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Embarking on the IVF journey: a guide to using donor eggs

With such a wide variety of fertility treatment options available, each person’s fertility journey can look different.

In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is one of the most common types of fertility treatment but if you’re unable to produce eggs, you might think it’s not for you. However, IVF can also be carried out with donor eggs, allowing you to start or grow your family.

In this guide, we delve into what an IVF journey with donor eggs can look like, addressing any of your common concerns and explaining how you can choose a suitable donor for your treatment.

What is IVF with donor eggs?

IVF is a fertility treatment where an egg is fertilised with sperm outside of the womb to create an embryo. This embryo is then transferred back into your womb, where it can implant and create a pregnancy.

However, if you do not produce eggs or the eggs you do produce aren’t suitable for fertilisation, you may need to consider using donor eggs.

Donor eggs are healthy eggs provided by another woman. The process of IVF will remain almost the same – the main difference being that donor eggs will be used instead of your own.

The process can also take a little longer overall as there are some extra steps needed to support you during treatment.

Who is IVF with donor eggs suitable for?

IVF with donor eggs is suitable for a wide range of women. Some of the main situations where using IVF with donor eggs can be beneficial include when:

  • You’ve undergone cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy, and it’s impacted your eggs and ovaries

  • Previous rounds of IVF have failed due to the quality of the eggs or embryos

  • You have not been able to fall pregnant consistently and your partner’s sperm is not the underlying cause

  • You’re experiencing recurrent miscarriages

  • You have absent or underdeveloped ovaries due to a genetic condition

  • You have gone through premature menopause (menopause before the age of 40)

  • You have a high risk of passing a genetic disorder down to a child

  • You’re in a female, same-sex couple and the person wanting to carry the child is unable to produce eggs

  • You’re experiencing pre-menopausal ovarian failure (when your ovaries stop working before the age of 40)

  • You have a low ovarian reserve which means you have a lower number of eggs

  • Your fertility has declined as you have gotten older but you haven’t gone through menopause

If you’re unsure whether using an egg donor during your IVF treatment is right for you, feel free to speak with our fertility specialists. We will be able to work with you to make the right decision for your exact needs.

Choosing donor eggs for your IVF treatment

Once you’re certain about using an egg donor, you’ll need to consider the characteristics and requirements you’d like from your donor.

Some of the main characteristics you may want to consider include:

  • Physical – many people want their egg donor to look similar to them so there is a higher chance that your baby inherits characteristics similar to your own. Some common physical characteristics to consider include hair colour, eye colour and even height.

  • Personality – some people choose an egg donor with a similar personality to their own. However, some people also choose a donor with personality traits they hope their child will inherit.

  • Health – all egg donors are screened for serious genetic disorders and health conditions to make sure that these aren’t passed onto your child.

Using a known donor

Some people would prefer to use an egg donor they know for their IVF treatment. If you have a friend or someone you know willing to be your egg donor, this may provide you with more assurance that your child will potentially look or inherit characteristics similar to yours.

However, when using a known donor, you need to ensure all parties involved understand what is required of them – especially when it comes to their relationship with the child.

Make sure you’re completely clear on what each of you wants before going ahead with using a known donor for your IVF fertility treatment.

Anonymous donors

If you choose an anonymous donor, you will not know who the donor is at the time of your treatment. However, when they turn 18, donor-conceived children have the legal right to find out who their donor was.

An anonymous egg donor does not have any legal rights or responsibilities to any child born from fertility treatment carried out with their eggs.

How much does IVF with donor eggs cost?

The cost of IVF with donor eggs depends on many different factors. At BCRM, our starting price for donor egg treatment is from £8,100.

Some of the main factors that can influence the total cost of your fertility treatment with donor eggs can include:

  • The number of donor eggs recruited

  • The number of IVF rounds you need

  • Whether you need to use donor sperm as well

  • Registering to become a donor egg recipient

  • If you’re having intra-couple IVF (where one female partner provides the egg and the fertilised embryo is implanted into the other female partner)

Find out more about our IVF with donor egg pricing.

