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If you are considering an IVF with donor eggs in the UK, you may also be considering egg donation abroad. Egg donation is a very personal choice, and the right choice will be the one that feels right for you.
Still, it’s important to understand the pros and cons for each avenue, so that you can make an informed decision with confidence. In this article we cover a number of common questions/themes around egg donation in the UK versus abroad:
Why do people in the UK consider egg donation abroad?
Cost of treatment: UK vs. abroad
Availability of egg donors: UK vs. abroad
Egg donor screening
Egg donation in the UK
There are a few main reasons why someone in the UK might choose to go abroad for egg donation treatment. These are:
Anonymity of egg donors
Cost of treatment
Availability of egg donors
High success rates
We'll outline the impact of each one for egg donation in the UK versus abroad below.
In the UK, egg donation is anonymous at the time of donation. Unless it is a known donor, a recipient would receive only non-identifying information about the donor.
A donor-conceived child (whether through egg or sperm donation) however, has the legal right to find out the identity of their donor once they turn 18. This is why all egg donors in the UK must consent to be identifiable to the donor-conceived child at 18. It is important to note that neither the egg donor or donor-conceived child have any legal claims, rights or obligations to each other.
It is recommended that parents of children born as the result of egg donation are open with the child about their origins. The HFEA and Donor Conception Network recommend talking with your child in early childhood, so there is no time that the donor-conceived child didn't know about their origins.
In the UK, discovering the identity of the donor is no casual matter. There is a sensitive process that the child (or young adult, as they will be 18) would have to go through.
First, the donor-conceived child would apply to the HFEA for access to the information. The HFEA would then contact the donor to let her know that they have received such a request, and they will manage things from that point. We advise discussing the process with an experienced fertility counsellor to guide you through these implications.
In the UK, egg donors must receive implications counselling by law as part of the process of donating eggs. This is a valuable step which helps to ensure that donating eggs is an ethical, informed process where the egg donor has all the information before going forward.
Abroad, egg donation can be completely anonymous, but not always. Egg donors in Denmark and Sweden are not anonymous, and Australia has a similar system to the UK when it comes to donor anonymity. This year, Colorado became the first state in the US to ban anonymous sperm and egg donation, meaning children born as a result of donation will be able to discover their donor’s identity at 18.
“While shared DNA does not always make a family, the identity of the donor is important to the health and identity of many donor-conceived persons.” - State Senate President Stephen Fenberg on the removal of anonymity in Colorado
In Spain, the Spanish Fertility Society has publicly stated that among the reasons for maintaining anonymity is the fact that they would lose a large number of potential donors.
In the UK, non-anonymous donation means that the donor-conceived child can access medical history later in life. They would have the choice to explore their roots, should they wish to.
On top of this, there is also the reality that DNA testing kits like 23andme may reveal the donor’s information anyway, as has already happened many times. In cases where the donor-conceived adult did not know the details of their conception, this can be a difficult way to discover the information.There are arguments for and against anonymous donation. Your position on donor anonymity is yours alone. Whatever it is, it is important that you feel comfortable with your decision. That said, it is advisable to spend some time understanding the implications of donor anonymity, whether using an egg donor or a sperm donor. The Donor Conception Network and Seed Trust are great, impartial places to start.
Upfront, treatment abroad can look very inexpensive compared to the UK. Egg donation abroad can be cheaper than in the UK, as long as you plan well and no hidden costs or surprises come up. When making a comparison, it’s important to factor in the costs of:
Travel, food and accommodation in the country
Potential time off work (if taking unpaid leave)
Medication and consultations, which may not be displayed in the initial cost
Additional blood tests and scans
Moving or storage of excess embryos (if necessary)
There may be other costs depending on the treatment you’re considering, such as legal or translation costs. Whatever your budget, it’s important that you factor in a contingency plan (and funds), should something go wrong.
As with any fertility treatment, it’s essential to add up costs and compare like-for-like, as once you add everything together, the financial benefit may not be enough to justify travelling to a foreign country.
Beyond the financial aspect, it is important to remember that countries outside of the UK are regulated differently, and it is essential you understand the implications before going forward.
One of the main reasons for going abroad is the shortage of egg donors in the UK. There have certainly been plenty of news stories highlighting the shortage of egg donors, particularly from certain ethnicities. It is a topic we follow and cover extensively, as we try to understand the cultural barriers preventing women from certain backgrounds from coming forward to donate.
