IVF with donor eggs
Professor Charles Kingsland, FRCOG answers some of your most commonly asked questions
Donor egg treatments are for women who are unable to use their own eggs but can still carry a child. Through an anonymous or a known egg donor, an individual or couple can receive the precious gift of life and, at CARE Fertility, cycles using donor eggs are some of our most successful treatments
When someone discovers they need donor eggs to have a baby, they may experience a range of emotions and also have lots of questions. We asked one of our experts, Professor Charles Kingsland, FRCOG, Group Clinical Director at CARE Fertility, to answer some of the most commonly asked questions.
What does fertility treatment using donor eggs involve?
IVF using donor eggs is very similar to regular IVF treatment; we collect eggs from your donor and fertilise them using the sperm of you, your partner, or another donor, monitor the embryos as they develop, and then choose the best embryo to place back in the womb. We can even freeze any additional embryos for future treatment.
What is the success rate for IVF with donor eggs?
Success rates using donated eggs are high. This is largely because IVF using donated eggs is most successful when the donor is younger than 36, so all our egg donors are aged 35 or less. Our donors have also undergone extensive screening and are registered with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), so you can be assured that your egg donor has good fertility. This is a crucial factor in achieving strong results for anyone who needs IVF with donor eggs.
Read more about our success rates here.
What does CARE look for when screening potential egg donors?
When screening potential egg donors, we look for all types of healthy women who are aged 35 and younger. There is no “perfect” type of donor, so everyone who applies to donate is given equal consideration during evaluation and pre-screening. The overall goal is always to help people who need donated eggs build healthy families. Our dedicated consultants, donor co-ordinators and clinic donation support teams work together to evaluate potential donors and help our egg recipients move forward in their journey of having a baby.
There are basic criteria which an egg donor needs to meet in order to donate, including factors such as age, body mass index (BMI) and genetic history. We always follow these strict criteria, not only to adhere to the guidelines set by the HFEA, but also to protect a donor’s own health. We know that egg recipients want a healthy donor with good fertility, so we always strive to make sure all our donors have followed a healthy lifestyle before proceeding.
What is pre-screening and why is it important?
All of our potential egg donors undergo medical screening and counselling to help determine their eligibility to donate: this process is called pre-screening. Only those who complete our rigorous pre-screening process are accepted as CARE egg donors.
Medically, we look for healthy ovaries and hormone levels, but we also consider the emotional and psychological aspects of donation. We want to make sure that our donors understand how their generosity makes a tremendous impact on both their life and that of the recipients, and we are dedicated to supporting them emotionally with counselling.
Professor Kingsland says, “Our intensive screening process is a key factor in helping us achieve high success rates for our patients who need donor eggs.”
What fertility tests do potential egg donors undertake?
It’s really important to find out about egg donors’ potential egg supply (known as the ‘ovarian reserve’) and how they will respond to the drugs that stimulate egg development.
We can use a combination of tests to find this information:
- Anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH) blood test: This simple blood test – taken any time in the menstrual cycle – allows us to measure the donor’s hormone level, giving a good indication of the ovarian reserve.
- The Antral Follicle Count (AFC) scan: This ultrasound scan helps us assess a donor’s ovarian reserve and her potential response to ovarian stimulation.
What is the difference between using fresh and frozen donor eggs for fertility treatments?
Whether using fresh of frozen donor eggs, much of the treatment process is the same. To ensure good fertility, all of our fresh and frozen egg donors are 35 or younger. Instead of collecting fresh eggs from your donor, we carefully defrost the frozen eggs and then fertilise them before replacing the best embryo back in the womb.
Using frozen donor eggs instead of fresh donor eggs can have some advantages for recipients:
- Treatment won’t need to be synchronised with the donor’s cycle. This means the egg recipient won’t need to have injections or medications to alter their cycle, as the preparation for embryo transfer can be done in synchrony with their own cycle.
- There can be a shorter time between choosing your donor and having treatment, as the frozen eggs have already been collected.
