Milestones of IVF: 2002 – Bourn Hall introduces the first egg sharing programme

As part of The Queen’s Green Canopy seven lime trees have been planted at Bourn Hall Cambridge, one for each decade and each dedicated to a milestone in IVF – one of the greatest scientific and medical achievements made during The Queen’s reign.

Tree 7 – Bourn Hall first to offer egg sharing

Bourn Hall baby Esmé, together with Kay Elder, who joined Bourn Hall in 1984,  planted a tree to commemorate the introduction of the first egg-sharing programme by Bourn Hall in 2002 – it was the first IVF clinic to do so.

The programme enables a couple having treatment to donate some of their eggs, not required for their own treatment to another woman in return for free IVF treatment.

Donated eggs also come from altruistic donors, who do not require IVF treatment themselves or have benefited from IVF treatment and want to give something back.  Donation through a licenced clinic means that the birth mother is the legal parent of the baby so the donor has no responsibilities towards any resulting children.

Some women have few or no eggs, perhaps as a result of their age, early menopause or a medical procedure and may require donated eggs.

The donated eggs are fertilised with the recipient partner’s sperm to produce an embryo, which is then transferred and pregnancy continues as normal.

Bourn Hall’s egg bank has made egg sharing easier as the donor no longer needs to be matched with the recipient on a fresh cycle.

Mike Macnamee (Bourn Hall) and Julie Spence (Lord-Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire) with Sarah, Esmé and Kay Elder (Bourn Hall)
Mike Macnamee (Bourn Hall) and Julie Spence (Lord-Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire) with Sarah, Esmé and Kay Elder (Bourn Hall)
Sarah and Esme
Sarah and Esme

People who donate have no idea how much they change lives

Esmé, from Ipswich, was born following IVF treatment at Bourn Hall. Her mum Sarah worked as a nursery manager surrounded by children. She hit 30 during lockdown and realised with a shock that if she wanted to fulfil her dream of being a mum, she would need to go it alone.

“To be honest I was more scared about what other people would think. I spoke to a few close friends and was shocked – they were really supportive and said ‘you can do that! It is absolutely fine!’”

After unsuccessful IUI with donated sperm, she realised that if she had IVF she could become an egg sharer and help someone else as well. Her IVF cycle with donated sperm was successful 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.”

More information

Read more about the planting of Elizabeth’s Wood at Bourn Hall as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy Initiative here.

Find out more about egg donation and egg sharing.

Find out more about Bourn Hall’s egg-sharing programme here.

Find out more about the history of IVF and Bourn Hall, the world’s first IVF clinic.

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