This information is designed to help you understand about how gametes can be donated.
We will see you to discuss the implications of your donation treatment for you, your family, that of the recipient and the potential child. We will help to arrange any blood tests or investigations that may be required. If you decide to proceed with treatment, you will have a consultation to discuss the implication of the treatment cycle.
Who can be an egg donor and how are they selected?
Donors are aged 35 or under who have usually completed their own family. Donation is purely on a voluntary basis and no payment is made for this other than expenses incurred.
Donors can be recruited in a number of ways:
- Self-recruited donors: These are donors who are known to the recipient and who are willing to donate their gametes to their friend/relative.
- Clinic recruited egg donors – These are donors recruited by a clinic. They may be egg sharers who need IVF treatment themselves and are donating some of their eggs to a known recipient, or altruistic donors who are donating all of their eggs to a recipient(s).
All donors are screened thoroughly to ensure they are physically fit and free from diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis. Routine testing for karyotyping and cystic fibrosis is also required.
These routine screening tests may revel unsuspected conditions (e.g. genetic anomalies or viral infection) and donors will receive support and information on the practical implications of these should this be the case.
Any medical information that may have implications for any woman or child born as a result of donation that comes to light after gamete donation should be shared with the recruiting centre.
Details of their blood group, cytomegalovirus (CMV) status, height, weight, hair and eye colour are made available to potential recipient(s) so that they can be matched appropriately to the recipient.
What does the law say about donation?
Greater openness about infertility and donation is now reflected in the law. Until April 2005, people who donated sperm, eggs and embryos remained anonymous. Donors had to give identifying details for the HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority) register, but these were confidential.
After consultation, the Government decided that the benefits of allowing people to find out more about their genetic origins outweighed the disadvantages, and so the law was changed. People conceived using eggs, sperm or embryos from people who registered as donors after 1 April 2005 will be able to consult the HFEA to find out whom the donor was, once they reach 18. As a result, any children born as a result of treatment using your donated eggs will be able to find out your identity by applying to the HFEA when they reach the age of 18 years.
Whose child will it be legally? What will be put on the birth certificate?
If you donate your eggs at an HFEA licensed fertility clinic in the UK, the recipient(s) are the legal parents of the child and they therefore put their name(s) on the birth certificate. As the donor, you would have no legal relationship or financial responsibilities towards the child. The change in the law on anonymity does not affect this.
What is the HFEA and why does it have to be involved?
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is the body that regulates fertility treatment in the UK. They license all clinics providing IVF. They keep a register of all licensed fertility treatments and children born as a result. This includes information about whether the treatment uses donated sperm, eggs or embryos.
What information about you as a donor is held on the HFEA Register?
- Physical description (height, weight and eye, hair and skin colour)
- Year and country of birth
- Ethnic group
- Any known genetic conditions when registering
- Any known genetic children when registering, number and sex
- Any other relevant volunteered information
- Ethnic group of your parents
- Whether you were adopted or donor conceived
- Marital status at time of registration
- Details of screening tests and medical history
- Reason for donating
- A goodwill message
- Pen portrait
Can I withdraw from the donation?
Yes. You as a donor are allowed to withdraw from treatment at any time for any reason prior to the use of embryo(s) created by your egg(s). You may also be advised to withdraw from the donation treatment if you don’t respond to the ovarian stimulation or if you grow too many follicles and there is a risk to your physical health.
What is the preparation for treatment?
Prior to the donation and during the donation treatment you are advised to take FOLIC ACID 400mcg daily to reduce the risk of a baby born with spina bifida, and also 10mcg daily of Vitamin D to reduce the risk of rickets. It is often cheaper to buy this over the counter at a chemist than on prescription.
Some medications, supplements and drugs are not suitable to take prior to conception (and therefore prior to egg donation) so please inform the doctor of any that you might be taking and seek advice from a doctor or pharmacist before taking anything else.
Being overweight has serious health implications and can cause complications during egg collection. If you are overweight we will discuss this with you during your consultation and advise you to lose weight. We may defer your donation until you have lost weight. It is important that you maintain your weight loss throughout the time you are having the treatment.
Being underweight can also have implications for your health and well-being, so at your consultation we would discuss how to safely improve your weight to within the healthier range.
Research suggests that women who smoke are less likely to conceive following IVF treatment. Therefore it would be beneficial for a donor to be a non-smoker too. If you would like help to stop smoking please speak to the nurses who can offer you advice, or locate services near you through the NHS Choices website:
NHS stop smoking services help you quit
The Department of Health now advises that women trying to conceive, should avoid drinking alcohol and therefore egg donors should also avoid drinking alcohol during the donation cycle. If you choose to drink alcohol then avoid drinking more than 1-2 units per week and don’t get drunk.
It is also a good idea to be up to date with your smear tests. You will be asked for the report of your last smear test. If you are due to have your smear test soon, it might be worth discussing with your GP practice the benefit of having this done sooner / before the donation cycle.
