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Egg donors offer advice to help others make informed decisions

Women who have donated their eggs to help someone they know get pregnant have shared their experiences as part of an ongoing research project to help others who are considering the process.

Experts from the Centre for Reproduction Research (CRR) at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) have partnered with four leading UK fertility support organisations to produce a short guide which shares the advice given by women who have acted as a ‘known egg donor’.

Photo by Klara Kulikova on Unsplash
Image: Klara Kulikova/Unsplash

In collaboration with the SEED Trust, Pride Angel, Fertility Network UK and Donor Conception Network, DMU researchers asked the women what advice they would give to others who are intending to donate their eggs in a known arrangement (donating to someone they know).

The resource highlights a range of questions that this kind of donation raises, such as the kinds of relationships the egg donor and recipient have at the outset of treatment, as well as future relationships with one another and offspring.

Professor Nicky Hudson, Director of the CRR, said: “Our research into egg donation highlighted a gap in information for women in the UK who are thinking about donating their eggs. There is also a desire from them to hear the stories of other women who have donated.

“To be able to address this gap and create this new resource, developed with leading UK charities and support organisations, is a really important outcome of our research.”

The collaboration between DMU and the organisations is part of a wider research project that the CRR is undertaking, known as the ‘EDNA’ project, which looks at the social, political, economic and moral configuration of egg donation in the UK, Belgium and Spain.

Funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the EDNA project aims to:

  • Map and analyse the policy of egg donation in each country
  • Analyse and compare donor recruitment strategies
  • Explore the experiences and perceptions of both egg providers and professionals
  • Develop recommendations for policy and practice.

Eleanor Clapp, who has acted as a known donor, said that meeting with the recipient family made the process more fulfilling.

“I found that meeting the recipient family and chatting to them beforehand made the whole process more tangible,” she explained. “I could imagine any child born from the donation having a happy life with the people I'd met and it made the whole process so much more fulfilling and rewarding as it made the process more 'real'.

“It is really important to go into the process with your eyes open and having talked together about all the possible feelings you'll have and scenarios that might occur. 

“A donor baby will be as genetically close to you as your own child but it won't be part of your own family, which is rather weird when you think about it. Everyone has different reasons for wanting to donate, and sometimes you just get a feeling that it's the right thing to do.

“It is important for all concerned to know what sort of relationship you do or don't want or expect to have if a baby is born. Recipient and donor families all need to be comfortable with whatever is agreed.”

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Cathy Sidaway, who has also acted as a known donor and has been involved in advising the researchers at the CRR, said it is important for more women to share their experiences of known egg donation.

“A lot of information provided at fertility clinic level is skewed specifically to encourage women to come forward and donate eggs with the resulting child having no access to the identity of their donor, until they reach 18,” she explained.

“I’m keen that more women exploring egg donation know that this is a route they can choose to go down and the reasons why it’s such an important consideration, both for them, the couple they’re wanting to help and the resulting child. 

“Hearing first-hand the experiences of women who’ve opted to go down the known donation route, helps others understand the pros and cons, the options and the pit falls, so that fully informed decisions can be made.” 

The number of people using donor eggs continues to grow every year and now makes up around 7% of all cycles of IVF treatment in Europe. This equates to donated eggs being used for around 70,000 IVF treatment cycles in Europe, resulting in around 21,000 births per year.

Professor Hudson added: “As a route to family formation, egg donation raises a number of dilemmas for those involved and our new resource provides those thinking about known donation with useful information that can help them decide if it could be the right option for them.

“Raising awareness about the possible implications for families created via this route are of growing importance.”

The new resource is free to download for anyone considering providing eggs in a known arrangement. It may also be of interest to recipients of donor eggs and professionals who are supporting families using this arrangement.

Posted on Tuesday 2nd November 2021

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