Egg sharing was a win win for us and another couple

Lucinda (32) and Matthew (45) had always wanted children and were fortunate to have a child following IVF treatment.  Knowing how much having a child meant to them, the couple decided to donate eggs to another couple while they were having further IVF to conceive a second baby.

Lucinda begins: “After giving birth to Edward in January 2012 I read about egg sharing and how sometimes women have to wait four years to receive a donated egg.

“Having gone through IVF once myself, and thankfully successfully, I knew that the process was hard enough on its own, let alone if you’ve got to first wait some indeterminable time period for someone to donate an egg; it must be truly terrible and I can see why some couples split up during this difficult stage.”

Watch the video below to hear Lucinda and Matthew discuss their decision to egg share (or view it on YouTube here).


“We could help give another couple hope”

Another factor that influenced Lucinda’s decision to look into egg sharing was her realisation of how she felt being pregnant the first time round.

“My three best friends all fell pregnant around the same time.  Fortunately I became pregnant at the same time but I questioned ‘what if I hadn’t? How would I feel then? How would I feel if I had to wait 4 years before someone donated an egg to me? Would you look at your friends with jealousy or wonder who is going to help me and my husband?’

“It made me realise egg donation is something money can’t buy – it’s a waiting list – and we were in a privileged position where we could help give another couple hope and ultimately, if treatment is successful, a child of their own.”

So the Essex couple decided to investigate egg sharing as they considered having another child.

egg sharing

Changing to Bourn Hall Clinic

“Initially I contacted the hospital in London where I’d had my first IVF treatment on the NHS but they didn’t offer an egg sharing service” explains Lucinda.

Matthew adds: “This was one reason why we changed to Bourn Hall and on seeing the clinic and realising it had such a friendly, relaxed atmosphere we knew it was the right place for us. To see your wife happy takes off some of the pressure and you also feel better as all you are able to do is support her.

“It’s much harder for a woman but it’s also hard for the man to see his wife go through it.

“Bourn Hall provided us with concise and clear information and they gave us the feeling that it would be a great place to conceive a child.”

The egg sharing programme

Dr Tom Mathews at Bourn Hall explains: “Bourn Hall was one of the first clinics to introduce an egg-sharing programme.

“A woman’s fertility treatment often results in the production of more eggs than she may need and these eggs can be used to help another patient to conceive a child.

“If a woman is happy to donate eggs she is given an opportunity to write a message to any resulting child, which the child can request when he or she becomes 18.  The donor is also able to provide a pen-sketch of themselves which can be given to the recipient.

“This outline includes information about the donor’s physical appearance, interests, skills, reasons for donating but it must be non-identifying.  The donor is also able to contact the Clinic, at least a year after the donation, to find out if there have been any successful births resulting from the donation.”

Lucinda signs up

Lucinda applied to join the egg sharing programme and Bourn Hall’s medical team were able to confirm her eggs were healthy and that she met the age criteria, as she was within the age range of 18 to 35.

“I was so glad when they told me I was eligible. We thought it was a good thing to do and we were in a fortunate position where we could help others.

“We already knew the infertility issue was with my husband and not with me. In some sense we thought we therefore had it easy.  It is a lot easier to deal with male infertility than female infertility and I’d been successful in getting pregnant the first time I’d had IVF.”

egg sharing

Second attempt at IVF

Preparing for their second attempt at IVF Lucinda and Matthew were slightly less optimistic that they would be successful.  Also as they were no longer eligible for NHS funding they would have to pay this time themselves and the finances were a concern.

Lucinda explains: “Statistically successful IVF can take several attempts and second time around for us we thought we might have to have two or three goes at the procedure and we were worried about the finance of it.”

Matthew continues: “Once we had decided to go ahead with egg sharing this did help to reduce the cost for our IVF treatment, which meant that if it did fail we could have funds to do it again, plus we were helping somebody else. We saw that as a plus because we knew that Lucinda could have children and we were giving someone else the opportunity to. They were going to benefit, so it was win win for us.

Emotional consequences of egg sharing

“We did talk long and hard about it, including the emotional impact and how donating would affect us if the other couple had a child and we didn’t.”

“The counselling available was very good and supportive”, Lucinda adds.

She continued: “Egg sharing was right for us but it depends on your circumstances. We were pleased we went ahead with it and would thoroughly recommend it as you feel you’ve done something for someone else.”

Although Lucinda and Matthew were convinced that they wanted to donate eggs other family members were not so sure.

Matthew continues: “Our biggest challenge was convincing some of our wider family members who didn’t quite understand the process. I think as the process had been explained well to us we understood it and were therefore able to make an informed decision based on emotions and our circumstances.

“I had the easy part, I was only going to have to give a sample for testing and then later a specimen, it was Lucinda who was going to have to go through the IVF and who was donating her eggs.”

With Lucinda and Matthew reassured they were making the right decision, Lucinda went for screening in May 2013.

