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Egg donation

This is a procedure that harvests eggs from suitable donors to help another couple have a child. As a donor you are free to withdraw consent to egg donation at any time before embryo transfer.

Egg donors should:

  • Be under 36 years of age
  • Be in good health and have no personal or family history of hereditary disease (a cervical smear, tests for HIV, Hepatitis B and C, plus tests to exclude current or past history of transmissible diseases are done). Chromosomal analysis and screening for cystic fibrosis are also carried out
  • Preferably already have children of their own.

The procedure

Your natural cycle will be suppressed using a drug called Buserelin. This stops the production of the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinising hormone (LH), and normally takes about two weeks. The ovaries are then stimulated to develop a number of follicles, each containing an egg. When enough follicles have developed to an appropriate size, an injection of human Chorionic Gonadotrophin (hCG: a peptide hormone produced in pregnancy that is made by the embryo soon after contraception and later by part of the placenta) is given late in the evening. This leads to ovulation 40-42 hours later and egg collection is timed to take place 36 hours after the hCG injection.

You will be given an injection of pethidine, which will make you drowsy. You will also be given sedative tablets, to be taken both the night before and the morning of the egg collection, and a tablet for general pain relief one hour before egg collection.

Egg collection

The procedure, which takes about 30 minutes, is carried out using vaginal ultrasound. Remember, you will not be able to drive after this procedure.

A needle is guided along the probe through the vaginal wall and into the ovary. Each follicle in turn is punctured and drained of the fluid it contains. The embryologist examines this to determine whether an egg is present.

On average eggs are retrieved from about 80 per cent of mature follicles. The eggs recovered will be inseminated using sperm provided by the recipient’s partner. Those that fertilise will be cultured in the embryology lab.

Embryo transfer

Two or three days after the egg collection the recipient will go to the unit for an embryo transfer. Up to three of the resulting embryos will be transferred to the recipient’s womb. Spare embryos may be cryopreserved (frozen) <link> for future use by the recipient couple, provided you have given consent for this.

For more information, and if you have any queries, speak to your consultant.

Possible complications

  • Hot flushes, headaches, mood changes and vaginal bleeding may be experienced during the first stage of treatment
  • Sometimes sickness, headaches and general irritability can occur before the egg collection
  • Some lower abdominal discomfort is common, but mild painkillers should settle this
  • A small amount of vaginal bleeding is normal – use sanitary towels rather than tampons
  • You may have a spontaneous multiple pregnancy because your ovaries have produced a number of eggs that have not all been retrieved. Use a barrier method of contraception or don’t have sex until you’ve had a full period
  • Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) may occur if the ovaries over stimulate and produce large numbers of eggs or high levels of oestrogen, but this rare.

This is not a definitive list and symptoms will vary with each patient. Please ask your consultant for more information.

Recovery

You should be able to go home after two to three hours after the procedure. You will feel drowsy for the rest of the day.

Confidentiality

In the majority of cases the egg donor and recipient remain anonymous to each other, as does whether donation has been successful in achieving a pregnancy.

Legal issues

Every clinic within the UK that offers egg donation must be licensed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). Under UK law any woman who gives birth to a child is regarded as the legal mother, regardless of the genetic origins of the child. Her husband/partner is regarded as the legal father. The donor has no parental rights or legal obligations.

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