Find out about egg and sperm donation and who benefits from this fertility option
Donor egg treatment for IVF is where a woman uses another woman’s eggs (the donor) rather than her own.
Why choose this path?
Women who cannot use their own eggs for conception, but can still carry a child in their uterus, may want to use a donor egg. It may be that she has too few eggs (ovarian reserve), poor quality eggs, ovaries that do not work well or there could be genetic reasons. Same-sex couples may want to use this path, too.
Once you have decided that egg donation is suitable for you, and your doctor agrees, an egg donor must be found. Your clinic will offer to put you on a waiting list for an egg donor and advise you on the waiting time.
Egg donors can be anonymous altruistic donors or someone known to you such as a close friend. You may also consider ‘egg sharing’. This is when another woman receiving treatment donates some of her eggs for you to use.
How IVF works with donor eggs
An egg donor is chosen and screened to ensure a clean bill of health. The two women synchronise their menstrual cycles with contraceptive pills. Unless donor sperm is used, the intended father’s sperm is checked to make sure it is healthy. On the day that the eggs are collected, a sperm sample is mixed with the donor eggs in the lab to fertilise them, or they are fertilised by ICSI and transferred to the womb
The embryos are transferred to the intended mother’s womb as in conventional IVF or may be frozen after they have been fertilized (this avoids the need to synchronise menstrual cycles)
When the intended mother is ready, she has blood testing and ultrasound scans to identify the appropriate point in the cycle for transfer. She may also be given medication to prepare the lining of her endometrium On the day of transfer, the embryo(s) are thawed and transferred to the uterus
For many couples with infertility, there can be a problem with the sperm – it may be faulty or there is not enough of it. So donated sperm is used instead for IVF. Or the decision to use it may be down to a lifestyle choice.
Why choose this path?
Donor sperm allows single women to become pregnant, or couples with male infertility, or anyone affected by genetic disease. It gives same-sex couples a range of ways to become parents.
How IVF works with donor sperm
The safest and most reliable way of obtaining sperm from a donor is via a reputable licensed clinic.
In the UK, clinics are inspected and regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). Once the donor is found, the intended mother will follow the 10 stages of IVF
On the day of egg collection, the donor sperm will be thawed and fertilised with the eggs.
Find out more about egg, sperm and embryo donation