Egg donation FAQs

We know you have lots of questions when considering egg donation treatment, we have given answers below to the most commonly asked questions.

Egg donation can be performed with fresh or frozen eggs. There are benefits with each option. Using frozen eggs brings a greater choice of donors and more flexibility for patients in terms of treatment timing. The success rates for both are excellent at CARE Fertility.

In the UK, the person giving birth to a child is always that child’s legal mother. The egg donor will not be the child’s mother.

If you are having treatment with a partner who is providing sperm for your treatment then your partner will be the legal father of your child.

If you are having treatment with a partner and using donor sperm then your partner will be the legal father or second parent of your child if you are married or in a civil partnership: if you are not married or in a civil partnership but using donor sperm then there are consent forms that you can choose to complete so that your partner can become the legal father or second parent of your child.

If you are not having treatment with a partner and are not married or in a civil partnership then you will be your child’s only legal parent.

Legal parenthood in surrogacy is complex and is explained in detail in our surrogacy leaflet. Your CARE team can also answer any questions you may have about parenthood and surrogacy.

We use social media and other advertising to highlight the need for egg donors. Potential egg donors contact CARE voluntarily to take part in the programme and in return, these altruistic donors are compensated for the expenses they incur when making their donation.  Occasionally, fertile women having their own treatment also offer to share half of the eggs that are collected in their own treatment cycle in exchange for treatment benefits.

If you know someone who is willing and happy to provide eggs for your treatment we can also use the eggs of a “known donor” as long as they meet the same selection criteria as our altruistic donors. We are happy to provide advice if you want to explore having treatment with the eggs of someone you know.

All our altruistic egg donors are aged less than 35 – scientific evidence shows that the quality of eggs can be reduced after age 36. We meet all of our egg donors personally and assess their health and medical history to help us identify and screen out donors whose eggs could pose a health risk to you or your future child. We also make sure that the donor’s own health won’t be affected by becoming an egg donor.

We screen all our donors for serious infectious conditions in line with the strict guidelines of our regulator the HFEA, and make sure the timing of the tests gives the best opportunity to identify potential infections. For your safety our donors are all screened for HIV, hepatitis, syphilis gonorrhoea and chlamydia.

We also ask donors about their ancestry and if they or their family originate from a country where there is a common genetic illness then we also screen them for these conditions. All our egg donors are screened for cystic fibrosis and if its relevant to their ethnic background, we also screen for sickle-cell trait, Tay-Sachs and/or thalassaemia. All donors also have something called a karyotype test which checks that they have the usual number of chromosomes of the expected size and shape.

Full details about screening are available on our patient information document.

All screening tests have limitations though and screening cannot guarantee there are no risks at all. Infectious screening may occasionally give false negative results if a person has only very recently contracted an illness. We screen egg donors for HIV and hepatitis when they are first seen for an appointment and then again a few days before their eggs are collected. We also use a very sensitive test (called NAT) that can detect HIV and hepatitis virus at an early stage of infection.

Genetic screening is effective in identifying the most common mutations that may cause illness if they are inherited from both the sperm and egg provider but again, screening does not eliminate all risk. There is always a possibility that your egg donor could be a healthy carrier of a genetic mutation they are completely unaware of, and that we don’t screen for, and if the sperm provider also carries that same mutation then sadly, a child may be born with a genetic condition. It is important to remember though that the risks of this are no different for people having assisted conception treatment or using donated eggs.

All egg donors are registered with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). The law also requires us to tell the HFEA when embryos are created as well as the identity of the people who provided the eggs and sperm, the identity of any person who has an embryo transfer, and the outcome of the treatment cycle. 

All children born as result of fertility treatment have the right to ask the HFEA whether they were born as a result of fertility treatment when they reach age 16.When a donor conceived child reaches age 16, they can ask the HFEA if they are related to someone they plan to marry, enter into a civil partnership or intend to have a relationship with.  

At 16, children can also ask the HFEA for non-identifying information about a donor. They can obtain a physical description of the donor; the year and country of their birth; their ethnic group; whether the donor had any children when they became a donor, and the number and sex of those children; other information the donor may have chosen to share (about their occupation, religion and interests for example); their ethnic group(s); whether the donor was adopted or donor conceived (if they are aware of this); their marital status at the time they made their donation; details of any screening tests and their medical history; information they have shared about their skills; their reason for donating; a goodwill message, and a description of themselves as a person (pen portrait).

