Britain’s first dedicated egg bank for the treatment of infertility opens today. The London Egg Bank expects to attract a new generation of egg donors and meet an ever growing demand for donor eggs from infertile women unable to produce their own.
Because of a shortage of egg donors in Britain, many infertile women needing donor eggs have few options but to travel overseas where the supply is more plentiful. But the availability of a home produced supply of eggs from a new generation of socially aware, altruistic donors will now help reverse that trend.
A study of more than 1400 European egg donors reported at this year’s annual meeting of ESHRE found that, while financial compensation was an important motivation for some, the majority of donors were keen to help infertile couples for purely altruistic reasons.
Moreover, new rules on compensation introduced by the HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority) last year now ensure that any donors who do provide eggs for use by other patients in UK clinics are not out of pocket – with up to £750 now available to cover the time and expenses incurred in the course of the donation.
“Our own experience also shows that many egg donors have seen infertility at close hand among their friends and family, or simply wish to give something back in a gesture of altruism,” says Dr Kamal Ahuja, Director of The London Women’s Clinic. “Many donors have children of their own and are in settled family relationships. They are keen to donate their eggs, but have never been encouraged to do so. We are hoping to inform women about egg donation and to make it simpler.”
Similar recruitment drives to attract new sperm donors have put an end to the sperm donor crisis of recent years, and the London Egg Bank, modelled on its partner organisation the London Sperm Bank, is now hoping to use this same experience to educate and encourage new egg donors. Since January 2013 more than 60 egg donors at The London Women’s Clinic have already helped matched recipients, and 40 ongoing pregnancies have already been confirmed.
The demand for donor eggs in Britain continues to rise, with more and more couples postponing their first pregnancies and, as a result, a greater prevalence of age-related infertility. For these women whose ovaries have ceased to function as before, egg donation is their only chance of conception and pregnancy. The rate of successful pregnancy for a 43-year-old woman is around 50-70% with donor eggs, but only around 5% with her own eggs.
The London Egg Bank will also be offering egg storage services for those women who are not yet ready to start a family. Thanks to the new cryopreservation technology of vitrification, “social egg freezing” is becoming an increasingly popular option for many women hoping to prevent the onset of age-related infertility later in their lives.
So what do you think about this new egg bank? We’d love to hear your views.