IVF with donor eggs allows women who can’t use their own eggs, for whatever reason, to carry an embryo themselves – a product of donor eggs and sperm from their partner, or from a sperm donor if needed. It’s a form of fertility treatment that allows women to pursue their dream of having a baby when otherwise it would have been impossible. In this article we take a closer look at what IVF with donor eggs involves, and how the Access Fertility Donor Egg Refund Programme can help.
How does IVF with donor eggs work?
In IVF with donor eggs, in vitro fertilisation (IVF) takes places using eggs from a donor and either sperm from the patient’s partner, or from a donor. After that stage, the process is very similar to IVF treatment. The eggs are placed in a petri dish with the sperm cells and hopefully become fertilised. Alternatively, if there are any concerns about the ability of the sperm being used, the clinic may recommend ICSI, to help with fertilisation.
After several days of monitoring, those embryos deemed strongest are ready for transfer. In some cases, the patient may carry the embryos herself. For other patients, such as gay male couples, they will be transferred to a gestational carrier. Alternatively, the patient may wish to freeze the embryos and have them implanted in a later cycle (see our article on fresh vs frozen embryos).
When might IVF with donor eggs be needed?
Most commonly, a fertility specialist will recommend IVF with donor eggs when a female patient isn’t producing enough eggs for standard IVF. This is most likely due to age-related infertility, especially for women who want to undergo IVF over 40, or for those with low ovarian reserves. IVF with donor eggs might also be suitable for patients who have been through repeated failed cycles of IVF, or who have had treatment cancelled due to low ovarian response.
For single males or gay male couples with a gestational carrier, IVF with donor eggs is also an option.
How do I find an egg donor?
Choosing your egg donor is a huge decision. Your fertility clinic will be best placed to advise you on the next steps for finding an egg donor for your IVF, and may also offer counselling to help with the decision. Some clinics have their own egg donor programme, while others may use a separate bank. Either way, the donors will be screened carefully for any genetic diseases, infection, etc.
For some patients, they have someone known to them who is willing to donate their eggs. In that instance, you should discuss your options with your clinic.
For more information on finding an egg donor, we highly recommend reading more on the HFEA website.
What happens in the donor egg IVF process?
Using donor eggs for IVF is very similar to the standard IVF process, after a certain point. Here we look at how the steps vary when you’re using donor eggs.
- Consultation – you’ll meet with your fertility specialist at the clinic to discuss your medical history and the options available. At this stage they’ll also take some blood tests and do a scan, as a pre-treatment screening
- Counselling – using donor eggs is a big decision which comes with its own implications. Your clinic should offer counselling with a specialist who can give you all the information you need to make the right decision for you, before you consent to going ahead with treatment.
- Choosing your donor – you’ll be given your options for the donors that match your preferences. You’ll also choose whether to use fresh or frozen eggs.
- Egg preparation – this stage is when the donor undergoes ovarian stimulation, just as a patient would in traditional IVF. Her eggs are collected, while the recipient takes medication to get her uterus ready for embryo transfer. Both parties need to be in synch so that the embryos can be transferred at the right time.
- Egg insemination – the eggs are either placed in a Petri dish with partner or donor sperm, or may be inseminated using the ICSI treatment.
- Fertilisation – The culture dishes go into an incubator and the embryologist will carefully monitor the egg to see if they are fertilised.
- Embryo growth and grading – You’ll receive a grading of the embryos on day three that will tell you what potential they have for development. Between day three and day five, some of those embryos will hopefully develop into blastocysts. Then, the clinic will give a blastocyst grading. This complex assessment helps the clinic to decide which are the best embryos to transfer.
- Embryo transfer – the chosen embryo is transferred under ultrasound guidance into the recipient’s uterus. Meanwhile, any remaining embryos can be frozen and stored for future use
- Pregnancy test – some clinics ask patients to do a home pregnancy test, while others ask you to come in for a blood test. Either way, this will take place around 15 days after egg collection. If you are pregnant, most clinics will offer a scan at around 6-8 weeks. If everything looks OK, you can continue the rest of your pregnancy under the care of your GP and midwife. If your test result is negative, your clinic will be in touch to discuss your next steps.
How expensive is IVF using donor eggs?
Given the additional stages involved in IVF using donor eggs, costs can be very expensive. They vary a great deal, depending on the source of the egg donor, and whether you wish for the eggs to be fresh or frozen.
How can Access Fertility help me pay for my IVF using donor eggs?
If your clinic has advised you that you should consider using donor eggs in your IVF treatment, our Donor Egg Refund Programme offers you multiple IVF cycles for a fixed price, significant savings and either a 50%, 70% or 100% refund if you don’t have a baby.
We collaborate with our partner clinics across the UK to offer this service, which includes unlimited embryo transfers and up to two or three egg collections. Learn more about the Donor Egg Refund Programme.