Egg sharing schemes

What is egg sharing?

  • Egg sharing involves a woman having fertility treatment and donating some of her eggs in return for benefits in kind in the form of discounted treatment services, usually a reduced treatment fee.
  • There is a need for egg sharing because of the shortage of donated eggs - some women have been known to wait 3-5 years to receive donated eggs. Some egg sharing schemes involve donation for research.
  • Clinics are expected to ensure that the donor and the recipient (and, where appropriate, any partners) have full information about the nature of the treatment so they are able to give informed consent. Agreements should be in place between the egg provider and the treatment centre and the egg recipient(s) and the treatment centre.

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How does an egg sharing agreement work?

  • Some women cannot produce any eggs, or cannot produce eggs which can be successfully fertilised.  This can be either due to medical problems or because the quality of their eggs has deteriorated through age. 
  • The full cost of IVF treatment at a private clinic can range £4000-£8000 per cycle, with the cost of drugs often added to this, and it is not uncommon for women to need at least 2 or 3 cycles before they become pregnant. Clinics that provide egg sharing schemes will normally charge the donor a reduced fee for their treatment. 
  • Egg donors (including egg sharers) should be aged 35 or younger because women's fertility begins to decline significantly after this age.  (Sperm donors can be aged up to, and including, 45 years old.)  In exceptional circumstances, a clinic may accept donors outside this age group.  No one under the age of 18 can donate sperm or eggs. In some cases, eggs may be donated to two recipients.
  • The woman providing the eggs is treated as a donor and is therefore on the HFEA donor register. This means that when children grow up they can apply to the HFEA to find out more about their origins. The donor and her eggs will be screened as is required for donors.
  • The egg provider and the egg recipient have separate agreements with the clinic and all the patients involved should be offered counselling to discuss the risks and possible outcomes. The guidance given to the clinics means that the women involved do not meet or find out about each other. 
  • The egg share agreement covers a variety of issues that need to be addressed in advance, for example, what will happen if only a small number of eggs are produced.

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What is the role of the HFEA?

  • Egg donation (including donation for research) and sharing schemes are covered by various sections of the HFEA Code of Practice.
  • Before any egg donation cycle begins, the HFEA's Code of Practice states that clinics must ensure that the donor has full information about the nature of the treatment.  This includes the offer of donor counselling to help them understand the implications of that treatment such as the possibility of the recipient becoming pregnant but the donor does not, or if the donor is approached by a donor-conceived child in the future. 
  • In February 2007 it became possible for women to get reduced cost treatment if they donate eggs for stem cell research.

For further information see the HFEA Code of Practice particularly the sections regarding:

  • egg sharing agreements
  • recruiting donors
  • consent
  • the provision of counselling
  • information to patients

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HFEA public consultations relating to egg sharing

In December 1998, the HFEA announced its decision not to ban the system of paid egg sharing.

In 2004, the HFEA started a comprehensive review of all areas of sperm, egg and embryo donation - the Sperm, Eggs and Embryo Donation (SEED) Review.

The relevant announcements are:

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Further information

HFEA Information for egg donors:

HFEA information for egg recipients:

Information from other websites:

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Page last updated: 13 April 2009

Interested in becoming a donor?

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