Egg, Sperm & Embryo Donation

Fertility Treatment Options
Key Points
  • Egg, Sperm and Embryo donation are becoming more common.
  • Birth rates with donation are higher than with own gametes.
  • Making a decision on donation may take a while. Take time to redefine family and mother images in your mind, so that you can ease your emotions and feel peaceful with an honest
People choosing donation as a route to parenthood has increased significantly over the years. Donation can involve egg, sperm or embryo donation. Most donation cycles happen from the age of 43.

The highest number of patients using own eggs and partner sperm (OEPS) and own eggs and donor sperm (OEDS) are those aged under 35.

Donor egg and donor sperm cycles are mostly undertaken by the under 35 age group too. This is in part due to the high percentage of patients with female same-sex partners using donor eggs and donor sperm who tend to be younger.

Using donor eggs with partner sperm is mostly used by those aged 44 and over, as the chances of successful pregnancy after 44 using one’s own eggs are not high.

Egg Donation

Egg donation is a common strategy in cases of poor egg reserve or quality.
Birth rates with egg donation are higher than with patient own eggs.

Who is eligible for egg donation?
1. Women with poor egg quality/quantity
2. Women with early menopause
3. Women who don’t produce eggs as a result of chemotherapy or radiotherapy
4. When fertility treatment with own eggs has failed
5. Male same-sex couples as part of the surrogacy journey

Sperm Donation

The success rates of cycles with sperm donation depend on:
  • Maternal age
  • Female fertility factors
  • Total number of motile sperm
  • Treatment (IUI or IVF)

Who is eligible for Sperm Donation?
  • Single women
  • Female same-sex couples
  • Heterosexual couples where male partner has poor sperm quality

Legal Aspects with Egg/Sperm/Embryo Donation

  • Each country has regulations on anonymity. Some countries do anonymous donation, whilst other countries keep a register of donation, allowing the child to know who donated sperm/egg when they reach 18 years old.
  • Each country has regulations on reimbursement. Some countries have altruistic donation regulations, where donors cannot be paid for donating eggs/sperm (apart from compensation for financial loss during treatment). Other countries allow donors to charge for donating their eggs/sperm.
  • Donors have no medical, legal, financial or ethical obligations towards children conceived with their gametes, and will not be named in the child’s birth certificate.
  • Donors have no rights on how the child will be brought up.

Common Concerns about Donation

Am I biologically related to my child?
An embryo is formed with the genetic material resulting from an egg and sperm. If you are getting a donated egg or sperm, the child will be partly genetically related to the donor.

In the case of donor eggs, recent research has found that women who conceive using donor eggs may affect the activity of their child’s genes. This is thought to be related to microRNA present in the uterus lining during implantation. So even though you can’t pass on your DNA, your embryo will take up your microRNA which will determine which of its genes will become active. Consider that even though you are not passing your genes, your body still plays a very important part: your uterus, your health, your blood, your nutrients, your oxygen all helped create a life, and without these the embryo wouldn’t develop, and a baby wouldn’t be born.

Will my child look like me?
When you choose egg or sperm donation, you will be able to choose some donor characteristics. You may choose a donor who looks like you or your partner.

There is also some evidence that in cases of egg donation, your microRNA present in the uterus lining during implantation which will determine which of its genes will become active.

And remember that as the child grows, you will also pass on your values, beliefs, behaviours and attitudes.
Will I be able to connect with my child?
As you reflect on your option of egg or sperm donation, take some time to consider what family and motherhood mean to you and how you want to experience these in your day to day with your child.

Family is about connection, self-growth, growing together, supporting each other. It’s about unconditional love, nurturing and passing on your values.

Making a decision as a couple
The impact of having to consider donation, on a relationship can be frustrating and confusing. Couples may grieve at different times, cope and make decisions differently.

If you are in a relationship, this will be a joint decision. Remember why you got together in the first place, make your union a priority and be respectful of each others grieving times, coping styles and opinions.

It may be helpful to speak with a nurse or psychologist during the process of making a decision. You can also join our Wellness Circle: Donation series to explore this topic.

Where can I get Support?

Support whilst you are considering egg or sperm donation and during the process is very important.

A certified fertility nurse or psychologist can help you:
  • understand the process and implications of donation
  • set goals and make decisions
  • manage stress and other emotions
  • communication and relationship strategies
  • improve your health status

Wellness Circle: Donation

Join our Wellness Circle: Donation series to explore this topic.

Speak to other people going through a similar journey. There are many groups online and face to face. You can find more on Donor Conception Network.

Grieving the loss of the genetic connection and the image of family you had is part of the process to close one chapter and open a new one, yet to be written, but that maybe will bring you the happiness, connection and fulfilment you have been longing for. Human beings are so much more than their genes.
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