Donated eggs a precious ‘gift’ after Premature Ovarian Failure at 16

Elle was still a teenager when doctors told her that she had Premature Ovarian Failure and was infertile.  Her only chance for having a baby in the future would be with IVF using donated eggs. More than a decade later Elle has just welcomed her first child.

Premature Ovarian Failure

“I was diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Failure at about 16, after my mum took me to the doctors. She was worried that my periods hadn’t started and I was sent for all different types of tests,” says Elle. “I was told that I wasn’t producing any eggs. I was still young and so at that point it didn’t really sink in. But maybe it was a blessing that I knew what was wrong at an early age, because sometimes when people are trying for a baby without success it can take a while for them to get answers.”

Open about the issue

Elle met Tim when she was 20 and was open with him straightaway about her infertility.

“I have always had a strong maternal instinct” she says. “I’ve always wanted to have a family and I wanted the opportunity to carry a baby but it wasn’t going to be possible through the ‘traditional’ way which could be a really big thing for someone, but Tim has always been incredibly supportive.”

Needed an egg donor

After the couple got married, they approached Bourn Hall to enquire about donor treatment.

“We had our bloods taken and I gave our characteristics – hair and eye colour, ethnicity,” explains Elle. “Then Katie, Bourn Hall’s egg bank coordinator, looked to see if there were any eggs in the bank that would be appropriate. It wasn’t long after that she got back in touch and said she had found a match!

“Everything moved so quickly after that, it is now all a bit of a blur! We had to do a ‘mock cycle’ at Bourn Hall to prepare my body to receive the embryo. I was put on medication to thicken my womb lining and then, when the time was right, the embryology lab thawed the donor eggs. Tim had to go in and ‘do his thing’ so that they could fertilise the donor eggs with his sperm.

“After the embryo transfer, we tried to remain positive but realistic at the same time, IVF isn’t guaranteed to work, but we were incredibly lucky that it worked first time. There are no words to describe what it felt like seeing that positive pregnancy test. It still makes me want to cry when I think about it now. We were in complete and utter shock!

“We went into Bourn Hall for the seven week scan and I just remember the nurse saying ‘there is the heartbeat’ and I had tears in my eyes it was just the most amazing thing.”

Eternally grateful

“We had a really wonderful experience at Bourn Hall, I am so glad we chose to go there. Katie the donor coordinator and Julie our nurse made sure everything ran really smoothly and all the staff always made us feel so comfortable and relaxed at the clinic.”

Elle says she is ‘eternally grateful’ to her altruistic egg donor.

“I don’t think you can quite put into words the amount of gratitude that I feel for my egg donor,” she says. “It’s an incredibly selfless act that someone does for someone they don’t know.

“I wanted to try and experience pregnancy if I could. It was incredible to be pregnant and feel my baby kicking in my tummy and it was a wonderful thing that an egg donor gave me that chance.

“When our baby was born, I just couldn’t stop saying ‘they’re here, I can’t believe they’re here, our baby is here!

Dedicated Donor Team at Bourn Hall

Bourn Hall now has a team dedicated to supporting patients that need donated eggs, sperm or embryos and also to encourage other to donate their eggs and sperm.

More information is available here.

Embracing the story

“There’s never once been anything that crosses my mind like ‘they’re not mine’ or anything that. People quite often say ‘so who do you think the baby looks like?’. And I say, ‘they look like themself!’

“As our child grows up, we will really embrace the story behind how we had them and make sure that they are aware of the lengths we went to have a family, how wanted they were and how loved they are. Our baby is everything to us.”

Names have been changed for confidentiality.

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What is premature ovarian failure also known as premature ovarian insufficiency?

Many women naturally experience reduced fertility when they are about 40 years old. They may start getting irregular menstrual periods as they transition to menopause. For women with POI, irregular periods and reduced fertility start before the age of 40. Sometimes it can start as early as the teenage years.

When a woman has POI her ovaries are not working properly and stop producing eggs many years before they should. In addition, the ovaries are unable to produce the hormones oestrogen and progesterone.

Research shows that POI is related to problems with the follicles. These are small sacs in your ovaries where eggs grow and mature. It is thought that the follicles are not working properly. The cause can be natural or it can be a disease, surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation but in most cases of POI, the cause is unknown.

Some potential causes include:

  • Genetic disorders such as Fragile X syndrome and Turner syndrome
  • A low number of follicles
  • Autoimmune diseases, including thyroiditis and Addison disease
  • Chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Toxins, such as cigarette smoke, chemicals, and pesticides

Approximately one in every 100 women under the age of 40, one in 1000 women under 30 and one in 10,000 under 20 experience POI.

Sources: The Daisy Network and