Christmas is all about family so Bourn Hall has taken this time to appeal for more egg donors. For many women their only chance of having a baby is through IVF with a gifted egg.
Latest findings from the HFEA have shown 1 in 6 IVF treatments in 2019 involved donation but following the cut in non-essential treatment during the Covid lockdown, stocks at all egg banks have decreased and there is a national shortage of donors.
Bourn Hall has its own sperm and egg banks and is calling for more altruistic donors, and sharers to increase both the quantity and diversity.
Elle was a 17 when she was told she wouldn’t be able to have a baby
Elle knew from an early age that the only way that she could conceive would be with donated eggs; she says: “I never started my periods and was diagnosed with Primary Ovarian Insufficiency when I was 17.”
She explained this to her partner (who later became her husband) within a few months of dating when they were both in their early 20s.
“I have a strong maternal instinct and having a baby has always been something that I wanted or at least wanted to attempt,” says Elle. “I think that is why I was so honest with my husband so early on, because I knew that it could be a really big thing for someone. He has been nothing but incredibly supportive.
“It is an amazing thing for other people to be able to start a family without any help, however for me it is just a sad reminder that it is not quite so easy for us. It can feel quite overwhelming seeing and hearing pregnancy announcements, but my husband is always my biggest supporter and reminds me it’s ‘not our time just yet’.”
Katie is the Egg Bank Coordinator
The couple chose Bourn Hall for their NHS IVF treatment but were aware that there might be a long wait to be matched with a donor.
Egg bank coordinator Katie Warburton explains: “The donor needs to have a compatible blood type and share characteristics with the recipient. Before Covid we had a regular flow of altruistic donors, but we had to stop egg collection during the pandemic.
“As soon as we were able to reopen fully, I matched as many eggs with couples as I could for treatment, but we urgently need to replace those matched eggs and need a greater diversity of people to come forward. It really is the greatest gift that they can give to a couple that is dreaming of a baby.”
Elle says they were resigned to a wait, but they are among the fortunate ones.
“We had our bloods taken and gave our characteristics – hair and eye colour, ethnicity,” she explains. “Then Katie looked to see if there were any eggs in the bank that would be appropriate.
Call for egg donors
“We were told initially that we would need to wait 12 months, but fortunately Katie phoned back more quickly and said she had found a potential match.
“The person is an altruistic donor who basically just went into the clinic and did a cycle and donated her eggs to me!
“Obviously, there are still a lot of hurdles to jump through – the thawing of the eggs, fertilization, the transfer – which is why I am not letting myself ‘go there’ just yet, but I am beyond grateful.
“It is an incredibly generous gift of potential life – it is giving us the chance of creating a family. There are no real words to explain how grateful I am – even if this doesn’t work out – to be able to give us a chance to try. It just means the world; it is everything to us.”
Egg sharing benefits everyone
To become an egg donor you need to be aged between 18 and 35, and be healthy with no family history of serious or inherited illnesses.
Alternatively, if you need IVF treatment yourself or want to freeze your eggs for social reasons then you can egg-share and receive the treatment only paying for medication and any storage costs.
Sarah chose to egg-share when she had IVF treatment at Bourn Hall (note no connection with Elle). As a single woman she was incredibly grateful to the man who had chosen to donate sperm and felt that egg sharing was her way of giving something back.
Also, being given IVF at a reduced cost made it more accessible to her, especially if she needed more than one cycle. Donor sperm is high quality and baby Esmé was conceived first time.
Sarah says: “For the sperm donor the words ‘thank you’ will never be enough. People who donate have no idea how much they change people’s lives and make their dreams come true. Even though I have never met him, he has helped to give me a beautiful baby girl and for that he will forever be my hero.
“Being an egg donor makes me feel amazing; I can request an update about how it has worked for someone else. I honestly cannot wait to find out – that would be the next best thing to come out of this.”