Egg donation involves retrieving of eggs from an anonymous or known donor, fertilizing the eggs by sperm of the recipient's partner and then transfering one or two good quality embryos to the recipient's uterus (womb.)
Egg donation is a well-established form of assisted conception treatment. It offers hope for a large number of women who previously thought they could never become pregnant and have children. In the United Kingdom at is a legally accepted form of treatment. In some countries, egg donation is not allowed.
It is important that both the donor and recipient couples be adequately counseled, screened and made aware of the psychological, moral and legal implications of egg donation before being accepted onto the program.
At present, there is a shortage of egg donors in the UK and most IVF clinics have waiting lists for 2 years or longer. As a result, many UK couples seek treatment abroad. This is a major concern as one can not be sure of how scrupulous the IVF center is in selecting, screening and counseling their egg donors.
To whom egg donation is advised?
There are selected groups of patients to whom egg donation is recommended.
- Women who have a uterus but whose ovaries do not produce eggs due to premature menopause (affect 1-2% of women under the age of 40). Women who have their ovaries removed as a treatment for cancer, pelvic infection or endometriosis. Women whose ovaries were damaged by chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer. Women who were born without functioning ovaries (Turner's Syndrome). Women whose ovaries are resistant to stimulation by the pituitary hormones, so-called 'resistant ovarian syndrome'and women who have had poor ovarian response to hormonal stimulation.
- Women who have a high risk of passing on genetic disorders to their offspring. e.g. women who are carrier of sex linked diseases such as hemophilia, Duchenne's muscular dystrophy and Huntington's chorea. Couples with recurrent pregnancy loss due to chromosomal abnormalities. Although antenatal fetal diagnosis is available for an increasing number of these conditions, termination of pregnancy remains unacceptable to many couples. Recent advanced in preimplantation genetic diagnosis has enabled couples to undergo IVF, preimplantation embryo biopsy and the transfer of normal embryos. However the high cost and complexity of this procedure put beyond the means of many couples.
- Women with recurrent IVF failures, this could be due to poor response to stimulation by fertility drugs, failure of egg collections or poor egg quality.
- Older women who have poorly functioning ovaries. Most egg recipients fall in this group.