You will be asked to complete a very thorough form detailing your and your family’s medical history. It is important that you inform us if you are aware of any conditions or illnesses that exist in your family. This will allow us to investigate any risks to you or any child that may be born following your donation, and ensure that you receive appropriate advice and counselling. We may refer you to a genetics specialist who can offer you specialist advice and arrange further investigations.
Sexually transmitted diseases caught at any time may create further problems at egg collections. If you are worried about this at any time we encourage you to visit your local genitourinary medicine clinic. During the donation cycle you will also be advised to only have protected sexual intercourse (i.e. use a barrier method such as a condom) to avoid the risk of conception during the donation cycle.
What does the treatment involve?
Normally a woman only produces one mature egg every month. This egg is released into the fallopian tube where it may be fertilised following intercourse. The fertilised egg then travels to the uterus (womb) where it may implant and result in a pregnancy.
IVF involves stimulating the ovaries to produce a number of eggs, which are collected from the ovaries and combined outside the woman’s body with sperm (from the recipient’s partner/donor) to develop embryos that can be put back into the recipient’s womb and help achieve a pregnancy.
Drugs used in a typical IVF cycle are as follows:
- Daily injections to stimulate the ovaries to produce more than one egg. Depending on your history, a nasal spray or another daily injection may also be required to suppress the natural hormones produced (this is also called ‘pituitary down-regulation’)
- A single injection which is carefully timed to begin the process of ovulation
An IVF treatment cycle is monitored by regular blood tests and ultrasound scans. When the eggs are mature they are removed from the ovaries using a fine needle. This procedure is done via the vagina using ultrasound guidance (under sedation or general anaesthetic).
What are the side-effects and risks of IVF treatment?
- During the period of down-regulation, hot flushes are likely to occur. Many women also complain of mood swings and headaches. In a small proportion of cases, cysts may develop in the ovaries, and treatment may need to be delayed.
- The response to ovarian stimulation can be poor. Sometimes we are able to overcome this by increasing the dose of stimulation, but on occasion there may be no alternative but to cancel the cycle even before reaching the stage of egg collection.
- Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) can develop in around 5% cycles. In this condition, the ovaries respond excessively to stimulation, with swelling and discomfort in the abdomen, nausea, vomiting and dehydration. Sometimes we are able to predict that Hyperstimulation is imminent and may advise cancellation of the cycle. However, we cannot always predict if OHSS is going to occur, and you need to be aware of the symptoms and seek help if they appear.
- There is a small risk of bleeding or infection following egg collection, as after any invasive operation on the body.
What happens on the day of your egg collection?
On the day of egg collection, you will meet the anaesthetist and gynaecologist who will be performing the procedure. You will also have your baseline observations (i.e. blood pressure, pulse, temperature and weight) checked by the recovery nurse. The required consent forms will be completed and you will be shown through into the theatre where the procedure is performed.
Following the procedure, you will be observed in the recovery area prior to being discharged (usually a couple of hours later). At the time of discharge, you will be given information about what to expect and emergency contact details.
What information will a child born as a result of my donation be able to access?
The following information will be available to anyone born as a result of donation from the age of 18 years:
As the registered centre we will make a reasonable attempt to contact you before disclosing identifiable information details to anyone born as a result of your donation. It is therefore important to ensure that you inform us of any change of contact details.
What support groups are available?
- National Gamete Donation Trust. A national government-funded charity set up to raise awareness of and seek ways to alleviate the national shortage of sperm, egg and embryo donors. It provides useful publications for donors and recipients including information on donation and the law. Please visit www.ngdt.co.uk for further information and their current contact details
- Donor Conception Network. A national support group for people who have conceived through donation and those who are considering it. They can give you advice and support and also the chance to meet parents with donor- conceived children. Please visit www.dcnetwork.org for further information and their current contact details.
How is confidentiality maintained at Cambridge IVF?
All our hard copy notes are filed separately from your general hospital notes and are kept in locked cabinets in a locked room in a restricted area. There are a limited number of personnel who have access to your file, all of whom are bound by the Human Fertilisation Act and the HFEA’s Code of Conduct. We are unable to correspond with your GP or any other third party concerning your treatment unless you give your written permission.
We will also provide you with a leaflet entitled ‘What happens to information held about you?’ at your initial visit to the Unit.
If you wish to give us some feedback or make a complaint or raise a concern, or if you have any queries regarding funding and other operational queries, please contact our Operations Manager in writing:
Operations Manager Cambridge IVF
Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road Cambridge CB2 0QQ
We hope you have found this booklet informative and interesting. We realise we may not have covered all of your questions so if you do have any other queries we are here to help so please contact us via any of the means below:
Cambridge IVF Kefford House Maris Lane Trumpington Cambridge CB2 9LG
T: 01223 349010
We are smoke-free
Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the hospital campus. For advice and support in quitting, contact your GP or the free NHS stop smoking helpline on 0800 169 0 169.
Help accessing this information in other formats is available. To find out more about the services we provide, please visit our patient information help page (see link below) or telephone 01223 256998. www.cuh.nhs.uk/contact-us/accessible-information/
Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge
Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151