Today, the process of donating your eggs and helping other women overcome fertility challenges has never been easier. However, some criteria may prevent a woman from donating. Dr Malini Uppal, a fertility specialist in Central London, tells us who is suitable to donate, how they retrieve the eggs during the procedure and walks us through the initial steps of the donation process.
What makes a woman's eggs suitable for donation?
You have to be fit and healthy and aged between 18 and 36 at the time of the donation. Your periods must be normal as this indicates that your hormone levels are within the normal range.
Clinics may only allow eggs from an older woman to be used in exceptional circumstances, such as if you’re donating to a family member.
Before you donate, you’ll need to have certain health tests to ensure you don't pass on any serious diseases or medical conditions to the baby or mother.
What would prevent a woman from being able to donate her eggs?
There are a few criteria that would prevent a woman from being able to donate her eggs, these are:
- If you are over 36 years of age
- If you’re body mass index (BMI) level exceeds 30 kg/m2
- If you have any personal history of transmissible infection
- If there is any personal or family history of inheritable disorders
- If you are adopted
What happens during the procedure to retrieve the eggs?
The retrieval is conducted under sedation. The procedure is performed by vaginal approach, under ultrasound guidance. A fine needle if attached to the transvaginal probe which accesses the ovary and the follicles are aspirated under direct vision.
It is done under anaesthesia and your anaesthetist will stay with you throughout the procedure. They will make sure that you continue to receive the anaesthetic and that you stay asleep, in a controlled state of unconsciousness. After the procedure, the anaesthetist will reverse the anaesthetic and you will gradually wake up.
The treatment is based on retrieving eggs from your ovaries and later fertilising them with the recipient’s partner's sperm. The fertilised eggs are incubated for 1 – 6 days and then transferred into the recipient womb (uterus).
Is the egg donation painful?
Individuals have different responses to the egg donation experience. The egg collection is definitely considered a minor invasive procedure and some minor discomfort is not unusual – but real pain is very rare indeed. We have a dedicated and supportive team; they will help the donor with all the medical and emotional aspects of donation.
Are there any potential complications during the procedure?
The chances of obtaining one or more good quality embryos with the highest implantation potential are related to the number of mature eggs recovered from the ovaries. The safety of the donors is very important to us, and we use mild (low intensity) stimulation protocols to minimise the risks and make the treatment as smooth and easy for you as possible. We also take care to monitor your cycle closely, so we can take preventive measures to avoid the risk of hyper stimulation (OHSS). However, rarely the therapy may lead to OHSS of the ovaries. Such OHSS is usually mild and manifests in swelling of the abdomen, abdominal pain, enlargement of the ovaries and even slight accumulation of fluid in the abdomen.
It is important to note additional rare complications, such as ovarian torsion, rupture or haemorrhage. These complications require surgical intervention (open or laparoscopic) and are extremely rare. Other side effects like hot flushes and mood swings may occur occasionally.
The risks of egg retrieval
- The egg retrieval procedure entails discomfort and sometimes even some degree of mild pain, and following the procedure a couple of hours of rest is required. The main risks associated with the insertion of a needle into the ovary are infection and haemorrhage.
- Pelvic infection is rare and usually resolves with antibiotic treatment. Intravenous and rectal (suppository) antibiotics are usually given to prevent infection at the time of the procedure.
- Mild haemorrhage occurs during most manipulations of the ovary. Infrequently, the haemorrhage is more extensive and requires blood transfusions or procedures to stop bleeding.
- Since the procedure is done under ultrasound guidance the damage to the surrounding tissues as bowl and bladder are extremely rare but possible.
Where can I go to enquire about becoming an egg donor?
If you are considering becoming an egg donor then the first step is to complete the Egg Donor Enquiry Form online:
Completing the registration form
The egg donation team will assess the information and invite you in for an initial appointment where we will give you some more information about donating your eggs and take a blood test to test for your ovarian reserve (AMH). They will then perform an internal ultrasound scan to make sure that your reproductive organs are structurally normal, both ovaries can be seen and are healthy and to count the developing follicles (antral) on each of the ovaries. You will also be required to complete a Donor Registration Form.
The next step
Our Egg Donation team will assess the information provided on your registration form and wait for the blood test results to ensure that there are no obvious medical reasons why you should not donate. The team will also send you a consent form that we require you to give to your GP to establish that there are no other medical reasons why you cannot donate your eggs.
Counselling is mandatory at City Fertility for anyone who wishes to become a donor. It is a very important part of the egg donation process and the HFEA requires that all donors have the opportunity to receive implications counselling. If you are married or have a partner, you must be together for a counselling session which lasts approximately one hour.
Initial consultation and assessment
At the initial consultation, the fertility specialist will explain the treatment programme, the procedures involved in egg donation and assess your suitability to become an egg donor. The doctor will also give you essential information about the treatment itself and the potential risks and complications associated with it.
If you are interested in becoming an egg donor and want to find out more, visit Dr Malini Uppal in London by visiting her Top Doctors profile and booking a consultation.