IVF With Donor Eggs in Your 40s
Choosing to Use Donor Eggs
Going down the route of IVF with donor eggs is not one that most people would think of when they first start out trying to get pregnant. There are a number of reasons why using donor eggs could be beneficial and why this may be an option for you and your partner (or if you are just doing IVF by yourself, then with a sperm donor).
IVF with egg donation is really a very similar process to IVF itself, except that there are 3 people involved - the egg donor, the birth mother and the biological father.
I am now going down this route myself so I thought I would explain what is happening in my situation in case that helps other people who are looking to take a similar route.
Why Use Donor Eggs?
There may be a number of reasons why people choose to use donor eggs for their IVF cycle. Here I will list just a few. The choice is a very personal one and is not for everyone but if you choose this route then if you do get a child at the end of it you will certainly not love that child any less because the origins of it's DNA differ from yours.
- Advanced Maternal Age
This is my reason for using donor eggs so that is where I will start. Although I know that it is still possible to get pregnant at my age (I am currently 45 and was pregnant earlier in the year at age 44, only to miscarry), I feel like I do not want to wait what might be a long time to try and get pregnant again. In our forties the quality and the quantity of our own eggs begins to dwindle and abnormalities become much more common, leading to a higher rate of miscarriage.
By using a donor egg cycle, where the donor will be much younger than I am, the chances are that I will get more eggs (and a better quality) from the cycle than if I did IVF with my own eggs (in fact many clinics will not do a cycle of IVF with your own eggs if you are over 43). Therefore there is a greater chance of having more embryos and hence achieving a pregnancy.
- Chromosonal Abnormalities
If you have been diagnosed with a genetic condition or abnormality then you may be recommended to use donor eggs for your IVF cycle. This means that you would not pass on these problems to your child as they would not share your genetic make up.
- Unable To Produce Your Own Eggs
You may for some reason not have the ability to produce your own eggs - for example if you have hit early menopause or if you have suffered from cancer in the past then this may be your only option.
- Being Diagnosed With Diminished Ovarian Reserve
If you are diagnosed with DOR then you are unlikely to respond well enough to IVF to produce many eggs for fertilisation and so it may be recommended that you go straight to the route of using donor eggs to get a better chance of a pregnancy.
Who Donates the Eggs?
This question really has different answers depending on which country you are going for treatment in. In some cases the eggs will be donated by a woman who is also going through IVF but is willing to do it on an 'egg sharing' basis. This means that her own treatment will cost her less and can in some cases make it the only affordable way for a couple to pay for IVF treatment.
In some countries egg donors are volunteers who are young and not looking to have children themselves at this point in time. Although most countries do not allow payment for donating eggs, they are allowed to receive compensation for what they are being put through (which is fair enough considering they have to inject themselves with hormones on a daily basis and then go through egg retrieval). I know from the clinic where I am doing my cycle that egg donors are students aged between 20 and 26 who receive €1,000 in compensation.
In any case the egg donor is almost definitely going to be under 35 years old so you can expect a good 'batch' of eggs from them.
The other alternative is where a relative donates eggs, e.g. a sister. This can be quite common as the child will then have some of the genetic make up of the birth mother.
What is the Procedure for Egg Donation?
It seems that each clinic has its own set of protocols and procedures for IVF egg donation. Basically there are a few key points though:
- The woman undergoing the treatment needs to do some tests to ensure that everything is OK to receive the eggs.
- The recipient of the eggs and the egg donor are matched up for physical compatibility (height, weight, hair and eye colour for example).
- The egg donor receives hormones that stimulate the growth of multiple follicles in one cycle which will hopefully produce a batch of 6-10 eggs.
- The recipient (mother) takes oestrogen supplements to ensure that her body is ready to receive the eggs.
- The eggs are retrieved from the donor and fertilised by the partner's (or sperm donor's) sperm.
- Any viable embryos are now the couple's to use. Often a clinic will implant 2 good embryos if they are available and then freeze any extra for a possible frozen cycle at a later date.
What Are The Success Rates?
I have been looking around and it seems that the success rates for IVF with egg donation are actually pretty good. On average success rates seem to be around 50-60%. This does depend on the age of the recipient to a certain degree but not anywhere near as much as with a fresh cycle of her own eggs.
The high success rate may be down to using eggs from young women or from women who have not previously had trouble conceiving (as they probably hadn't tried if they are students). So it may well be that the embryo quality is better.
What Happens If It Doesn't Work?
Well this is something that you need to look at before you decide which clinic to go with. For example the clinic I am using guarantees you that you will have 2 good embryos from the cycle or else you get the next cycle free. Another clinic guarantees that you will get at least a certain number of good eggs or else the next cycle is free. So really have a look at what the clinic are guaranteeing and go with what works best for you.
Also, if you have the embryos put back but they do not implant, then you may have frozen embryos that you can use at a later date. A frozen embryo transfer is much cheaper than a fresh transfer so you may be able to follow up with this.
How Much Does IVF With Donor Egg Cost?
Well this really is a question with a wide range of answers depending on where you are in the world.
In the US, costs for assisted reproduction are hugely more expensive than most other places in the world. I have heard from people in the US who have looked into this that the cost is upward of $25,000 for one cycle.
In the UK the costs are much lower and will likely be between £5,000 and £10,000 depending on which clinic you use.
However, you can often find cheaper clinics in Europe. You need to shop around because some of them have different criteria. For example although the Czech Republic has some good clinics with very reasonable prices, they will not treat single women. However, places like Spain (where I am going) will, and prices are around the €6-7000 mark.
My Donor Egg IVF Story
So the first step in my IVF with Donor Eggs journey was an initial visit to the clinic to meet the doctors and have some tests done. I travelled over the Spain for a day trip and the visit to the clinic took about 4 hours. They talked through the whole process and explained it, did an ultrasounds scan, smear test and catheter test and also took blood for some virology tests plus did an ECG. As I am just over 45 I also need to have a mammogram done and to send them the results of that.
I had previously had some tests run on day 4 of my cycle which measured thyroid levels (TSH, Free T4 and Prolactin) which had all come out normal.
At this first visit my partner also made the sperm donation that would be frozen and tested for viability, plus also had some blood taken for karyotyping and virology.
I have started a blog about my donor egg IVF story that I will keep up to date with everything that is going on. I will also had lots of information about what I have learnt in case it can be useful to someone.
Update July 2013: my first cycle of ivf with donor eggs worked and I am pregnant! Full details are on my blog (see a few lines above) :-)
An Alternative - Embryo Donation
I just wanted to add in a possible alternative, as not everyone has the money for egg donation of course, and that is embryo donation (or embryo adoption). This is where you get 2 embryos that have been donated, implanted in the mother and hence there is no genetic link between either parents. This can be a much more straightforward procedure and is likely to cost around €2,000 in Europe. This was something I was looking into and may use as a back up plan if the ED IVF does not work.
If you have any comments about egg donor IVF I would be really interested to hear from you below.