IVF with donor eggs: step by step
We know that choosing to have IVF with donor eggs is a big step, and that there are lots of things you would wish to consider before starting treatment. In this blog, we have explained each stage of the Egg Donation IVF journey to help demystify the process and provide you with the information you need to take the next step towards family.
Who might need donor eggs in IVF treatment?
There are many reasons why a patient might need to use donor eggs in treatment, but the most common reason is related to a woman’s age. Egg quality deteriorates as a woman gets older, so even if the patient is having regular menstrual cycles, it might not be possible to conceive using her own eggs.
Other reasons for needing donor eggs for treatment could be to avoid a known genetic condition being passed from the patient to her child, or because previous medical treatment, such as chemotherapy, has compromised their fertility. Of course, same-sex male couples or single men would need donor eggs to start their family too.
“When our infertility journey started, we knew that being “mature” in years and wanting to start a family might take a little longer than might be considered the norm… We weren’t though expecting the bombshell of hearing that the numbers indicated an extremely low level of egg reserve. Our only option to become parents was to choose to use donor eggs.”
Read David and Jules’ story
What are the success rates of IVF with donor eggs?
Success rates using donated eggs are high, largely because we take great care to comprehensively screen potential donors to ensure their fertility is good. For example, all of our donors are younger than 36, have a healthy weight, and have no known genetic conditions. This thorough screening process contributes to our fantastic success rates for treatment using fresh and frozen donor eggs; our clinical pregnancy rate in 2019 was 48% for treatments with frozen eggs and 47% for treatments with fresh eggs.
Find out more about how egg donors are screened and assessed in our Egg Donation FAQS.
“We had IVF and I had been thinking about what I could do to help after having Harrison. I just wanted to give something back, I know there are women out there struggling… I don't feel strange about donating, I’m not the parent. It is their child. I'm just glad if I have helped someone out.”
Read about why CARE Manchester patient Claire wanted to donate her eggs.
What is the process of IVF with donor eggs?
The first step in having treatment with donor eggs is to register with your chosen CARE Fertility clinic.
You may have already had a consultation with one of our doctors where you have discussed the potential benefits of treatment with donor eggs, but if not, we’ll recommend this as your next step. In this consultation, your CARE doctor will discuss with you the process of treatment with donor eggs and answer all the questions that you have.
- Meeting your local Donation Team
We will next arrange for you to meet with your CARE clinic’s dedicated Donation Coordinator. Your Donation Coordinator will talk you through the donation journey, and will also closely listen to your preferences and requirements in a donor. Each CARE clinic’s Donation Team is made up of donation specialists including nurses, administrators, and doctors, and they will be there for you to offer care and support throughout your journey with us.
Your local CARE team will also organise a counselling appointment for you, where you will discuss the implications of using donor eggs in treatment. This is also an opportunity for you to talk through any concerns you have about treatment.
“Counselling is an integral part of the Egg Donation IVF process. We do find it extremely important that all potential donor egg recipients understand what their treatment will mean. At CARE Fertility Bath, our Counsellor, Gill Aldridge, will discuss the process of fertility treatment using donor eggs, answer any questions you may have, and explore the implications of the decisions being made – for you and for any future children created as a result treatment with donor eggs.
“At CARE Fertility, we want to be sure that we give you all the information you need and also that we will support you throughout the process. Once you have had a session with our counsellor, you may decide that fertility treatment with donor eggs is not for you and your journey will then end here. Or you may want to continue, and our Counsellors will continue to support you throughout treatment, if you wish.” – Helen Kendrew, Clinic Director of CARE Fertility Bath
5. Choosing your donor
When you speak with your Donation Coordinator, we will ask you about what you are looking for in a donor. We expect you’ll have preferences about your donor’s physical characteristics, such as their hair and eye colour, build and complexion. At CARE, we also ask our donors to write a personal description of themselves to help you get a feel of what your potential donor is like.
