Egg Sharing: The COMPLETE Guide to cost effective IVF

What is Egg Sharing?

As you may already know, Rachel and I have already had a number of IVF treatments, one of which has been successful. We are your average couple in the UK on a regular salary which means the private costs of IVF could cause us financial hardship.

Which led us to doing a lot of research into cost effective ways of having another child. The main area’s we looked at are lower cost UK based Private IVF, going abroad to have our treatment and most recently the possibility of egg sharing.

So, what is Egg sharing?

Egg sharing is an IVF treatment where you agree to share eggs which are collected from you with another woman requiring IVF who can’t use her own eggs. The benefit of this is that you get your IVF treatment either free or at a reduced cost and your egg recipient gets a chance at having a chance at IVF.

If you would prefer to learn about egg sharing by watching and listening about egg sharing then below Rachel and I give a detailed overview below.

Sounds great right? But there are things you need to seriously consider before embarking on this journey. The first of which is eligibility.

Are there any specific eligibility criteria?

Our research has shown that each clinic has their own set of criteria before accepting you onto an egg sharing IVF treatment plan and not every clinic offers this option. The most common are

Age – Most clinics seem to have a maximum age for egg sharing of 35 years old, this means the eggs must be collected by your 35th birthday. Some are more demanding and set a maximum age of 32. The one with the most relaxed requirement was 37.

Health and genetic family history – All of the clinics that we reviewed asked that the donor have no serious health conditions this often includes endometriosis and PCOS. They also can’t have any specific family inheritable diseases. Many of the clinics state that they will need access to your medical records from your GP to check this.

BMI – Unfortunately with any form of IVF there is a weight limit in place. Most of them wanted a BMI between 18 – 30. There were 3 clinics which we found which were more prescriptive with wanting it under 27 and the lowest we saw wanted it under 25.

Smoking – Almost all clinics state you must be a non-smoker, many of them state note// this must have been for a minimum of 3 months.

Ovarian reserve – 75% of those reviewed explicitly mentioned that you needed to have a good ovarian reserve – This is measured at an initial appointment through blood work.

Previous IVF history – About 40% of those that we researched mentioned that they would not allow individuals with previous history of low ovarian response to ovarian stimulation for IVF. Now this one is complex, because in the NHS and medical trial data this is deemed less than 3 eggs, however none of the IVF clinics explicitly state what they deem as low ovarian response.

As discussed, there are certainly more eligibility criteria and whilst some clinics use all of these, some clinics are much more relaxed as such if you are considering egg sharing and you’re willing to travel then there may be a clinic right for your specific circumstances.

Why are there egg sharing IVF treatments

Now that we know a little about what egg sharing is and whether you are eligible, let’s think about why there are egg sharing treatments. You don’t often get something for nothing in this world and egg sharing is no different.

As we have discussed in previous articles, the average age of trying to conceive has become substantially older over the last 40 years, the graph shows the increase in age of first-time mothers has gone from 23.9 in 1979 to 28.8 in 2017.

When you couple this with the NHS requirement of trying for 2 years before being eligible for treatment which you can read more about on our NHS eligibility article. It often means people are going to be in early and mid-30’s before stating their treatment. The graph opposite shows the fertility rates by age and as you can see there is a serious reduction in fertility from age 35.

The most common use of donor eggs is in those going through IVF treatment over 40 and in those with conditions which impact ovarian reserve or egg quality i.e. premature ovarian insufficiency. The number of IVF egg donation treatments in the UK has risen from 1,912 in 2006 to 3,924 in 2016 and the trend appears to be on the increase.

When you take the above information with the strict regulations, we have in the UK around egg donors, who can only receive £750 per donation – which is not a lot when you consider the impact of IVF treatment on their lives. This leads to a situation where the demand for eggs outweighs the supply of eggs, which is what has happened in the UK.

Hence this has led the industry especially in the private sector a problem as they have potential customers but no way of selling them a product due to the lack of eggs. So, one way that has emerged is egg sharing, which allows a clinic to get the donor to pay full fees, donor fees etc and offering the egg donor a reduced fee or a free treatment. Essentially it creates a 3-way beneficial relationship between the egg donor, the egg recipient and the IVF clinic.

Is egg sharing the right IVF choice for me?

This is the big decision. Whether egg sharing is right for you is something not to be taken lightly. You will be giving up some of your eggs which you have spent a long time going through difficult hormonal treatment and complex medical procedures. Whatever the reasons you choose for going through this IVF treatment you are still ultimately hoping to become pregnant yourself, so how do you make the decision? In this section we’ll get you to ask yourself some questions and then we will look at the pro’s and cons of egg sharing.

