Causes & Treatment

Preparing for egg donation IVF? Here’s the all-points guide

Jessie Day, in partnership with TFP Fertility  |   28 May 2024

Top prep tips – we ask a consultant, nutritionist and psychologist

Back by popular demand, we’re tapping into the second-to-none, full-service support at UK-wide clinical network TFP Fertility, to create an all-points guide to preparing for egg donation IVF

Introducing our experts in residence – you may recognise two from their expertise and collaboration with The Ribbon Box over the last year – and one new guest expert: 

Dr Chantal Simonis

We’re excited to welcome TFP Fertility Consultant in Reproductive Medicine, Dr Simonis, to the panel, who has worked with TFP Wessex Fertility since 2000. Dr Simonis is a gynaecologist and obstetrician with a special interest in reproductive medicine and recurrent miscarriage. 

Clinical psychologist, Dr. Marie Prince

Our community have sent in overwhelmingly positive feedback on the expertise provided by Marie Prince over the last year. Marie spearheads the widely respected counselling service at TFP GCRM Fertility in Glasgow, and runs her own practice in-person or online, as The Fertility Psychologist

Read her super-popular guide to managing IVF stress for full, actionable support.  

Registered nutritionist, Janet Padfield

Covering the nutrition angle, Janet peaked all of our interest earlier this year with her most-read pared-back fertility wellness toolkit, featuring the bonus 80:20 rule. For sound fertility nutrition, coupled with realistic goals, Janet is our go-to. 

Online or in-person, Janet works in residence with TFP Fertility to provide patients with up-to-the-minute support, and runs her own practice Apples to Zinc Nutrition

Preparing for IVF with egg donation – your to-do list

Taking a mind-body-medical, integrative approach, backed by the full-service support available nationwide, with TFP Fertility, let’s get into it – the all-bases-covered guide to preparing for egg donation IVF. 

what to do after embryo transfer to increase success

Medical prep, with Dr Simonis

For egg donation IVF, the first step is a consultation with your medical team. We’ll explain the egg donation process, and answer any questions.

One of the key decisions you’ll be making is where to go for donor IVF treatment – maybe you’re considering treatment in another part of the UK, for example, or abroad. At TFP Fertility, our donor egg program can connect you with a pool of donors in the UK who have met strict qualifying criteria and have undergone extensive screening and health checks. We also work with a partner clinic in Spain to provide expert services for patients travelling for fertility treatment.

UK or abroad?

There are key differences between egg donation in the UK compared to Spain. First, the waiting time in the UK is currently 6-9 months, whereas an egg donation cycle in Spain could start within 2-3 months. So this may impact your decision-making,

Plus, it’s important to be aware that in the UK, a child born from an egg donation cycle is able to seek identifying information about the egg donor from age 18. In Spain, egg donors remain anonymous.

Key timings

If you decide to go for egg donation IVF in the UK, your clinic’s team will start the process of finding a suitable donor. And once you’ve chosen this donor, you’ll start a medication protocol to help prepare your uterus for embryo implantation.

This step takes approximately 3 weeks, if you’re planning a synchronised embryo transfer. Alternatively, you can plan a frozen transfer but this requires a 90 day quarantine period as we’re obliged to re-test your donor for infectious diseases 90 days after their donation.

From embryo transfer, we’re into the two week wait – the 12 day wait until you take a pregnancy test. Across this time you’ll continue with oestrogen and progesterone medication, to keep the uterine (endometrial or womb) lining receptive to the embryo.

And then, it’s time to test! If the pregnancy test is positive, your team will usually arrange a pregnancy scan 2 weeks later, (at 6 weeks of pregnancy). If the test is negative, TFP Fertility will always invite you to meet with one of our doctors to talk through your cycle, and possible next steps.

Being your own advocate, and well-informed

Staying informed is a big part of advocating – which in itself is so important during the IVF process. This is your body, and your family-building story.

Different patients have different needs and requirements. Some patients benefit from detailed written information, while others prefer brief, concise appointments, and like to hand over to the medical team to plan the cycle for them.

I’d always recommend talking this through with your team from the outset, so we know which approach works best for you and can individualise the process for you. Plus, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and Fertility Network UK provide really useful information, and the latest guidance.