At age 18 a donor conceived child can ask the HFEA for the donor’s name, date of birth, the town or district where they were born, and their last known postal address. If a donor conceived child has given their consent the HFEA can also share their identity with any donor-conceived, genetically related siblings who ask for the information.

Donors can find out the number, sex and year of birth of any children conceived from their donation. They can’t find out their identity unless they a donor conceived child contacts them.

In the UK the eggs of a single donor can be used to create up to ten families (not including their own) but the donor has an option to restrict the number of families to fewer than ten if they wish to. If you wanted to have treatment to conceive a brother or sister for a child conceived using donor eggs then this is possible – the sibling would count as part of your existing family, not a further family – but this is only possible if the clinic has a further stock of eggs donated by the same donor.

If you have treatment with donated eggs we would encourage you to be open with your child about their origins.  Studies suggest that being open and honest can avoid the conflict or hurt that can be caused if a child discovers their origins unintentionally or unexpectedly.

This is especially important because the use of DNA testing and matching services (like those used by people tracing their ancestry) has increased significantly over the last few years. Because of the way DNA matching and tracing services work, the donor or the donor-conceived person themselves doesn’t necessarily need to be signed up to such a service for a genetic link, or possibly even their identity, to be revealed if a close family member uses the service.  

Our trained CARE counsellors can help you explore how you might feel about using donated eggs. They can also suggest resources to support you share this information with your child from an early age.

We ask everyone planning to have treatment using donated eggs or sperm to meet with one of our specialist counsellors so that we are sure you have considered all of the implications before you decide to go ahead.

We also recognise that all of our patients have different emotional needs. Our clinical teams will do everything they can to support you during your fertility journey and If you’d find it helpful at any time before or after treatment, all of the CARE clinics can arrange for you to have an appointment with a counsellor.

You can read more about our counselling and buddy support on our website.

In the UK the eggs of a single donor can be used to create up to ten families (not including their own) but the donor has an option to restrict the number of families to fewer than ten if they wish to. If you wanted to have treatment to conceive a brother or sister for a child conceived using donor eggs then this is possible – the sibling would count as part of your existing family, not a further family – but this is only possible if the clinic has a further stock of eggs donated by the same donor.

In UK law, egg donors must give their consent to the creation of embryos using their eggs and to the storage of any embryos.  Even though embryos may be allocated to you, only the donor’s consent is relevant to decisions about the embryos future use and storage, and donors do have the right to change their mind about donating their eggs at any time before embryos are used in treatment. It is however very rare for a donor to withdraw their consent and if they do, then we can continue to store embryos for a one year “cooling off” period so that the donor has a chance to be sure about her decision before embryos have to be disposed of.

It might also be useful to know that embryos cannot be transferred outside the UK without the consent of the donor. Again, it happens only rarely, but If you plan to relocate or seek treatment outside the UK using embryos created at CARE please speak to a member of the donation team as not all donors give their consent to export.

If you choose to have fresh egg donation you or your surrogate host will receive all of the eggs that are collected from your chosen donor and the treatment cycles will be synchronised.

The medications we give to donors aim to stimulate their ovaries to produce between 8 and 12 eggs. We believe that having a minimum of eight fresh eggs gives a good chance of success, and if there is a good quality embryo remaining after the embryo transfer then there is even a possibility for a future frozen embryo transfer treatment cycle.

Sperm and embryo freezing have been carried out successfully for many years but egg freezing is a relatively new technique. For this reason, in the past, egg donation programmes used only fresh eggs in synchronised cycles and CAREs excellent success rates for fresh egg donation are based on evidence from a large number of treatment cycles. 

Because egg donors are generally young and heathy, most will generally respond well to ovarian stimulation, but because stimulation is a biological process and many donors are having treatment for the first time we can’t reliably predict how a donor will respond. For this reason, in fresh donation, we can’t guarantee a minimum number of mature eggs or that there will be embryos available for transfer.  If, as sometimes happens, we collect fewer than 8 eggs in a fresh donation cycle we can continue your treatment but we will offer a partial refund of your treatment fees because we recognise that having fewer than 8 fresh eggs can reduce the chances of success.  There is also a small risk that your donor may fail to respond at all and both your donor and your own synchronised cycle have to be cancelled. This does happen occasionally and if it does, we will aim to rematch you to an alternative donor as soon as possible at no extra cost.