Why I wanted to donate my eggs
When Claire held her little boy in her arms for the first time it was the completion of a long journey. The 29-year-old and her husband Jason had to undergo IVF after struggling to conceive.
In her own words, Claire's fallopian tubes were "knackered" but thanks to the IVF process - which used her own eggs - the couple are now celebrating toddler Harrison-Jay's fourth birthday.
At the end of last year Claire decided to go back to the clinic to donate her eggs. She said: "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 felt a bit of failure at first when we went for IVF because my body wasn't working properly.
"Everyone has different reasons for having IVF. Some have had cancer and had their ovaries removed or are gay and want to start a family.
"It is awful wanting a child and not being able to have one. I know that and I had Harrison. It feels good to help someone else."
Claire went to CARE Fertility, which has clinics in Bolton and Manchester, for her donation procedure.
She had to go through assessments and a consultation process – which includes talking to a counsellor about the ethical implications of donation. Egg donors are carefully monitored by the fertility nurses. There were daily injections for three to four weeks, to help produce more than one egg, as well as regular ultrasound scans and blood tests.
Donors and recipients are carefully matched for height, weight, hair and eye colour and blood group. Once a recipient is found the donor is put on the pill until both women's menstrual cycles are synchronised. Eggs are collected with ultrasound guidance as a needle is passed into the ovary where the eggs are found.
The procedure only takes around 30 minutes and is carried out under sedation. Sperm is then introduced to the egg and the early embryo is incubated for five days before being transferred to the recipient mother.
After undergoing IVF, the process was not daunting to Claire but she did have to overcome some hurdles.
She explains: "I couldn't inject myself, I had to get my husband to do it for me!
"I was more nervous going through IVF. As the donor you don't have to find out how it goes afterwards but if you are the lady becoming pregnant, there's lots to worry about”
"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."
The CARE Fertility service has supported over 200 recipients in the past 12 months. Success rates are the highest in the North West region in the latest HFEA.
Following the pregnancy, donors can find out if the treatment has been successful for the recipient, the year of the baby’s birth and their gender. Donors are also invited to write a letter of goodwill which can be given to the child when they turn 18 - if they are aware they were born through donation.
After a change in UK law in 2005, the child can also find out the details of the donor when they turn 18.
It takes a lot to become a donor, not just the decision to conceive a baby you may never meet, but also because of the strict process.
Donors must be under 36 – as egg quality deteriorates after this time – and have no history of genetic conditions like haemophilia, Type 1 Diabetes, cystic fibrosis or conditions such as Down's syndrome in at least three generations of their family.
They must also be within a healthy BMI and not smoke or drink excessively.
Women can donate six times – with a three month gap between – if they have not had a child before and 10 if they have, sometimes donating to the same parents a number of times.
CARE Fertility welcome enquiries from sperm and egg donors who are willing to go through the process and help make a family. Egg donors are compensated with £750.
Helen Mitchinson, the nurse co-ordinator at CARE Bolton, says the intensive process can lead some to drop out but hopes others can see it through.
She added "Donors go through a lot to help someone have a baby. I think the women who do it are very brave."
CARE Fertility Manchester Medical Director Philip Lowe thanked all previous donors from across the region for their generosity.
He said: "Without them we simply couldn’t help many of our patients become parents. Donors and recipients can be reassured that we only recruit donors in the UK, giving them the protection of strict UK regulations and screening.
“We have egg and sperm share schemes at CARE which help to reduce the cost of treatment and with NHS funding for IVF being cut this might be a way for more people to access treatment”
"All donors have specialist counselling and are health checked. We would love more donors to come forward - they are a wonderful group of men and women and they quite literally have the ability to change another woman’s life."
As told to the Lancs Telegraph, August 2017