It is true that we have a shortage of egg donors in the UK - particularly from Black and South Asian ethnicities. This is why we speak and educate the press whenever we can on the subject. We try to amplify the stories of any egg donors or egg recipients - especially from these backgrounds - whose lives have been changed by egg donation. We can’t comment on the availability of these donors elsewhere, but we have heard it can still be difficult.
Apricity’s donor program is incredibly successful, with thousands of women contacting us every year about donating their eggs altruistically. Our average waiting time to match is 4-6 weeks - quite different from the year-long waiting lists regularly reported in the news.
“If you’re thinking of going overseas to avoid a long waiting list for a donor in the UK, you might find there’s no need.” - HFEA
We are proud to be one of the few referenced agencies on the HFEA’s website, on a page outlining what to consider when thinking about fertility treatment abroad. If you are considering going overseas due to donor shortages in the UK, it may be worth checking the donor availability in the UK before committing to treatment abroad.
Some of the best IVF clinics in Europe display really high success rates, attracting patients who, understandably, want the best chances of success. For any clinic’s success rate, it’s really important that you understand exactly what that means. Is it for a certain age group? For a live birth or for a pregnancy? Or per embryo transferred or embryo transfer event? For a certain type of infertility? Make sure you do your research and ask the right questions. If something seems too good to be true, there is a good chance it is.
“Some people prefer to go abroad because they’ve found a clinic which claims to have very high success rates. You should be cautious in these cases as there are lots of different ways to present success data. For example, they may only be presenting data for women under 35 or their data may relate to pregnancies rather than births.
Success rates can also be affected by the types of patients a clinic treats. If a clinic treats a large number of younger women with mild fertility problems, their success rates will inevitably be higher than clinics treating older women or those with more complex diagnoses.” - HFEA
Speaking to others who had treatment in the prospective country, and with a specific clinic can also help to ensure that you have a good experience. There are plenty of people who go abroad for safe, successful treatment, but there are also plenty of cautionary tales. This is why due diligence and research ahead of committing is so important.
You can check our Success rates here.
On top of cost, availability of egg donors, and true chances of success, it’s essential that you understand the legal situation surrounding egg donation in other countries.
“We have no power overseas and whilst some countries will have a similar governing body or laws to oversee fertility treatments, not all of them do.” - HFEA
Unfortunately, not everyone can have treatment abroad. In particular, single women and same-sex options are more limited in their options. For example, Poland, the Czech Republic and Serbia limit who can have fertility treatment based on orientation and/or living situation of the individual or couple, while Turkey does not offer surrogacy or IVF with donor eggs or donor sperm. Egg donation is also not legal in Germany, Switzerland and Norway.
The legal framework for both fertility treatment and egg donation is different country by country. Ensure that you fully understand the legal framework ahead of any treatment. This includes laws on surrogacy and storage of eggs and embryos. Not doing so could be costly, both in terms of money, time and emotional investment.
“Make sure you understand the country’s legal situation before having treatment” - HFEA
Egg donor screening in the UK is another aspect of fertility treatment which is regulated by the HFEA.
One of the reasons behind our high pregnancy rates (86% cumulative clinical pregnancy rate with egg donation treatment) is the strict screening of our donors. All of our donors are between 18-35, healthy, and undergo thorough medical screening to ensure they are fit to donate and unlikely to pass on any medical conditions.
Aside from screening our generous donors, we are really passionate about ensuring they feel fully informed throughout their whole journey. In fact, just ike recipients, our donors will receive implications counselling and our full support throughout their journey with us.
Abroad, screening may or may not need to meet equally strict requirements. It is important to check with each country’s fertility regulator when possible. This will help ensure that both you and your donor will be well cared for.
In the UK, it is altruism that usually drives incredibly generous women to donate eggs. By law, egg donors cannot be paid to donate, although they receive £750 in compensation to cover travel to appointments, and childcare costs, and missed work.
Many European countries also do not allow payment - some in theory, others in practice. We know that in some countries, women may be driven more heavily by the financial aspect. This may or may not make a difference in your decision-making.
With a strict regulatory body like the HFEA and excellent clinics and doctors, we believe the UK is an excellent choice for egg donation. We’re immensely proud of our egg donation program. We've helped to create hundreds of families with the help of our amazingly generous egg donors.
Like egg donation itself, the choice to stay in the UK or go abroad is very personal, and only you will know which is right for you. If you are considering UK egg donation, we would love to introduce you to egg donation the Aprcity way.
Written by our group of fertility experts and doctors consultants
Written by our group of fertility experts and doctors consultants
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