Donor Conception

An Egg Donor Answers Your Questions

Eloise Edington  |   17 Mar 2022

If you’re struggling with (in)fertility and going through fertility treatment, you may be considering using a sperm donor or an egg donor.  In fact, 43% of our Fertility Help Hub community has either used an egg or sperm donor for fertility treatment or is considering using donor gametes.

Yet when it comes to using donor eggs for fertility treatment, many people have unanswered questions.

Here, we speak with Ellie, an egg donor from our Instagram community (follow us here), to answer your frequently asked questions about what it’s like to be an egg donor and why someone would donate eggs.

Why did you decide to become an egg donor?

This will sound surprising, but I saw a tweet from someone who said they had just learned that a child had been born as a result of their egg donation. 

At 32, I am child-free by choice (and that’s definitely not going to change) and I feel great empathy towards people who want a child more than anything but, for whatever reason, can’t make that happen without help. I understand that it’s an all-consuming feeling and when I saw that tweet, I realised that I had an opportunity to help someone who was going through something difficult.

To find out more about the process of becoming an egg donor and receiving donor eggs for fertility treatment, read this article.

How do you deal with knowing a biological child of yours is out there?

This is a difficult question for me to answer in a way that will make sense to anyone who is going through the gruelling process of fertility treatment to have a child. The honest answer is that it doesn’t mean much to me. 

I grew up with a non-biological parent, so to me I have always understood family to mean something other than blood or DNA. To me, a child who has my DNA is not my child; I don’t feel any connection based on blood and DNA alone.

Do you ever wonder about the potential children created from your donor eggs?

I don’t wonder much about the children themselves, although I do wonder whether or not someone has been helped by my donation.

Do you want to meet the baby who is eventually born from your donated eggs?

No, particularly as someone who is intentionally child-free, because I don’t feel any connection based on blood and DNA alone.

How much do you find out about the people using your donated eggs? Do you get to see photos of the babies born from your eggs?

Nothing and no. There are strict rules in place that mean I could never instigate any contact with the family. The only information of this kind that I would get is if I requested to know if any children have been born as a result of my donation. The clinic would confirm yes/no/how many, and that’s it.

Can children from your donated eggs contact you when they are 18?

Although I have no legal responsibilities towards the child, ​​since 2005 donor-conceived people can apply for the following identifying information about their donor once they reach the age of 18:

  • Full name (and any previous names)
  • Date of birth
  • Town or district of birth
  • Last known postal address (or address at the time of registration)

This is the thing people ask me about most – if I’m worried about donor-conceived children contacting me. For me, I’m not – it’s important for some people to “know where they come from” and I’m more than happy to offer that to a person if it will help them as an individual growing up. But that would be it; I wouldn’t want to have an ongoing relationship with them, and I know it will be important for me to be able to explain why if they do ever contact me.

That said, this is the biggest thing that I think anybody would need to think most carefully about before considering becoming an egg donor and making a donation. You need to be sure you’re ok with the possibility of any donor-conceived children from your eggs contacting you when they reach 18 years old.

What was the process like to become an egg donor?

I can’t speak for all experiences, but here’s what I can tell you from my experience with The London Egg Bank. 

It is a fairly long process… I first enquired in May 2020 and didn’t complete my first donation until November that year. This is, of course, during the pandemic, so I think that contributed to the time frame.

When you first sign up, there’s a fair amount of paperwork (understandably!), confirming your medical history, ensuring you understand the process etc., etc. I also had a session with a psychologist, both to check that my reasons for donating eggs were healthy and I had a good understanding of what I was committing to. But also to offer me support – if I were ever to feel affected by my decision to donate, I would have access to that psychologist at any time.

There were some blood tests to confirm that I was a suitable donor, and scans of my ovaries to check the reserves, and after that it was a case of waiting for the right time in my cycle to start the treatment. 

Treatment is similar to the first part of IVF (as I understand it), in that I gave myself daily injections for about a week to stimulate my ovaries. Usually you only produce one or two eggs per month – the injections trigger your body to create more, meaning more can be collected. I didn’t find the injections painful or difficult to administer. During this period, I went for regular scans to check the progress and assess when I would be ready for the trigger injection, which is reassuring because it means you always know you’re on track.

