Britain’s first dedicated egg bank opened earlier this month on September 17th in London. Its aim is to help the growing number of women in this country needing donor eggs to have a baby.
The London Egg Bank will attract a new generation of altruistic women willing to donate their eggs to help another anonymous woman to become a mum.
Due to a shortage of egg donors in Britain, many infertile women needing donor eggs have few options other than to travel overseas where the supply is greater.
Mary started her IVF journey at a clinic in Woking. After three failed attempts at IVF, Mary decided to use donor eggs. Her clinic in Woking recommended another clinic in Barcelona, however after discovering this would cost over £8000, Mary had to look elsewhere. After doing some further research, Mary found a clinic in Marbella with English speaking nurses and it was considerably cheaper than the clinic in Barcelona. Like Mary, many women who have taken their search for a donor abroad will be delighted with the news that an egg bank has now opened the UK.
About London Egg Bank
The London Egg Bank is part of the JD Healthcare Group of companies, which includes London Sperm Bank, London Women’s Clinic and the Bridge Centre – all regulated by the HFEA.
The London Women’s Clinic was the first UK clinic to offer egg sharing to patients and has over 20 years of experience in egg donation treatment, helping thousands of couples.
The London Egg Bank will be running introduction evenings for potential donors and recipients in the Autumn.
Walter Merricks, Chair of the Donor Conception Network, the charity that supports donor conception families and those seeking treatment said: “The Network has always been keen to encourage British clinics to provide improved access to donor treatment, so that people can be treated here rather than going abroad to less well regulated regimes where there is little or no access to information about donors. Children conceived by donors in UK clinics will have access to identifying information about their donors when they grow up, which may be important to them. So we welcome initiatives like this.” (www.dcnetwork.org)
Professor Susan Golombok, Director for Centre of Family Research, University of Cambridge, said: “The Centre for Family Research has been working with the London Women’s Clinic for a number of years producing valuable research on egg-sharing. We welcome this new opportunity to explore the motivations, experiences and future expectations of egg donors who are compliant with the HFEA’s new guidelines.” (http://www.cfr.cam.ac.uk/)
Ms Linda Riley, Coordinator of the Alternative Parenting Show in Covent Garden London on 21st September 2013 said:“The participants at the London Alternative Parenting Show would absolutely welcome the launch of a dedicated platform like London Egg Bank because most women would prefer to receive donor egg treatment within a regulated system in the UK rather than go overseas for treatment.” (http://www.alternativeparenting.co.uk/)
The availability of a home produced supply of eggs from a new generation of altruistic donors will now help reverse this trend.
A study of more than 1400 European egg donors reported at this year’s annual meeting of ESHRE found that, while financial compensation was an important motivation for some, the majority of donors were keen to help infertile couples for purely altruistic reasons.
Interview with an Egg Donor
Natalie McNally, a 28 year old married student nurse from Middlesbrough, donated her eggs when she was just 24 years old. Natalie had been looking online for information about how and where to donate blood, when she came across an article on the NHS website about a shortage of eggs. After finding this out and after seeing her brother become a father, Natalie started imagining how difficult it must be for people who struggle to conceive.
Before donating her eggs, Natalie explained that she was given a number of counselling sessions to help ensure that she fully understood all that was involved. During her counselling sessions, Natalie was given the opportunity to discuss why she wanted to donate her eggs and she was also made aware of the complications and risks involved
Natalie recalls how at one of the counselling sessions she was told that any baby conceived using her eggs could decide to look for her when they turn 18. Faced with this knowledge, it didn’t deter Natalie and she has actually written a letter so if her donation is a success, the child will be able to read it when they turn 18. The letter explains Natalie’s decision to donate her eggs and also that she is happy to be contacted when they turn 18 if they wish to get in touch.
Another complication that Natalie was made aware of during one of her counselling sessions is the possibility that if Natalie has a child of her own and her donation is successful, both children could end growing up at the same and there is the possibility that they could inadvertently meet.
When I asked Natalie if she felt she had received enough information to make her feel prepared for what she was about to embark upon, Natalie said that she felt fully prepared. In addition to the supportive staff, Natalie also had a great support network in her family. When she first told her parents, Natalie says that they were surprised, but they also happy and they supported her decision.