Are there any risks in using donor eggs for IVF?

If you use an egg donor from a licensed fertility clinic in the UK, like BCRM, there are very low risks associated. Before you start your fertility treatment, we will make sure your donor is screened for genetic diseases as well as infections such as HIV and gonorrhoea.

To become an egg donor, you also need to be:

  • A non-smoker

  • A non-vaper

  • Aged between 18 and 34

  • Have a body mass index (BMI) between 19 and 33

This criteria helps to ensure the eggs you receive are high quality and give you the best chance for pregnancy.

Success rates for using donor eggs for IVF

When using donor eggs for IVF, your success rate of pregnancy may increase if you are using donor eggs to overcome fertility problems.

For example, The Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority recently shared a story where a woman’s chance of conceiving with IVF using her eggs was around 2.5%. However, if she decided to use donor eggs instead, this would increase to around 50%.

These statistics are based solely on her unique situation, but they show that using donor eggs can increase your success rate when undergoing IVF.

Your personal success rate will depend on your exact circumstances, so it’s important to speak with a specialist donor consultant to find out what this is likely to be.

Find out more about BCRM’s IVF success rates.

The steps to using egg donors for IVF

When you undergo IVF with donor eggs, there are 10 different steps your treatment will follow. Let’s take a look.

1. Consultation

First, you’ll need to have an egg recipient appointment with a specialist egg donation consultant. They will assess your medical history and fully explain the process. They’ll also let you know of any further testing you may need, such as blood tests.

2. Waiting list

After your consultation, you’ll be added to the egg donor waiting list. To join, you will need to pay the Egg Recipient Registration fee. At BCRM, this fee is £350.

We currently don’t have a waiting list for egg donor treatment.

3. Donor matching appointment

At BCRM, our egg donation programme manager will get in touch with you to finalise any specific characteristics or requirements you would like for your donor.

4. Blood tests and sperm analysis

If necessary, you will undergo any blood test or semen analysis tests as recommended by the specialist egg donation consultant.

5. Counselling

Before using donor eggs for IVF treatment, you’ll need to have a specific counselling appointment. This will allow you to fully explore the emotional implications of using donor eggs before you make your final decision.

6. Information and consent

When you are nearly ready to pick your donor, you will be given further information on the process. You’ll also need to sign various consent forms to finalise your decision on the egg donor you decide to go with.

7. Matching with your donor

At this stage, you’ll be provided with a choice of donors who meet your requirements. As part of this, you will also be sent their various characteristics to help you make a choice that’s right for you.

8. Starting treatment

After you’ve chosen your donor, a specialist donor nurse will contact you to set up your treatment. Once arranged, they can start your IVF process and order any medication that’s needed.

9. Egg thawing

On the day of your IVF treatment with donor eggs, the eggs will be thawed. If you’re using your partner’s sperm, they will need to produce a fresh sample on the day. If you’re using donor sperm, it will be thawed. The donor eggs and the sperm will then be fertilised in the laboratory.

10. Embryo transfer

Your embryologist will keep you updated on how many blastocysts (early-stage embryos) have formed. Five days after fertilisation, the embryos will be transferred to your womb for potential implantation.

These 10 steps are how we carry out IVF with donor eggs as it ensures you are fully supported, informed and cared for throughout your fertility treatment. For a more visual overview of this process, take a look at our infographic.

Book an appointment with The Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine

Using donor eggs for IVF can be a great way to expand or start your family. However, we understand the complexities that using donor eggs can bring, which is why our ten-step process ensures you not only receive all the information you need but also our full support throughout your journey.

If you’re considering IVF with donor eggs, get in touch with our fertility team. We’d be more than happy to answer any questions you may have and help you get started on your fertility treatment.