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IVF egg donor use rises sharply, HFEA figures show

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Media captionOne woman who had her son through egg donation said it was the "greatest gift"

The number of women using donated eggs has risen sharply in the past 10 years, latest figures show.

In 2006 1,912 women had IVF using a donor egg, compared with 3,924 in 2016, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) said.

It attributed the rise to a greater awareness of donation as an option, more donors, and more same sex couples, single and older women using them.

The number of women donating their eggs is also on the increase.

Image copyright BBC News

HFEA, the UK fertility industry's regulator, said there were 3,924 IVF treatment cycles in women using donated eggs in 2016.

Of these, the largest group of women using donated eggs were those over 44 years old.

Women usually need to be between 18 and 35 to donate their eggs and the process for donating is similar to the early stages of IVF, involving hormone injections and egg removal.

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The regulator said about one in three IVF treatment cycles resulted in a birth for patients under 35, with current treatments now 85% more likely to succeed than they were when records began in 1991.

Chair Sally Cheshire said: "There are more options these days for people to be able to create their own families.

"We have seen an increase in egg donation and sperm donation, and in people who use both.

"Generally there is a greater awareness of donation, we have seen a rise – about a third up – in same sex couples and single women coming forward for donation but it's important to say that they still represent a very small percentage of the number of IVF cycles that take place."

Under UK law, women cannot be paid for egg donation but can receive compensation of up to £750 per cycle to cover their expenses.

Why I donated my eggs

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Cathy Nicholson has donated her eggs five times

Cathy Nicholson, from York, has donated her eggs five times, donating every year for five years since she was 27.

She has helped a family where the woman had undergone cancer treatment, a same-sex couple and couples with fertility problems.

The 38-year-old, who is expecting her third child in May, said: "People that receive eggs are absolutely amazed that other women want to give them, but that is because at the end of their process they get this amazing baby.

"It's an involved process, it's a commitment, but really it is a drop in the ocean compared to what couples have to go through to make their babies possible.

"I didn't feel I was giving anything away that I was going to use for myself."

Egg donation gave me the greatest gift

Image caption Amanda Mitcheson

Amanda Mitcheson, 49, from Doncaster, started trying for a baby at 38 but she struggled to conceive and was told she had no egg reserves.

She started IVF and went to America to find an egg donor, spending £30,000, but without success.

She eventually used an egg donor from the UK and now has a four-year-old son, Max.

"It's the greatest gift that any woman can give to another," she said.

"People take it for granted they can have kids and when you find out you can't it's absolutely devastating.

"If Max wants to meet the donor when he's 18, in the same process as adoption, he can do that if he wishes and I'll support him in that," she said.

What is In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)?

Image copyright Getty Images
  • An egg is removed from the woman's ovaries and fertilised with sperm in a laboratory
  • The fertilised egg is then returned to the woman's womb to develop
  • IVF worked for the first time on 10 November 1977. On 25 July 1978, the world's first IVF baby, Louise Brown, was born
  • On average, IVF fails 70% of the time
  • The highest success rates are for women under 35
  • On average, it takes almost four-and-a-half years to conceive with IVF

Source: Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority/Fertility Network UK

'People genuinely want to help'

Image copyright Alamy
Image caption Alison Bagshawe founded egg donation facilitator Altrui in 2010

Altrui, in Hawes, North Yorkshire, is the only company in the UK to recruit egg donors.

Founder Alison Bagshawe said: "We get people who are on the bone marrow register, blood donor register, people who just genuinely want to help someone start a family.

"They may have actually seen a friend or family member struggling with fertility issues and it's that which gives them a trigger to find out more and come forward.

"It's extraordinary how many recipients we actually have coming to us who didn't even know they could have the help of an egg donor – that they've even got a finite number of eggs and there is a time clock ticking for them, so yes I think people are far more aware now.

"That's what has changed in the last five years or so, this general awareness that fertility is finite and you need to get on with it."

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