If you choose to have fertility treatment with fresh donor eggs, your Donation Coordinator will talk you through a choice of donors that matches your preferences as closely as possible. Or, if you choose frozen eggs for your treatment, you can browse our online egg bank database and select your ideal match at your own leisure.
“I was diagnosed with Turner’s syndrome when I was about 13, and as soon as my parents explained the condition I put two and two together and asked if that meant I couldn’t have children… We now have a beautiful, amazing daughter. We feel very thankful to our donor and all those skilled specialists at CARE that have made our beautiful Francesca possible.”
Read Ruth and Alan’s story
6. Creating embryos
To create your embryos, we first need to prepare the donor eggs.
For patients using fresh donor eggs in their treatment, the cycles of you (or your surrogate) and your donor are synchonised using medication. This ensures that the womb lining of the woman receiving the eggs is prepared to receive an embryo at the same time as a donor’s mature eggs are collected and fertilised. After the donor’s eggs have been collected, our embryologists will fertilise the mature eggs using IVF or ICSI with a specially-prepared sample of sperm that has either been provided on the day or which has been frozen in advance if your partner is unable to attend or if you are using donor sperm.
As frozen eggs have already been collected, we would simply need to gently warm the eggs at your convenience and fertilise them using ICSI, ready for embryo transfer. This embryo transfer can even be done with your natural cycle. For this reason, fertility treatment with frozen donor eggs can offer patients more flexibility, reassurance, and certainty in their treatment, as there is no risk of complications with your donor, such as their stimulation not going to plan.
7. Embryo transfer and beyond
Once your embryos have been created, your treatment will follow the usual IVF pathway. You (or your surrogate) will prepare your womb lining for embryo transfer by taking medications, and we’ll check that everything is ready for transfer through ultrasound monitoring.
Our embryologists will keep a close eye on your embryos as they are developing in our specialist laboratory, and then will select the best embryo for transfer using their extensive experience and, if you choose, our unique time-lapse imaging embryo selection algorithm, CAREmaps.
If the lining responds to medication as expected, your CARE clinical team will carefully replace this embryo back into the womb through embryo transfer. We’ll then ask you or your surrogate to take the hormone progesterone during the ‘two week wait’ before your first pregnancy test, as this helps to support embryo implantation.
Between 14 and 15 days after your embryo transfer, we will ask you to take a pregnancy test, and will later confirm the result of the pregnancy test with an ultrasound scan. If your pregnancy test is negative, we will encourage you to take as much time as you need and can support you with counselling. When you feel ready, we will organise a follow up appointment with your CARE consultant to discuss the next steps. If we confirm a foetal heartbeat, we will discharge you into the care of your GP.
“That single cell has truly changed our lives and created more than just a family of three… This year I will sit on the verandah and raise a glass of wine in silent thanks to our donor as I watch our child play in the sunshine, because no words can ever truly express my gratitude.”
Read this CARE Northampton patient’s story here.
What support will I get when having fertility treatment with donor eggs?
We understand that there is a lot to consider when thinking of fertility treatment with donor eggs, and we are here to support you with all the information, advice and empathy that you need to feel confident in your treatment. Your local Donation Team will always be there to answer your questions, but there are also many other people to talk to at CARE. You may wish to have more than one appointment with your CARE counsellor, and there is lots of peer-to-peer support at CARE too, such as our regular online support meetings and our CARE Buddy programme, where you are matched with another patient at a similar stage of treatment to support and advise each other.
If you would like to learn more about fertility treatment with fresh or frozen donor eggs, please call our enquiry team on 0800 564 2270 or email EnquiriesTeam@carefertility.com. Our very knowledgeable and lovely enquiry team will be able to talk you through your treatment options, answer your questions, and send you detailed information about every aspect of treatment with donor eggs.
With love from CARE x
“I have been lucky enough to be blessed with a son from donor eggs. I wouldn’t change him for the world and he is who he is thanks to my amazing egg donor. Being a Mum always meant more to me than having a biological child, I’m so grateful I made the decision to use donor eggs.”
– Lauren, CARE Manchester patient