10 Questions to ask yourself before you embark on egg sharing treatment

  1. Can you afford regular IVF without causing yourself long term financial difficulty?
  2. Are you happy to give away half your eggs to a stranger or someone you know?
  3. Are you happy accepting this will reduce your chance of a clinical pregnancy and live birth? (remember this is only due to having less eggs to fertilise no other reason.)
  4. Are you happy to accept counselling?
  5. How would you feel in 18 years if a child created with your egg got in touch with you?
  6. How would you feel if the egg recipient had a child and you didn’t?
  7. Do I have time to go through IVF (8-12 weeks)?
  8. How do you feel about helping another woman/couple become pregnant?
  9. If I change my mind can I afford the full treatment cost?
  10. Do you meet the general eligibility criteria? (listed in 2nd part of this article)

These are important factors to consider BEFORE you embark on egg sharing IVF treatment. You should sit down with you partner if you have one and discuss all of this in detail. Use this information as a way to decide if this option is right for you.

Pro’s and Con’s of egg sharing treatment

Pros

  • It gives you a discounted or free IVF treatment
  • Knowing you’re helping others struggling with infertility can feel good
  • It reduces egg waste.
  • No additional treatment is required than your standard IVF
  • If you don’t produce enough eggs, then you will likely receive them all (as per clinic agreement)

Cons

  • You’re chance of pregnancy is reduced slightly because you have less eggs to potentially fertilise
  • Your recipient could get pregnant and if you don’t this can cause substantial emotional distress
  • There is a risk you or your recipient could identify yourselves inadvertently by sharing the specifics of your story online
  • Some clinics push the stimulation protocol to the edge of safe to create as many eggs as possible, but this increases the risk of OHSS (Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome)
  • If you need other treatments such as ICSI these will still be payable.

The pro’s and cons of egg sharing through IVF is balanced but can be used with the questions to see what is most important to you and whether it is right for you. We’d love for you to leave us a comment about how you came to your decision and if you went ahead was it the right decision.

How does IVF Egg share process work?

The egg share IVF process has a lot of similarities with the regular IVF process which you can read more about on our What does IVF involve article. So here we will discuss the main differences of the process, which are: –

Difference #1 – The first appointment you will have the specific risks explained about egg sharing and how it works in the specific clinic. From our research most clinics off these specific set of rules.

  • If there is an odd number of eggs you will receive the extra egg
  • You need a minimum of 8 eggs to share them otherwise you will keep them all.
  • You can be informed of the outcome of the recipient’s treatment, but this will not include any identifiable information

Difference #2 – You will have more preliminary tests done before signing up to the treatment. You will often have to pay for these tests and many clinics will refund this if you are eligible for treatment. From our research the overage cost for these tests for an egg sharer is about £307. These tests usually include (although each clinic does differ):

  • Cervical smear
  • Chlamydia urine
  • Hepatitis B, B Core and C
  • HIV and HTLV 1 and 2
  • Prolactin
  • Rubella
  • T4
  • TSH
  • FSH, LH, Oestradiol taken between days 1-4 of the cycle
  • CMV IgG/IgM
  • Blood group and Rhesus factor
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Chromosomal Analysis
  • TPHA (Syphilis)
  • (Sickle Cell Thalassaemia)
  • Tay Sach (if req)
  • HTLV ½

Difference #3 – Your consent to treatment will be held at the second appointment, this should include a counselling session with a specially trained infertility counsellor before consenting.

Difference #4 – Allocation of eggs. If you meet the minimum criteria for that specific clinic (usually 8 eggs) then your eggs will be split between you and the egg recipient. Sometimes if you respond well to treatment then your eggs can be shared with 2 recipients. If you have responded poorly to stimulation and not created many eggs some clinics will not proceed with your treatment unless you pay the remaining fees. Your eggs will be divided evenly as per the agreement BEFORE your own fertilisation takes place. NOTE// Because you have less eggs to fertilise this reduces you chances of getting a high-quality blastocyst for implantation.

Difference #5 – If you require specific additional services such as ICSI then these will be payable either at full cost or a reduced cost as per your agreement with the clinic.

Difference #6 – A follow up will be scheduled to discuss your own outcome and if you all agree the outcome of the recipient.

What are the rights of the egg sharer and the egg recipient?

There are number of rights that you have when you sign up to egg sharing, they are:

  • You have the right to withdraw consent to share up to the point of sharing. If you withdraw consent, then you are liable for the costs of treatment up to that point and any continued treatment you may need.
  • Each clinic has their own take on unsuccessful cancelled cycles due to lack of response, be sure to understand this and your liabilities in this case. Many just stop the cycle you don’t pay for anything up to that point but if you wish to proceed then you pay for this treatment.
  • You must go onto the HFEA donor and recipient register this will contain specific information about you and any children which result in treatment.
  • In the UK your eggs can only be used to create up to 10 families this is due to genetic diversity.
  • You can ask about the number of children (if any) conceived by your donation, the sex and the year that they were born.
  • When the child reaches 18, they have the right to ask HFEA for non-identifying information about you, your name and address at time of registration and the code number used at the centre where the donation was made. You can read more about this on the HFEA website
  • The recipient is the legal parent of that child under UK law.

