Cost of living crisis could fuel spike in woman donating their eggs

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The cost of living crisis could fuel a spike in women donating their eggs, experts predict.

Women in the UK under the age of 35 can sign up to offer eggs to give to infertile women undergoing IVF and earn up to £750 a time. 

There is currently a dire shortage of egg donors and huge demand, with women in some parts of the country forced to wait more than two years to start a family.

Charity bosses told MailOnline women ‘may become more curious’ about donating their eggs over the coming months as cash becomes tight. 

Spiralling inflation and the Ukraine war is set to cause energy bills to nearly double this autumn, with food prices and fuel also expected to soar.

Experts said they ‘wouldn’t be surprised’ if more started to sign up for the procedure ‘as a way of trying to earn more money’.

However, medics urged women to give it ‘serious thought’ because becoming an egg donor has life-long commitments.

Children born using these eggs, which are frozen and stored in a bank, can contact their biological mother from the age of 18.

Charity bosses told MailOnline that women 'may become more curious' about donating their eggs as cash becomes tight. And experts said they 'wouldn't be surprised' if more started to sign up for the procedure 'as a way of trying to earn more money'

Charity bosses told MailOnline that women ‘may become more curious’ about donating their eggs as cash becomes tight. And experts said they ‘wouldn’t be surprised’ if more started to sign up for the procedure ‘as a way of trying to earn more money’ 

A HFEA report revealed that the number of people registering to donate eggs fell 23 per cent in 2020 (green bars), while sperm donations (yellow bars) fell 14 per cent compared to one year earlier. HFEA said the drop-off could be down to local lockdowns as well as hesitancy coming forward over concerns about catching Covid and adding pressure on the NHS

A HFEA report revealed that the number of people registering to donate eggs fell 23 per cent in 2020 (green bars), while sperm donations (yellow bars) fell 14 per cent compared to one year earlier. HFEA said the drop-off could be down to local lockdowns as well as hesitancy coming forward over concerns about catching Covid and adding pressure on the NHS

WHAT IS THE PROCESS FOR EGG DONATION? 

Why do some women use donated eggs?

Some women are unable to use their own eggs if they have undergone cancer treatment, gone through the menopause or have a genetic disease.

They can still experience pregnancy by using a donor egg and their partner’s sperm.

Who can donate their eggs?

Women aged 18 to 35 can donate their eggs, providing they pass health checks, with older women only being able to do so in exceptional circumstances. 

What is the process for donating eggs?

The medical process for donating eggs is the same as the early stages of IVF.

Women take daily injection or nasal spray medication to suppress their hormones and then begin a hormone treatment to boost the number of eggs they produce.

Doctors inject them with hormones to help the eggs mature a few days before the eggs are collected — a 30-minute procedure under general anaesthetic.

What are the risks?

While egg donation is considered very safe, some women may have a reaction to fertility drugs, ranging from hot flushes and headaches to potentially fatal ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).

OHSS symptoms include a swollen stomach, stomach pains, nausea and fainting. 

What compensation is available?

The UK’s fertility regulator permits women to claim up to £750 for every round of treatment that ends with their eggs being collected and donated. 

The payment — which they emphasise is compensation rather than a fee — was designed to cover costs. 

However, women may get more if their expenses for travel, accommodation and childcare are higher.

I have legal rights and responsibilities for children born using my eggs?

Medics urge women to give it ‘serious thought’ as the intensive procedure — which sees doctors collect women’s eggs to donate to couples going through IVF or for research — has life long commitments.

Any children born using their eggs can contact them from the age of 18.

More than 1,500 women donated their eggs in 2020, down by a quarter from 2,000 in 2019, according to figures from Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).

The HFEA said the downturn in donors was likely due to lockdowns and hesitancy from potential donors around Covid safety.

While just 1,548 women donated eggs in 2020, around 14,000 rounds of IVF used donated eggs.

And a quarter of those who used donor eggs said they found them difficult to access.

At the same time as the downturn in supply, the number of women seeking donor eggs has been on the rise, as they leave it until later in life to try and conceive.

The shortage has seen women wait up to two years to start a family with donor eggs. 

Women waited three months on average in 2021 but one in eight waited more than a year.

Clinics pay out £750 to women for every round of treatment that ends with their eggs being collected and donated. 

However, women may get more if their expenses for travel, accommodation and childcare are higher. 

The payment is supposed to be compensation for petrol, childcare and hotels rather than a financial incentive.

Women aged 18 to 35 can donate their eggs, providing they pass health checks, with older women only being able to do so in exceptional circumstances. 

Those volunteering are offered counselling to consider the implications of their decision and give their written consent.

The medical process for donating eggs is the same as the early stages of IVF, which takes three to four weeks.

Women take daily injection or nasal spray medication to suppress their hormones and then begin a hormone treatment to boost the number of eggs they produce.

Doctors inject them with hormones to help the eggs mature a few days before the eggs are collected — a 30-minute procedure under general anaesthetic.

As more families are thrust into poverty this winter, Sarah Norcross, director of fertility charity Progress Educational Trust, believes more women may approach clinics to offer their eggs.

She told MailOnline: ‘During a cost-of-living crisis, more women may become curious about donating their eggs to help others have a family.’

However, she noted that the number who go on to donate will only ever be a ‘tiny percentage’ of those who enquire due to the nature of the procedure. 

Ms Norcross explained: ‘It involves medical checks, hormone injections and egg retrieval. 

‘It can also be challenging psychologically, because egg donors have to agree to be identifiable to any children born as a result of their donation, once the children turn 18.’

The entire process, from signing up to actually donating, can take as little as two months.

Cancer survivors, those who have gone through menopause or have a genetic disease can still experience pregnancy by using donor eggs. 

Donated eggs are then inseminated and put into the womb of a woman who cannot use her own eggs.

Gay male couples can also have children using donor eggs, through a surrogate.

Egg donors currently tend to be family members, charitable donors or women going through fertility treatment — who can donate some of their eggs in exchange for free or discounted IVF.

But Professor Allan Pacey, an andrologist at the University of Sheffield and former chair of the British Fertility Society, told MailOnline that their may be a surge of donors from the general public.

He said: ‘It wouldn’t surprise me if more people started to enroll in medical trials as a way of trying to earn more money [during the cost-of-living crisis]. 

‘However, with regard to egg (and sperm) donation, I would urge people to give it serious thought because it is quite a significant undertaking and has life long commitments if any children are born.

‘I’d encourage people to accept the offer of counselling so they are fully aware of what they are signing up for.’

While egg donation is considered very safe, some women may have a reaction to fertility drugs, ranging from hot flushes and headaches to potentially fatal ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).

OHSS symptoms include a swollen stomach, stomach pains, nausea and fainting.

Clare Ettinghausen, director of strategy and corporate affairs at HFEA, told MailOnline that egg donation is a ‘selfless act that helps people have their much longed-for family that they may otherwise never have’. 

‘However, choosing to donate your eggs is a medical procedure and so not without some risk,’ she said.

‘We advise anyone considering becoming an egg donor to get expert advice and specialist counselling before making a decision,’ Ms Ettinghausen added.



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