Inability to conceive no longer means having to go through life without children. Modern science and continued research has helped millions of couples become parents. Egg donors all over the world are helping make parenthood a reality for couples where egg quality or availability are an issue.
Who Needs Egg Donation?
There are myriad reasons for a woman’s egg production or egg quality to be compromised. It can range from age, genetics, premature menopause, a hereditary health problem (for example, Turner’s syndrome) or treatment for cancer using chemotherapy or radiotherapy. In some cases there is no reason found.
An egg donor is required to provide basic personal information such as racial origin, height, weight, colour of eyes, and blood type. It is recommended that egg donors ideally be women who are under 35 years old and have already completed their families. This is recommended because if a complication (which is a rare event) occurs during the process, it does not jeopardise the egg donor’s chances of having her own family. In addition, it is important that her own desire to become a mother has already been met. It is also necessary that recipients of the egg donation are happy with their own egg donor.
There are certain conditions that immediately disqualify a volunteer donor from donating eggs and includes women who have a family history of certain diseases such as (cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anaemia, etc.). The egg donor needs to undergo certain screening tests in order to prevent the risks of passing on any diseases or abnormalities, and most importantly, has given written consent before donating egg.
In Australia there are different laws regarding identification issues for gamete and embryo donors or children depending on the state that you live in. However, most IVF clinics recommend that the donor be someone you know in order for the child to maintain some level of contact with their donor; however, this is not mandatory.
After an initial specialist consultation, counselling of both the recipient and donor is the next step. The counselling may discuss legal, social, genetic and moral implications of the donation as well as the medically related health checks and the whole process of the donation.
A donor is required to undertake screening tests such as blood group, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Cystic Fibrosis, Syphilis, Chlamydia, chromosome analysis and HIV status. A negative test is not conclusive, as some diseases may not show up in blood tests immediately. Reproductive Technology Accreditation Committee (RTAC) of the Fertility Society of Australia guidelines recommend that embryos created through egg donation are quarantined (cryo-storage) for a six month period.
At the end of six months, the donor’s blood is tested again to check for any infectious diseases. If the test proves negative, the gametes are considered ready for use. Although quarantining embryos is not mandatory, it is recommended for medical purposes. However, if the recipients are willing to take the risk, they can waive the quarantine in order to proceed with an immediate “fresh” transfer.
The recipient and the donor will be given hormones to get recipient’s fertility cycles matched. The donor needs to ovulate when the lining of the recipient’s uterus can support an embryo. If the eggs are now prepared, the donor will be sedated, and a doctor will remove the eggs using a fine hollow needle assisted by an ultrasound. The recipient will follow a standard In Vitro fertilisation (IVF) process.
In Australia it is illegal to purchase human tissue. This includes eggs and sperm. All births resulting from donor eggs must be voluntary. In most cases expenses for medical procedures need to extract the egg and/or sperm will be covered by the couple seeking assistance, but no fee can be paid or received for egg or sperm donation.
In Victoria (and in draft legislation in NSW), it’s compulsory that a register is kept that records identifying information of donors and their offspring. There’s no such thing as a truly anonymous donation, and children born from donor eggs may search for their genetic mothers once they turn 18. Further, donors must be (preferably) under 35 years of age (though some clinics will accept donors up to 38).
The donor has no legal claim on any resulting child. Under NSW law (legal and medical rules differ from state to state), a child born from a donated egg or sperm is deemed to be the child of the birth mother.