The financial impacts of egg sharing

We discussed in detail in our article about the costs of IVF which from 50 hours of research into the UK market found that for the simplest IVF treatment the average cost was £4,589 per cycle and it takes on average 2.2 cycles per pregnancy so the average cost per pregnancy on the simplest option with no embryo’s to freeze (this was our specific circumstance) it costs on average £11,275 per live birth.

Therefore, the cost of IVF is not a small amount, and this would have serious impacts upon people’s financial health.

Egg sharing is certainly a way to reduce the financial burden on couples and individuals who want children. As we have mentioned previously clinics offer either reductions or free treatment to those who meet the eligibility and opt for an egg sharing agreement.

From our research we have found that it is about a 50/50 split in terms of free vs reduced costs. The common costs that we did find for those that didn’t offer everything free were as follows.

  • Consultation fees – Averaged abut £307 this includes initial consultation and tests to confirm eligibility. Even free clinics often charged this and refunded it if you went ahead with the treatment.
  • Drugs – This was the most common cost not included within the free treatment portion. We found this to average £496 across the clinics we studied. However, you may not have to get medications from the clinic supplying your treatment, so you’re welcome to shop around, the cheapest we found was just over £200.
  • HFEA registration fee – Many clinics charge £75 for this.

The other area for financial consideration is additional treatments, many people who do choose to go down the egg sharing route are couple who suffer with male form infertility, which may mean that they need ICSI or surgical sperm extraction and these treatments will need to be paid for. The average cost of ICSI in the UK is £897 and surgical sperm extraction is £1,685. If you require these you would need to pay for these, however, remember you would need to pay for these on top of your regular IVF cycle anyways.

So, on average it appears that egg sharing IVF can save you just over £4,000 per cycle.

The emotional impact of egg sharing

There is a reason why you have to have a specific counselling session before deciding whether egg sharing is the right choice for your IVF treatment.

IVF itself is an emotional rollercoaster, many of the drugs can have some pretty strong side effects on mood and emotional health which you can read more about in our how do IVF drugs impact you article. Many people require emotional and mental health support going through their infertility and IVF journey. Egg sharing adds another emotional challenge. The key emotional difficulties individuals and couples can have include ‘would I have got pregnant if I hadn’t shared my eggs?’, ‘It’s not fair I did a good thing donating my eggs and they got pregnant and I didn’t’ and ‘This is my last chance because I can no longer afford regular IVF treatments’.

These thoughts can create a powerful emotional response which many people are able to deal with through the support of friends, family, partners and online support groups. Although for some they require more professional counselling and therapy to prevent deeper depression and anxiety. This can be through your clinic or you can seek specialist support from British Infertility Counselling Association.

Questions to ask your clinic if you go ahead with Egg Sharing IVF treatment

  • How many eggs do you use to determine a successful cycle?
  • If I don’t produce enough eggs, what is your process and what are the costs?
  • What are the additional costs that I will have to pay for?
  • How are the eggs divided?
  • What are your success rates per embryo transferred?
  • What are the joint success rates for my IVF and the recipients?
  • How long will it take to find an appropriate recipient?
  • What are your specific eligibility criteria?

Asking these questions will help you understand exactly what you are signing up for with a specific clinic.

Final thoughts on egg sharing as a form of IVF treatment

Both myself and Rachel feel that egg sharing is a great form of positive altruism, it allows you to give something to someone that has a shared problem with you. I think that the next stage of our IVF journey we will investigate egg sharing if we manage to get it done before Rachel hits 35 (unlikely as she will turn 34 just after our little one is born) or if not then we will look abroad. We both feel that IVF is overpriced in the UK and with bigger organisations beginning to run a higher percentage of clinics, competition on price is beginning to drop which may lead to higher IVF prices in the future.

I think that egg sharing is a great opportunity for a cycle or two of IVF as long as you are able to work through the emotional impacts of giving away some of your eggs, because there is no denying this is hard. On top of this in this country there aren’t enough egg donors and knowing many people within the infertility community who have struggled to get eggs we understand the importance that people do donate eggs. It is a small win-win situation and I think it’s an area of IVF which requires more discussion and more open information.

If you have any questions or want to share some information, then please leave a comment below we would love to hear from you.

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