Donating your eggs – what’s involved?

Many women know first-hand the joy of being a mum and want to give this gift to others. You may be in this situation and know an individual or couple struggling with infertility, or a same-sex couple who needs an egg to realise their dream of parenthood. If this is the case, you can donate to them as a known donor. Alternatively, you may wish to become an anonymous donor, allowing people you don’t know to benefit from your donation.

Whether you intend to donate to friends or family, or anonymously, there are several things to consider before you make your decision. Although it can be an incredibly rewarding experience, donating your eggs is a physical and emotional commitment with potentially lifelong implications. It is therefore important to be fully informed before you decide to become a donor.

Things to consider before you donate

Legal issues

In Australia, donors have no legal connection to any child conceived as a result of their donation. This means they have no parental responsibilities and are not required to pay child support. Donors also have no legal rights to the child and cannot be granted custody. If you are donating as a known donor, you and the intended parents should discuss how much involvement, if any, you will have in the child’s life. Boundaries should be worked out before you embark on this journey and you may wish to seek legal advice to facilitate this.

If you intend to become an anonymous donor, it’s important to understand that donation is not truly anonymous in Victoria. Children born from your donation can legally request access to your identifying information after they turn 18. This means you may receive contact from them. Additionally, some of your details will be shared with potential recipients – these include eye colour, height, cultural background and health. However, your identity will remain hidden from potential recipients.

Financial considerations

In Australia, egg and sperm donation must be altruistic. That is, you cannot receive financial compensation for your donation. However, reasonable expenses can be paid by the recipients, including medical and out-of-pocket costs (such as travel expenses).

Emotional implications

Before you donate, you are required to attend mandatory counselling sessions. This is to make sure you fully understand the legal, social and emotional aspects of egg donation. How do you feel about someone else raising a child who is genetically related to you? How will your decision to donate affect your family and children (if you have them)? How do you feel about the potential for future contact with one or more children or adults born as a result of your donation?

At Newlife IVF, our experienced fertility counsellors can help you consider these questions and more. You will complete your counselling feeling fully informed and reassured about your decision and its possible effects on your life in the future.

Physical factors

To become an egg donor, you must be mentally and physically healthy, living a healthy lifestyle, with no family history of inheritable disease. You are also required to be at least 21 years old before you can donate. Ideally, you should be younger than 38 years old. A mandatory health check, including blood tests and ultrasounds, will be performed. You will also be asked lots of questions about your personal and family health history. Once you are given the all-clear, you will be able to donate.

What happens when you donate your eggs

The process of donating your eggs will differ depending on whether you already have frozen eggs available – i.e. from a previous in vitro fertilisation (IVF) cycle – or need to have your eggs collected. Below we discuss both scenarios.

Donating your stored eggs

If you’ve been through IVF and your family is complete, you may have frozen eggs you aren’t intending to use. In this case, you may wish to donate your eggs to an individual or couple who also needs help to have a child. In this case, assuming you fulfil the criteria to become a donor, you will be able to donate your existing frozen eggs.

Egg collection

This process is identical to the first half of an IVF cycle. Before your eggs are collected, you will be given medication to stimulate your ovaries to produce several eggs. This medication comes in the form of a daily injection that will need to be taken for 8 to 14 days. The injection is delivered through a pen device, so it is very easy to use. You can choose to give yourself the injection or ask a friend or family member to do it for you.

Injections will begin on the first day of your period. From around day 5 or 6, a second daily injection will be added, to stop your ovaries from releasing any eggs (ovulating) before they can be collected.

From day 8, you will be monitored using blood tests and ultrasounds to check whether your follicles (small, fluid-filled sacs within the ovaries, each containing a developing egg) are large enough for egg collection. Egg retrieval is usually done at around day 13. About 36 hours prior to collection, the injection that prevents ovulation will be replaced by a so-called ‘trigger injection’. This stimulates the eggs to fully mature before collection.

Egg collection is a day procedure done under light anaesthetic. You won’t be aware of the procedure while it’s happening, nor will you remember it. Egg retrieval is carried out by a fertility specialist, who will use an ultrasound to visualise your ovaries. A thin needle will be inserted through the top of your vagina and into your ovaries to collect the eggs. The procedure takes about 20 minutes, and between 8 and 15 eggs are typically collected.

About 90 minutes after the procedure you will be allowed to go home. After resting at home for 1–2 days, you can resume your normal activities. It is common to experience some abdominal discomfort and bleeding. However, the discomfort is typically fairly mild and manageable with Panadol and a heat pack.

A COVID-19 test is also required prior to the day of the procedure. You will need to isolate at home, separating yourself from others in your household, until the results come back.

After your eggs are collected, an embryologist will look at them under a microscope. If your recipient is ready, they can use the eggs straight away. The mature eggs that are ready for fertilisation will be introduced to sperm on the same day.

If your recipient is not ready, the mature eggs can be frozen until they are ready to be used. They will also be quarantined for a period of 3 months. After the quarantine period has passed, you will be asked to come in for another round of blood tests to double-check that you are healthy. Once you’re given the all-clear, your eggs are ready to be used.

How to donate your eggs

The information in this article is certainly not exhaustive. We recommend that you refer to the information provided by the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA) to gain a more complete understanding of the issues pertaining to egg donation. If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

If you are ready to take the next step to donate your eggs, book an appointment at Newlife IVF. Whether you want to donate to friends or family, or as an anonymous donor, we can facilitate the process for you. To book your appointment, call (03) 8080 8933 or book online.