Connecting with other patients going through a similar process can be pivotal, and again, online forums and communities like the one here at The Ribbon Box can provide a wealth of information and support. At TFP Fertility, we also have a fantastic fertility counselling service – keep reading for Marie’s expertise on this topic, and connect with her for specifics around advocating.

how can i help implantation

A note on side effects

With egg donation IVF, side effects are relatively uncommon – thankfully! The medications we use are very different to the injections used to stimulate egg production in an IVF cycle where you’re using your own eggs.

In fact, patients who are needle-phobic can do an egg donation cycle without needing to use any injections, as we use oestrogen tablets (or patches) in the first part of the cycle, and then progesterone pessaries in the second half.

These do come with their own (usually mild) side effects, so chat to your team about your individual protocol, and how to prepare.

Get to know the clinic

Many patients will have had IVF before deciding to try with donor eggs, and will – hopefully – have built up a rapport and relationship with the team looking after them.

If this is your first cycle or treatment with the clinic, I recommend asking for a tour before your transfer, to get a feel for the environment, and meet one or two of the team.

Note – At TFP Fertility, once you’re in treatment and awaiting an embryo transfer, our donor team will keep you informed about your donor’s progress, particularly how her scans have gone, and how many eggs we’ve collected.

We’ll always ensure that your appointments are scheduled at different times to the donor, so that you aren’t in the waiting room at the same time.

Prep points

Alongside process, patients are always really keen to know everything they can do at home – often down to the most granular detail – to help implantation, and increase their chance of success.

As a baseline, we advise:

Omega 3 and CoQ10 can also be beneficial, as supplements.

And – if you’re preparing for egg donation IVF using your partner’s sperm – our baseline advice is pretty similar. Focus on a healthy, balanced diet, avoiding excessive alcohol and caffeine. Plus, steering clear of very hot baths (and steam baths), jacuzzis and saunas.

Tools for anxiety and stress management

Psychological prep, with Dr Prince

As a starting point, when preparing for egg donation IVF, many people feel they have to grieve the loss of using their own eggs.

Preparing for IVF with donor eggs is emotionally complex and can be challenging. There are often feelings of hope balanced with feelings of grief, loss and uncertainty. Counselling will help you explore these issues, and reflect on what you need to help you heal and move forward.

Take time to learn about other people’s experience – speak to people who’ve lived it, and if you’re having treatment with TFP Fertility, use the implications counselling service at your clinic. Learning about other people’s experiences – I really recommend the Donor Conception Network – will give you a true sense of what it’s like to hold your baby in your arms, after using donor eggs.

Getting to grips

This is a process, over time. No one just decides to use donor eggs and never thinks about it again.

You have to give yourself time to experience all of the emotion that comes along with this decision. If you have a partner, you also have to allow them the same process. Remember, you may not both do this on the same timeframe.

Speaking to people you trust – whether this is friends, family or professionals – will help you prepare for your next step. If you feel unable to speak about it yet, that may be a sign that you are not yet ready to fully accept using donor eggs. Again, the counselling service at your clinic can help you explore this.

Tools for anxiety and stress management

Although the decision to use donor eggs often brings hope and excitement, most people will feel anxiety and stress throughout the process – this is completely normal and okay.

When considering fertility treatment, it’s essential to prioritise your mental health and self-care. Think about the things that you need, and put them at the top of the list. Prioritise the basics – eat, sleep and rest well, get outdoors, move your body and connect with trusted people.

Build counselling into your support framework, and prep

This is essential. Even if you’ve never had counselling or therapy before, or it makes you feel really anxious, I encourage you to make the most of it. The counsellors and psychologists at TFP Fertility will help you feel comfortable exploring what the use of donor eggs means for you and your family.

You can also plan to revisit support throughout family life, as part of your preparation. Different stages and challenges will throw up a range of feelings and opportunities, which counselling can help with, more specifically.

Implications counselling is also essential. It will walk you through the emotional, social and legal implications of donor conception for you and your future family. The key topic for many is when and how to speak to your child about donor conception. And, it’s helpful to start thinking about this process early on, as it often takes time to get confident and comfortable with your approach.