A baby brother for Edward

egg sharing

After ovarian stimulation she returned again for her egg collection and produced 13 eggs. Lucinda kept seven eggs, to be fertilised using Matthew’s sperm, and another lady received six eggs.

Of Lucinda’s seven embryos five developed to 5-day blastocysts. A ’4AA’ graded blastocycst was transferred to Lucinda’s womb and one embryo was frozen for use in future cycles.

Lucinda successfully fell pregnant and in May 2014 baby Timothy was born, a baby brother for their first son Edward.

Lucinda said: “It was a miracle that both our IVF treatments worked first time. I’m not sure if the lady receiving our donated eggs did successfully fall pregnant but I’d certainly consider donating eggs again if it can help another couple become a family.”

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Hope of fathering children snatched away at 20

At 20 Fraser felt he and his partner Nina were still too young to consider starting a family, but then suddenly his hope of ever fathering a child was snatched away from him.

The couple met in 2004. Shortly afterwards it was found that Fraser had Klinefelter Syndrome, a genetic condition that affects about one in 600 new born boys. The baby is born with an extra X sex chromosome in his cells – XXY, rather than the usual XY. This second X chromosome carries extra copies of genes, which interferes with the development of the testicles and can make the carrier infertile.

Klinefelter Syndrome shock

Most men with Klinefelter Syndrome have normal lives, jobs and relationships, and will be unaware of their chromosome variation. It is a condition that can be treated with Testosterone Replacement Therapy but this won’t restore fertility.

Nina begins: “Learning Fraser was infertile was a huge shock for him and us as a couple. Initially we buried the topic under the carpet before realising if we ever wanted to have children we needed to discuss our options and see our GP.”

IVF with sperm donation

In May 2011, Nina and Fraser confirmed their love for each other and were married; a month later they had their first consultation at Bourn Hall’s Cambridge clinic.

The couple had been referred for NHS funded IVF treatment and given a choice of clinics.  Nina explains: “Following our research we opted to go there. We knew Bourn Hall had excellent success rates and it was a much better setting than the other hospital options we’d been given.”

The couple would need donor sperm for treatment and Bourn Hall has its own sperm bank. Sperm donors are anonymous but provide a short pen picture about themselves and a message to be given to any future children arising from treatment. A donor is selected that has similar physical characteristics to the future parents.

Nina continues: “As we were using donor sperm, we filled out the necessary paperwork, giving details of physical characteristics like height, eye and hair colour. A few days later we were sent a couple of matching profiles. We picked the one we thought most suited.”

Sufficient sperm is reserved for treatment and also for future siblings.

“The whole process was very quick,” she says.

Baby Alfie arrives

Following successful IUI (Intrauterine Insemination), a form of assisted conception treatment involving the injection of sperm into the womb at the time of ovulation, Nina gave birth to Alfie in February 2012.

“Although our first treatment was NHS-funded, if we wanted to give Alfie a brother or sister this further treatment would be self-funded so we would have to save up for this.”

Unsuccessful with IUI 

In early 2013 the couple returned for two further IUI treatments, but both were unsuccessful. The couple were devastated.

Nina explains: “We decided to take a break before returning to Bourn Hall to discuss our options. Initially we thought IVF was too expensive to even consider but then we learnt of the egg donor programme.”

Nina considers egg sharing

As Nina was only 28, fit and healthy she would be eligible for consideration for egg sharing; this is when a woman shares half her eggs with another patient and in return receives free treatment.

“Egg sharing gave us a way to get IVF, which we badly wanted, and we could also help another couple. As someone had kindly donated sperm to us it seemed a no brainer to give something back.”

All Bourn Hall patients are offered complementary counselling, but for egg donors this is obligatory.

“Fraser was initially reluctant to go as he wasn’t sure how it would help, but we did find the opportunity to talk to an impartial person and hear different perspectives useful. It confirmed for me that egg donation was definitely right for us and Fraser even said it was ‘helpful’.”

Within a few weeks a match was made with another lady and then it was a matter of synchronising the two patients’ treatments to ensure both were ready at the same time for embryo transfer.

The collected eggs were shared between the two ladies.

Twin brothers for Alfie

Nina was given IVF with Intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) where the embryologist selects a single sperm and injects it directly into the egg.

Nina says: “Having decided this was our last go we opted to have two embryos put back in so hopefully one would develop into a baby.”

A scan at Bourn Hall confirmed Nina’s positive home pregnancy result and subsequently the couple learnt they were expecting twins.

On 18th July 2015 Harry and Jack were born.

Klinefelter Syndrome diagnosis overcome with sperm donation

“We are extremely delighted to have our twins; initially it was a shock learning we were expecting them but from then on it was so exciting preparing for their arrival.

“Fraser is an amazing Dad and dotes on them. I think especially as he realises there was a high possibility that without Bourn Hall we wouldn’t have been able to have any children.

“We’re now settled with three but I would consider egg donation again as it helps others and most certainly it would be at Bourn Hall.”

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