Egg donation is most commonly used when the patient is unable to produce her own eggs. This type of infertility is often associated with older maternal age, when the ovaries store of follicles is beginning to run out. The tell-tale signs are irregular - and even absent - periods, which are often a prelude to the menopause. In normal 'fertile' women this can happen in their late 30s and early 40s, but there are also unfortunate younger women who are found to have 'premature' menopause. This can happen in women as young as 20 or 30. For these women, egg donation is the only possible fertility treatment
Donor eggs in Britain have historically been in short supply. The result was that many women who needed egg donation had either endure long waiting lists - which is not always a realistic option in older patients - or travel abroad to countries like Spain where donor eggs were more plentiful. But all that has changed in the past few years - especially for LWC patients and clinic partners in the London Egg Bank, where patients have access to a very large database of UK-recruited HFEA-compliant egg donors.
This means patients at all LWC locations can be treated with egg donation without facing a long waiting-list - and have a good chance of finding a suitably matching donor without delay.
The treatment itself is much the same as for standard IVF, except that the eggs are sourced from a friend or relative (known egg donation) or from an anonymous donor or egg bank. Donors may also be IVF patients themselves, taking part in an egg-sharing scheme to help fund their own treatment. However, all children born as a result of egg donation in the UK have the right at the age of 18 to know the identity of the donor. Patients receiving ‘fresh’ donor eggs from a donor or egg-sharer must have hormone therapy to ensure that their own menstrual cycle matches the donor’s and is ready to receive an embryo for implantation. This requirement is not necessary, however, when the eggs are sourced from an egg bank like the London Egg Bank, for here all eggs are stored in a frozen state and are only thawed for fertilisation and transfer when needed by the recipient patient.
Egg donation, like many assisted reproduction treatments, can raise ethical and legal questions, and counselling is always necessary.