- You won’t be affected if the donor doesn’t respond as expected. Sometimes, synchronised cycles sadly have to be cancelled at the last minute if a donor’s stimulation doesn’t go to plan. In a frozen egg cycle, the eggs have already been successfully collected and carefully frozen in our lab, ready to be thawed for treatment at your convenience.
- Frozen eggs can only be fertilised by intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI): where a single sperm is directly injected into an egg. Successful fertilisation rates are slightly higher with ICSI compared with IVF, but ICSI is especially advantageous where there is a sperm issue, such as a low sperm count or poor sperm quality.
What is the success rate for IVF using frozen donor eggs?
Thanks to recent advances in egg-freezing technology and techniques, recent evidence shows that there is no difference in success rates between frozen and fresh eggs. One of these breakthrough laboratory processes is vitrification: instantaneously ‘super freezing’ eggs at -196⁰C using liquid nitrogen. This ensures the cells inside an egg are not damaged during freezing, resulting in 85% of eggs surviving the entire freeze-thaw process.
At CARE, we also maintain excellent quality control when freezing and thawing eggs by using identical procedures in every CARE laboratory. This is important because thawing success is dependent on the freezing and thawing methods being compatible.
Thousands of babies have now been born worldwide from treatment using previously-frozen eggs. There aren’t currently any national statistics showing pregnancy rates after treatment using frozen eggs, but the use of frozen eggs is well established at CARE, and our own clinical pregnancy rate in 2019 was 48% (pregnancy rate per embryo transfer based on the 42 cycles completed in 2019).
Is egg donation regulated in the UK?
We believe that the very best way to provide for your family is by finding you an altruistic egg donor. A key element of this is the strong and carefully considered regulatory structure in place through the HFEA, which makes egg donation in the UK safe for both donors and recipients.
How do I find the right egg donor?
We understand that many people want to make sure that care has been taken to match them with the right egg donor. You won’t ever meet or know her, so it is incredibly important for us to do the best for both you and your donor. That’s why each CARE clinic has a dedicated donation team; we know that you are unique, and we will always strive to find someone who is the best fit for your family.
We are also soon launching the CARE egg bank: the largest bank of frozen eggs in the UK, all donated by UK-based donors registered with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. The launch of the CARE egg bank at the end of February will make searching for a frozen egg donor much quicker and easier.
What information can I find out about my egg donor?
We aim to give you as much information as we can about your egg donor, but it is all non-identifying. When you have been matched with a donor, we can give you the following information about her:
- Her physical characteristics.
- A personal profile: Each donor is asked to complete an extensive personal profile, written in her own words, giving greater insight into her personality. Your donor will probably include the reason why she has decided to become an egg donor.
- A goodwill message that your donor has written for any children born as a result of her donation.
What will your egg donor know about you?
In the UK, egg donation is anonymous. If your donor wishes, they can find out if a child has been born as a result of their donation, the sex of the baby, and the year of birth. Many of our donors like to know that their donation has been successful, but they will not be able to find out any more information.
Do egg donors receive compensation?
We know that our donors’ time is valuable, and we make sure to compensate them for all of their time with us as an egg donor. The HFEA allow us to pay donors compensation of £750, but we have found that most of our donors do it for more than money; they want to help others have a family.
Professor Kingsland agrees: “The money helps, but the fact that they are helping someone else with this incredible gift is the driving factor.”
Why CARE Fertility?
CARE Fertility is the leading egg donation programme in the UK. Our highly experienced teams have been helping people to have successful treatment with donor eggs for many years, and we work proactively to attract egg donors who are healthy, informed and want to help others have a baby.
As each of our clinics has a specialist donation team, you will always have a dedicated point of contact throughout your fertility journey. Each team is made up of donation experts, including our new patient enquiry team, our specialist nurses, administrators, and doctors, all of whom are trained to give the best advice together with streamlined care and support.
We also know that undertaking any fertility treatment can seem daunting, so all of our patients always have access to an expert counsellor at their local CARE clinic.
Having your donor egg treatment at CARE Fertility not only offers you the best chance of getting pregnant, but gives you peace of mind that we’ll look after you throughout every stage of your treatment.
Your first step
Our dedicated new patient enquiry team can help you to get started.
Call us on 0800 564 2270