The trigger is taken the day before you donate, and that day is a bit uncomfortable. I was bloated and had a pain similar to period pain. The donation was quick and easy – I was in and out of the hospital within an hour or so. You’re heavily sedated for the procedure, so I don’t remember any of that.

The second time was much quicker, as all the paperwork was already done. I contacted them in March 2021, and my donation was complete by May.

What part of “you” would you like your biological child to inherit?

I’ve never really thought about it. I don’t care about anything physical, and I’m not sure how much of a person’s personality is inherited… If there is a natural predisposition to be more one personality type than another based on DNA, then I hope anyone born from my eggs grows into an accepting and kind person, two things that I value most.

What’s the best thing about being an egg donor?

For me it ultimately is about helping people. But an unexpected positive that I got out of it was knowing so much more about my body and fertility as a whole. When sharing that I am an egg donor, I have been surprised by how many women I have spoken to that have shared that they had experience of IVF or other types of fertility treatment.

In a way I feel it made me feel more connected to a lot of the women in my life (of course, I know men are part of the fertility experience too, but when talking specifically about eggs and the woman’s reproductive system, it tends to resonate more with other women/interest them more).

The worst?

Being based in the UK, I was frustrated by the fact that there was no way to donate to/via the NHS. It doesn’t sit well with me, or my values, that the majority of my donation will only go to those who can afford it, or that people will push themselves to the absolute limit of their finances for just a chance that fertility treatment with egg donation might give them a baby.

Did you tell your friends and family you were an egg donor?  How did they react?  Have you ever experienced any negative reactions from people?

For my family, they wanted to be sure I was sure, but given the fact that I have never wanted children of my own and have had a very pragmatic approach to the question of whether or not DNA makes someone family, they were mainly just proud of me for doing something to help people.

My partner was also great about it. He and I have very similar thinking, and he has never expressed any concerns about there being children out there with my DNA. He was of the view that it’s my body, and my choice. He even arranged a surprise dinner and Zoom call with friends the night after I had the procedure to celebrate, which was such a special gesture.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a negative reaction – everyone is so kind about the whole thing. In some ways I find it a bit much – it’s an experience I want to talk about without everyone telling me how amazing I am. I don’t see it as that dissimilar from giving blood, or being on the bone marrow register and I think it would be good if we can take away some of that fuss. Maybe if we stopped talking about it in such hyperbolic ways, more people would see it as something they felt they could do.

What advice would you have for someone considering becoming an egg donor?

You have to be doing it for the right reasons – I would not recommend this if your main incentive is financial. The time you put in is not worth it for the money (in the UK, egg donors are compensated £750 for expenses – the value is intentionally designed so that no one is out of pocket from making a donation, but also to be low enough that the money it’s not an incentive). 

For goodness’ sake, follow the advice you’re given during your treatment phase. I have made two donations, and followed the advice very strictly during my first cycle because I was really worried that if I didn’t they might not get many eggs. When they took over 30 (almost double the average donation), I figured that I didn’t need to be as strict on my second donation. I was wrong!

For my second donation I was much less good about drinking water as regularly as they recommended (even though the weather was much warmer than when I made my first donation), had the occasional glass of wine and didn’t take it easy in the same way I did the first time. 

The second donation was still very successful – again, around 30 eggs – but I was much less well for not having followed the rules. Significantly more bloating and pain, and some Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS), which meant I had to continue with injections after the donation had been made. It wasn’t terrible, but could so easily have been avoided if I’d done as I was told!

We’d like to thank Ellie for sharing her experiences of becoming an egg donor, and our FHH community for sending in questions about egg donation.  For many people going through fertility treatment, egg donation is vital to create a family using assisted reproduction and hearing stories from egg donors helps to break down the unnecessary stigma of using an donor for fertility treatment.

If you have an experience or story to share, send our Editor, Holly, a message via our Instagram here.

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