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IVF egg donor use rises sharply

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According to HFEA figures, the number of women using donated eggs has grown in the past 10 years.

3.924 women in UK had IVF using a donor egg in 2016, while in 2006 there were 1.912 women who chose this way of fertilization, the UK fertility industry’s regulator, known as the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) said.

The rise is ascribed to a greater awareness of donation as an option, since there are more donors, and more same sex couples, single and older women using them.

The number of women donating their eggs is also on the rise while the largest group of women using donated eggs was those over 44 years old. Women usually need to be between 18 and 35 to donate their eggs and the process for donating is similar to the procedures followed for IVF, involving hormone injections and egg removal.


The regulator said that about 33% of IVF treatment cycles resulted in a birth for patients under 35, with current treatments now 85% more likely to succeed than back in 1991 when records began.

Chair Sally Cheshire said: “There are more options these days for people to be able to create their own families.

“We have seen an increase in egg donation and sperm donation, and in people who use both.

“Generally there is a greater awareness of donation, we have seen a rise – about a third up – in same sex couples and single women coming forward for donation but it’s important to say that they still represent a very small percentage of the number of IVF cycles that take place.”

UK law doesn’t permit women to get paid for egg donation but  provides for compensation of up to £750 per cycle to cover their expenses.

Cathy Nicholson, from York, has donated her eggs five times, donating every year for five years since she was 27. One of the women she has helped had undergone cancer treatment and she has also provided help for a same-sex couple and for couples with fertility problems.

The 38-year-old, who is expecting her third child in May, said: “People that receive eggs are absolutely amazed that other women want to give them, but that is because at the end of their process they get this amazing baby.

“It’s an involved process, it’s a commitment, but really it is a drop in the ocean compared to what couples have to go through to make their babies possible.

“I didn’t feel I was giving anything away that I was going to use for myself.”

On the other hand, a woman who has received help is Amanda Mitcheson, 49, from Doncaster, who started trying for a baby at 38 but struggled to conceive and was told she had no egg reserves.

She started IVF and went to America to find an egg donor, spending £30,000, but without success. She eventually used an egg donor from the UK and now has a four-year-old son, Max.

“It’s the greatest gift that any woman can give to another,” she said.

What is In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)?

  • An egg is removed from the woman’s ovaries and is then fertilised with sperm in a laboratory
  • The fertilised egg is returned to the woman’s womb in order for it to develop
  • IVF worked for the first time on 10 November 1977. On 25 July 1978, the world’s first IVF baby, Louise Brown, was born
  • On average, IVF fails 70% of the time
  • The highest success rates are for women under 35
  • On average, it takes almost four-and-a-half years to conceive with IVF

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