Where can I donate my eggs?
January 17, 2011 2:52 PM   Subscribe

Is there an organisation in the UK I could donate my eggs to that offer free fertility treatments to women who can't conceive?

I think donating my eggs (as in the ones in my own personal ovaries) is something I might want to do in the future.

I'm not super comfortable with giving them to an organisation that's going to make a lot of money for implanting them into a rich woman. I'd think about it, but it wouldn't be my first choice.

Is there an organisation that does free fertility treatments? I guess it's a long shot but I thought I'd ask. Thanks everyone!
posted by teraspawn to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I looked into egg donation once, and I'm pretty sure that you donate your eggs to a person (or couple), not an organization - there's a selection and matching process, and they pay you. The company or hospital organizing the process profits off of the procedures involved, but not directly off of the eggs. Payment can range from just covering your medical expenses for the shots and harvesting up to whatever the couple is willing to offer.

This isn't the kind of thing that's likely to be offered for free, on the rationale that if you can't afford to pay for the eggs, then you're less likely to be able to afford all the expenses that go along with having a baby. (That's just my speculation, though.)
posted by ella wren at 3:35 PM on January 17, 2011

Research this very carefully before putting your own health at risk. Donating eggs requires taking large amounts of hormones, and surgery to retrieve them. The infertility industry is big business, not a charity. The long-term health risks to the donor are not known. Big money is paid for eggs of healthy young women, and it often advertised in college newspapers to pay your tuition by selling your eggs.

If you want to do something charitable, donate to organizations that are working on cures for infertility or helping children in need who are already born find homes and help.

The end result if the pregnancy takes be a child out there who is genetically yours, and may need to know that someday for health or emotional reasons. This is not a simple feel-good gesture, but an action with ethical consequences.
posted by mermayd at 3:50 PM on January 17, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: The rationale is that it costs a lot of money to stimulate your ovaries and harvest the eggs, and someone has to cover the costs of that. There are some health risks of donating, but they are really minimal. Your doctor should cover this thoroughly.

What you might look into would be to take the compensation they give you for donating the eggs, purchase the eggs back, and "donate" them yourself to a couple who needs them. This can probably be coordinated anonymously through the organization that does the egg retrieval. I'd imagine it would be difficult to choose who gets the eggs, however. Maybe try The World Egg Bank?

But honestly, what a beautiful gift.
posted by ohohcyte at 4:02 PM on January 17, 2011

Best answer: You could contact The Jessop Assisted Conception Unit at the Royal Hallamshire, which is your local assisted conception unit.

Before you go ahead with this though you should do some research at the National Gamete Donation Trust website. The risks of donating eggs are small, but potentially serious. From the NGDT:
Donating eggs can affect your future fertility, so if you are planning on starting a family or completing your own, the clinic may advise you to finish your own family before donating.
The risks to the donor are however considered to be minimal and short-term. Such risks include the possibility of troublesome bleeding or pelvic infection (less than a 1% chance). Equally, there is a 1% – 2% risk of excessive ovarian stimulation (too many eggs being produced) despite careful monitoring. In such a case, the donation cycle will probably be abandoned and treatment would be commenced to regularise your menstrual cycle.
In my opinion they are slightly underplaying the risks of ovarian hyperstimulation, which is potentially a fatal complication. There's also the possibility that in 18 years time the baby made from your egg will track you down, which could be a horribly unwelcome intrusion in your future life.

Because of these complications and risks, most eggs in the UK are donated from egg sharing programmes. This is where one couple are offered a discount on their IVF (only the first cycle of IVF is free on the NHS, and even then only if you have no children already), in exchange for providing some of the eggs stimulated during their IVF cycle to another couple who need eggs. However, what you are contemplating is altrustic and wonderful, and couples in the UK do need more donor eggs.
posted by roofus at 4:23 PM on January 17, 2011

I was waiting for other people to chime in here first because I wasn't sure exactly how the UK system works, but it sounds as though it is similar enough to the Australian system that my experience might be helpful.

If, as others say, at least part of fertility treatments for some women are covered on the NHS, then I don't think you need worry that people are being exploited and the doctors are making a ton of money. Fertility treatment IS expensive, but a good amount of the cost is the bloody drugs.

I recently went through three egg donation cycles in Australia (donating to a friend, not a stranger), and the medication cost over $3000. Then the anaethetist fees were a couple of thousand (and he works for the hospital in general, not just the fertility clinic, so those were his usual fees). The clinic took about $3000 more, if I recall, and that covered a LOT of appointments, blood draws, ultrasounds, the surgical procedures (x 2), and the lab technicians who actually grew the embryos. I imagine they also have to cover overheads, legal advice and all sorts of other things.

There are some things you can do to maximise the "altruism" of your contribution. One is that you can make sure no one is paying specifically for your eggs, and you aren't taking a fee. I don't know if that is legal in the UK. In Australia you can't pay egg donors anyway. My recipients covered things like driving me to appointments, extra drugs (painkillers, further medication when I got OHSS), brought me dinner for a few days after the procedure, gave me gift vouchers for juice when I was told to drink more fluids, etc. You could always refuse all that sort of thing.

As the drugs are so expensive, one thing that some women do is donate the leftover medication to other women. Obviously you have to be very careful doing this, as you need to make sure the woman you are donating to is in a medically supervised fertility treatment program, and not planning to self medicate and end up with octuplets. You also need to keep the drugs at a certain temperature. Plus it's probably illegal. But it can save a woman thousands, and make the difference between her affording treatment and not. I always ended up with at least a week of extra medication left over, because it's hard for them to calculate how much you'll need in advance, and they like to be extra sure you won't run out. The clinic itself may or may not accept leftover unopened medicine to reuse (ours did). Some clinics just throw it out.

Memail me if you want any other info about donating. I agree with the others above that it isn't something to consider lightly, but I'd do it again if I had the choice.
posted by lollusc at 1:11 AM on January 18, 2011

Best answer: Look up the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. The website has a section for interested donors with lists of clinics and organisations who should be able to guide you.
posted by tavegyl at 1:17 AM on January 18, 2011

I should clarify: the drugs cost over $3000 PER CYCLE. (So someone is getting rich off the whole thing, that's for sure, but I'm not convinced it's anything you personally can change.)
posted by lollusc at 1:18 AM on January 18, 2011

As a woman who needs an egg donor, I thank you so much for considering doing this. It's a big thing!

In our research, we found that there is such a money train involved in the infertility business, as lollusc says. I could say a lot more about that, but I came here to say that maybe, you could donate to a couple through a particular fertility treatment centre who facilitates low cost IVF.

I'm in Australia so it's not pertinent to your situation there, but I was at a private hospital which ran a low cost IVF [$700 per cycle vs $$$$$ elsewhere]. Everything was done to keep the cost low: instead of doing cycles at different times, this practice set up a system where 20 women at a time were at the same stage in their cycle on the same days. They followed us through each stage of the month. This lowered costs and utilised staff in all of the different stages [they did bloods on the same days, injections, ultrasounds, transfer etc] where they administered the whole process. This was part of training for infertility specialists under one of the world's widely published experts in IVF.

This is ideological I suppose, but I think although this particular practice that may not have been perfect, it really had integrity beyond the money train/wholesale fuckover of most practices.

Research/Teaching hospitals would be a place to start [even if they are in a private system - my experience was in a private hospital]. I would google some big names in infertility research in the UK and see where they do their hospital work. Donating eggs to a research/teaching hospital will not only help an infertile couple, but can offer opportunities for learning more about infertility.
posted by honey-barbara at 4:43 AM on January 18, 2011

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