferred at each cycle.

Embryo DonationIn order to become an egg or embryo donor a woman will need to fulfil certain criteria. Written consent will be needed the laboratory with her partner’s sperm using IVF (in vitro fertilisation). The donor’s involvement in the procedure then ends. Each IVF treatment cycle, using donated eggs, has a 25% to 40% chance of success. During the process of IVF several eggs may be fertilised to optimise a successful conception so extra embryos are for the use of her donated eggs for treatment. However, consent can be withdrawn at any time before the donated eggs are used.

Sperm Donation 

In the UK egg donors are ideally aged between 18 and 35 years as a women’s fertility begins to decline rapidly from age 35 onwards. Before donating her eggs a woman will also be required to undergo screening in order to reduce the risks of passing on diseases or deformities. In the UK payment to donors for donating their eggs is prohibited. However, reasonable expenses for travel and loss of earnings can be claimed.

A sperm donor may donate sperm anonymously through a specialist clinic which is referred to as a “sperm bank.”  A sperm donor usually gives up all his rights to any child produced from his sperm. It is a legal requirement for written consent to be given before donating sperm, although this consent can be withdrawn at any time prior to sperm being used for treatment.

In order to become a sperm donor certain criteria are needed to establish suitability. Donors should be aged between 18 and 45. In exceptional circumstances, however, clinics may accept donors outside this age range.

As with egg donation, sperm donors will also need to be screened to reduce the risk of passing on diseases or deformities to the baby.

More information on the rights and responsibilities of donors in the UK can be found from this link to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority website.