Egg donation as a fertility treatment
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Robert Winston

Fertility expert and one of the world's pioneers of IVF and Fertility Medicine. BAFTA award-winning television presenter and Member of The House of Lords in the UK.
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Infertility Treatments

Egg donation as a fertility treatment

It is not uncommon for a woman to have ovaries that do not produce viable eggs. This condition can happen as early as the age of 20. Until IVF, there was no treatment for young menopausal women. Egg donation has proved revolutionary to these women.
In Short

Egg donation is useful for many conditions including:

Women entering an early menopause or those in the older age group with poor ovarian reserve.

If a woman's own eggs have repeatedly failed to fertilise during IVF.

When the ovaries respond very badly to ovarian stimulation or eggs cannot be collected because of scar tissue or ovarian cysts.

Why do some women turn to egg donation?

A surprising number of young women suffer a premature menopause which means that their ovaries no longer produce eggs. Their ovaries do not make follicles and therefore do not produce oestrogen. This condition – which is mostly of unknown cause – can happen as early as the age of 20. Until IVF, there was no treatment for these young menopausal women. Egg donation has proved revolutionary.

How are the eggs collected from the egg donating woman?

Egg donors have to go through the IVF process, having their ovaries stimulated and undergoing egg collection. They will always be subject to a number of blood tests and possibly genetic screening to make certain that they are healthy. Once eggs are obtained, they can be fertilized with the sperm of the recipient’s partner and the embryos transferred to the woman’s uterus.

Interestingly recipients who are totally menopausal may have a better chance of success of pregnancy with egg donation than women whose ovaries are still active.

Indications for egg donation treatment

Here is an overview of cases where egg donation might be considered as part of fertility treatment:

  • Women entering an early menopause or those in the older age group with poor ovarian reserve.
  • If a woman’s own eggs have repeatedly failed to fertilise during IVF.When the ovaries respond very badly to ovarian stimulation or eggs cannot be collected because of scar tissue or ovarian cysts.
  • When the ovaries respond very badly to ovarian stimulation or eggs cannot be collected because of scar tissue or ovarian cysts.If a woman has no ovarian tissue.
  • If a woman has no ovarian tissue.
  • If there is a serious genetic disease in a woman’s family.
  • If radiation during cancer treatment has killed all the eggs in the ovaries.
  • What is the procedure for women using donated eggs as part of her fertility treatment?

Many women who need donor eggs will not be having periods unless they are on hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This means that their endometrium is very thin so it may be necessary to stimulate the uterus with oestrogen and progesterone to create an artificial menstrual cycle. Because most women who cannot produce eggs are not producing enough oestrogen, they usually are given hormones to stimulate the uterine lining enough for an embryo to implant. Once collected the donor eggs are fertilised with the partner’s sperm and embryos are transferred to the recipient’s artificially stimulated uterus. HRT may be needed until pregnancy is established. Thereafter, the pregnancy itself will provide sufficient hormones to ensure safe development.

What is the success rate of egg donation as a fertility treatment?

Oddly, egg donation cycles are more likely to be successful than routine IVF treatments. In selected patients donor cycles can be as much as double the usual IVF pregnancy rate. This is because the donors are usually both fertile and young so much more likely to implant. Another reason why egg donation is so successful may be because recipients are not exposed to the drugs used to stimulate the ovaries in a routine IVF cycle. Instead, she is given precisely the right amount of hormone to encourage the best uterine development.

The Genesis Research Trust

Despite countless breakthroughs in medical science, we still do not understand why some pregnancies will end in tragedy. For most of us, having a child of our own is the most fulfilling experience of our lives. All of us can imagine the desperation and sadness of parents who lose a baby, and the life-shattering impact that a disabled or seriously ill child has on a family.

Professor Robert Winston’s Genesis Research Trust raises money for the largest UK-based collection of scientists and clinicians who are researching the causes and cures for conditions that affect the health of women and babies.

Essential Parent is proud to support their wonderful work. You can learn more about them here.

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DISCLAIMER
This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Essential Parent has used all reasonable care in compiling the information from leading experts and institutions but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details click here.