Natalie even met her now husband when she was going through the procedure and he was even offered counselling himself. Natalie says that he was very supportive and understanding about her decision to donate her eggs.
Natalie is keen to have a family herself and even says that she would be happy to donate her eggs again.
I asked Natalie what advice she would give to other women thinking about donating their eggs and Natalie said: “If you can do it, why not? It doesn’t take a lot of time and it will give someone else the chance to have a family of their own.”
New rules on compensation introduced to the HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority) last year now ensures that any donor who provides eggs for use by other patients in UK clinics are not out of pocket – with up to £750 now available to cover the time and expenses incurred in the course of the donation.
Dr Kamal Ahuja, Director of the London Women’s Clinic says: “Our own experience also shows that many egg donors have seen infertility at close hand among their friends and family, or simply wish to give something back in a gesture of altruism. Many donors have children of their own and are in settled family relationships. They are keen to donate their eggs, but have never been encouraged to do so. We are hoping to inform women about egg donation and to make it simpler.”
The demand for donor eggs in Britain continues to rise, with more and more couples postponing their first pregnancies and, as a result, a greater prevalence of age-related infertility. For these women whose ovaries have ceased to function as before, egg donation their only chance of conception and pregnancy. The rate of successful pregnancy for a 43 year old woman is around 50-70% with donor eggs, but only around 5% with her own eggs.
Interview with an egg recipient
Catherine, 43 lives in South West London and is a Marketing Director for a software company. Catherine is due to give birth in March 2014 after using donor eggs and sperm to conceive. Four years ago Catherine decided to try for a baby on her own.
Catherine says: “After IUI it was suggested that I go down the IVF route. I had one attempt with my own eggs, but after producing only a few eggs, I had my AMH tested and it showed I had hardly any eggs left and also that they weren’t of good quality. It was suggested that I could try the use of donor eggs with donor sperm.”
AMH stands for Anti-Mullerian Hormone. You may have heard people speaking about Ovarian Reserve Testing. Well, this test is exactly that.
“After the initial shock and upset of not being able to do this myself, and talking it out with others I came round to the idea of donor eggs and looked at it from the perspective that it was just like adoption, but I was getting it from the start and being able to still experience pregnancy and build a bond from the start too. At this point there was only an egg sharing option available, so I had a few goes with other women who were also having IVF and were willing to share their eggs with me.
I tried this 3 times and each time it failed.
Fortunately, at the start of 2013, HFEA allowed altruistic egg donors so I tried this, which was fantastic as it meant there was no waiting list and I had a choice of three donors to choose from. They were of a young age, so in theory this meant that the eggs would be better quality. Within this IVF cycle, I managed to take 5 embryos to blastocyst stage which had never happened before.
Thankfully, it worked and I am now 18 weeks pregnant with one baby, although I did have two embryos put back in.”
Like Natalie, Catherine was also given counselling with the consultants and nurses at her clinic.
Catherine says: “They were fantastic with providing information and they were very supportive. I am very fortunate that I have a great network of friends and family. They have all supported me from the start with this, and have always been there to listen and talk through different stages.
In an ideal world, as so many women would have imagined, I would be doing this with a spouse, however circumstances have not happened this way and the want for a baby and our body clocks outweighs waiting for Mr Right.
Here’s Catherine’s advice to other women who are thinking about using donor eggs: “If a baby is what you want, but circumstances aren’t allowing you to do this naturally, then even to just consider this route means that you are able to go ahead with it. The choice is always down to the individual. Personally, I couldn’t do it without the sperm part, but I didn’t want anyone I knew, as that possibly could make things very awkward once the baby arrives. Also with donor sperm at a clinic like the London Women’s Clinic and with HFEA’s guidelines, you know it’s going to be tested, so you are safe and legally there is no come back.
From that perspective it is the same for the donor eggs, however as a female I know this decision is a little harder, as you do have to overcome the knowledge that you will never be able to have a child that is biologically yours. The difference being though, is that I get to experience everything with this child from the very start and I am sure that once the baby arrives the last thing I will be thinking about is that it didn’t come from me biologically because I have grown and nurtured it in my womb and formed that attachment.”
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