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Using donated eggs in your treatment

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How are donated eggs used?

Donated eggs are fertilised with your partner’s (or a donor’s) sperm by in vitro fertilisation (IVF) or intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). The developing embryos are then transferred into your uterus.

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Is using donated eggs for me?

Using donated eggs is a major decision and you should take your time. You may want to discuss your feelings with friends, family or a professional counsellor before proceeding.

Using donated eggs in your treatment may be recommended if:

  • you have no ovaries or have had them removed
  • you have had cancer treatment which has damaged your ovaries
  • you are post-menopausal
  • you are producing few or low-quality eggs
  • you have repeatedly tried to conceive unsuccessfully using fertility drugs or IVF
  • you have had several recurrent miscarriages
  • you have a high risk of passing on a serious inherited disorder.

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How does using donated eggs work?

Before treatment takes place, you will need to complete various consent forms (see p81). The procedure for using donated eggs varies depending on your clinic and the fertility treatment you are undergoing. A typical procedure may involve the following steps::

For women

1. You and your donor will be given medication to synchronise your menstrual cycles. You will also be given medication to prepare the endometrium lining of your womb for embryo transfer.

2. The donated eggs will be fertilised using IVF or ICSI.

3. When the embryos begin to develop, they will be transferred to your womb as in conventional IVF. As the eggs will be from donors aged 35 or younger, no more than two embryos will be transferred.

Alternatively, the embryos may be frozen after they have been fertilised. This avoids the need to synchronise your menstrual cycle with that of the donor and may reduce the stress of the treatment..

Occasionally eggs and sperm are transferred together before fertilisation takes place – a procedure called gamete intra-fallopian transfer (GIFT).

For men

1. Unless you are using donor sperm, before treatment takes place you will give a sperm sample to check that your sperm are healthy and active.

2. On the day that the eggs are collected, you will give another sperm sample.

3. The sperm sample is mixed with the donor eggs in vitro to fertilise them, or fertilised by ICSI and then transferred to the womb.


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Using your eggs in your partner’s treatment

If you are in a same sex female couple and you want to use your eggs and your partner carry the baby, the process for collecting your eggs will be as follows:

1. After being screened for sexually transmitted diseases and some genetic disorders, you will be given a series of hormone injections to help develop and mature the eggs within the ovaries.

2. Once the eggs are matured, they are collected while you are sedated by inserting a needle into the ovaries through the vagina.

The eggs will then be fertilised, usually using IVF.


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What is my chance of having a baby using donated eggs?

There is an average 25– 40% success rate for each treatment cycle using donor eggs. This is slightly higher than the average success rate for conventional IVF across all age groups, as donor eggs must come from someone aged 35 or under.

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What are the risks of using donated eggs?

If you use donated eggs from a registered donor at an HFEA licensed clinic, the risks are minimal because:

  • donors who give eggs through a licensed clinic must answer a series of questions designed to ensure that they are suitable and know what they are doing.  Counselling is routinely offered.
  •  licensed clinics check donors’ family histories to see if they could be carrying inherited diseases
  • donors have a hormone profile taken to ensure that there should be no difficulty in stimulating egg production
  • the donor’s blood group is obtained
  • all donors go through stringent screening checks to ensure they are not carrying infections, such as HIV, hepatitis B and C, cytomegalovirus (CMV), syphilis and gonorrhoea. 
  • there are limits on the numbers of families created by each donor where eggs are used to treat you at a licensed clinic.

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Legal considerations

Parenthood issues - if you go through a licensed clinic, you are the legal parent of the child and the donor cannot make a claim for or be responsible for the child.

By law, the woman having treatment is considered to be the baby’s mother, not the woman who donated the eggs.

If the woman who is treated has a husband or male partner who gave his consent to the treatment, he is considered by law to be the baby’s father. If she has a female partner, she can obtain parental responsibility.

Withdrawing consent - the egg donor can change her mind at any time about the use of her donated eggs up to the point of embryo transfer.  This applies to any “surplus” embryos resulting from the egg donation that you have had frozen for your future use.

Donor identifying information - since April 2005, identifying information about donors is held on the HFEA Register and may be given to any child born from donation once they are 18 years old.

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Where do I start?

Once you have decided, in consultation with your clinician, that egg donation is suitable for your circumstances, an egg donor who is acceptable to you must be found.

Clinics will usually offer to put you on a waiting list for an egg donor – ask them about how long they would expect you to wait.

Egg donors can either be anonymous altruistic donors, or someone known to you such as a close friend. 
You can also:

  • contact the National Gamete Donation Trust who actively recruits donors
  • ask suitable friends or relatives
  • some clinics enable you to ‘share’ eggs. This is when another woman receiving treatment donates some of her eggs for you to use (provided enough are collected).

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Page last updated: 13 July 2015

Paying for treatment

The HFEA does not regulate the cost of treatment set by private UK fertility clinics. The HFEA does not regulate the cost of treatment set by UK fertility clinics.

Read about this and other payment issues and see if you may be eligible for funding.

...funding and payment issues