All of this leads me to a really frequent question –

night before embryo transfer

How do I get comfortable with donor eggs?

People are often concerned that their child will feel like they were conceived with ‘Plan B’. I encourage people to reframe this and connect to their values. For people considering donor conception, building a family is usually a key value for them, it is ‘Plan A’. Donor conception is still part of ‘Plan A’.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself, to help you get comfortable with donor conception:

  • Can you feel proud of your future family and how it came to be?
  • Can you imagine talking to your child about how they were conceived?
  • Can you tell your closest people about the egg donation?
  • Are you willing to roll with the questions and emotions your child will have, as they explore what donor conception means to them?

Worries about regret

It’s normal to feel a range of emotions, as you navigate fertility treatment. Many people worry about regretting their decision to use donor eggs. I have to say, this is not my clinical experience – for people who have made an informed decision, donor conception is a positive step in building their family.

However, if you have feelings of regret, don’t ignore these. Allow yourself to feel it and speak to people you trust – this may include a therapist to help you unpack the different elements contributing to that feeling, heal and move forward.

Be gentle with yourself, self-criticism will only make you feel worse. It is okay to feel uncertain. Self-compassion will help you accept and understand what you are going through.

Bonding with your donor egg baby

A key concern for people considering use of donor eggs is whether it will affect the bond between parent and child. My clinical experience – as well as research – highlights that donor conception does not reduce the bond between parent and child.

In fact, some research highlights that the bond between parent and donor-conceived child is even stronger.

It does make sense, however, that this is a key concern. The thought that you may not feel connected to your child is overwhelming for most people. But, the very fact that having a loving bond with your child is a key value will help you emotionally connect.

You will nurture that bond through caregiving, touch, eye contact and spending time together.

nutrition support preparing for egg donation ivf

Nutrition and lifestyle prep, with DipION (mBANT) Janet Padfield

First things first – and many people will be relieved to hear – from a nutrition perspective I wouldn’t consider egg donation IVF prep as being different to preparing for a cycle using your own eggs.

In both cases, you’re looking to flood the body with the nutrients that are helpful and supportive for uterine health and implantation.

Nutrient density

There is no one key nutrient, when it comes to fertility support. In fact, it’s most important to eat the broadest range of nutrients possible so that all the essential vitamins and minerals are in good supply.

We need zinc, magnesium, calcium, selenium, omega 3 fats, iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D and more, so variety really is important.

Making it real for people, I often advise adopting a Mediterranean-style of eating, when preparing for IVF. Think predominantly plant-based, high in vegetables and low-sugar fruits, lots of wholegrains, healthy fats (such as nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocado), beans and pulses, some dairy, eggs, poultry and seafood and very limited red meat.

And key to avoid – alcohol and processed foods, as much as possible.

Transfer day

Consistency is the key to all of this. As tempting as a sweet treat and comfort foods are right before or after transfer, it’s really important to just keep your healthy, Mediterranean eating style going, and stay well-hydrated and rested.

Your body knows what to do – it just needs that regular flood of nutrients!

The two week wait (think progesterone)

Remember, there is no one dietary aspect that will make IVF – with or without donor eggs – succeed or fail. That said, progesterone is a key hormone at this stage, and to help support this you can focus on foods rich in magnesium, zinc, vitamin B6, vitamin C and fibre.

Luckily, the Mediterranean diet will deliver on all of this so just keep up that consistent way of eating. You may want to avoid alcohol, sugar and lots of red meat.

Foods for implantation

Nutrients that support progesterone are key here, and again, these include magnesium, zinc, vitamin B6, vitamin C and fibre. Go for nuts, seeds, beans, pulses, dark-green leafy vegetables, seafood and small amounts of dark chocolate (look for the 85% dark options, if you can!)

Do’s and don’ts after embryo transfer

Do continue to eat well, to nourish and support your body through this time.

I cannot recommend a Mediterranean style of eating enough, here! And again, it’s best to avoid alcohol, stress and lots of sugary and processed foods, as these may impact your body’s ability to function at its best.

If you need more support – or to get started with egg donation IVF – touch base with the amazing team at TFP Fertility.

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