UNTIL last April women wanting to donate eggs to help childless couples couldn’t be paid and could only be given a maximum of £250 “expenses”. In other countries including America and Spain, clinics and individuals could receive much more cash. To beat an egg donor shortage, British women can now be paid £750. Last month Danielle Pearson, 29, became one of the first to donate since the payment was introduced. But she says she wasn’t doing it for the money. Here, Danielle, a customer services rep who lives in Taunton, Somerset, with husband Tom, 27, and their son Harry, two, shares her diary in the hope of inspiring others to do the same.
May 2011: I’ve read a report about the woeful shortage of egg donors in the UK, which has shocked me. All I can think is how lucky I am to have my gorgeous son Harry and how I’d love to help a woman who isn’t so fortunate. Last night, I blurted out my feelings to Tom, asking him if he minded if I became an egg donor. I think he was a bit taken aback at first but when we talked about it he thought it was a great idea. Harry is not yet two, so I’m snowed under with working and looking after him, but as soon as I get more time, I’m definitely going to look into it.
June: I’ve been researching egg donation and through the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). I find my closest clinic and arrange a meeting. They are incredibly welcoming. I ask how many clients like me they see each year. I’m shocked when they say I’ll probably be the only one this year. Most couples who donate are in an egg-sharing scheme. At present, women in the UK receive no payment, although women in the US can earn up to £15,000 donating their eggs. However, the laws will change next year, allowing women to receive a payment. But money doesn’t matter to me. I could help up to three families, with one fresh batch of my eggs to be used now and the others frozen for future use.
July: I’ve decided to go ahead. I’m told any child born as a result of my donation has a right to gain information on me when he or she turns 18. I agree with this. Next is the paperwork, undergoing a medical screening to check for genetic conditions and matching me with a donor. November: The results of my medical screening suggest I may have an underactive thyroid. There will be a second test.
January 2012: My results are clear. Tom and I undergo counselling to make sure we’re prepared for the procedure. I have no doubts. I’m excited about what lies ahead.
March: I get the call to say I’ve been matched to the woman who will receive my eggs. I’m told to phone the clinic on the first day of my next period so they can synchronise my cycle.
May: At the clinic I’m told about the fertility drugs I’ll start taking, which stimulate egg production so more than normal are released and can be harvested. I must start injecting on the 21st day of my cycle.
June 27: The fertility drugs arrived in a bag which I need to store in my fridge. I’ve been warned side-effects can include tiredness, dizziness and bloating. I feel no emotional attachment to the process. I’m just helping someone become a mum.
I knew I would have to inject myself twice a day but I forgot how big the needles were! I’m worried I may have pushed it too far into my leg the first time as it’s sore and my legs feel funny.
June 29: The injections hurt less after a couple of days but this time my leg bled and came up in a big lump. It’s sore for the rest of the day but the list of side-effects says soreness around the site is normal. Tomorrow I’ll aim for a flabbier part of my leg.
July 1: My legs are sore and bruised and I’m bloated and have a headache. But it’s nothing I can’t handle.
July 3: I’m so bloated I wake up looking four months pregnant. I go to work in leggings and a baggy jumper as my clothes are so tight. Psychologically I’m fine and coping as I hoped. I keep thinking about the recipients of my eggs and how excited they must be.
July 5: I’ve got sore nipples and an upset tummy.
July 7: It’s day ten of the treatment and I head to the clinic for a scan. The scan shows there are ten eggs on one ovary and six on the other. On the downside, the doctors are worried about how bloated I am and want to make sure I don’t get ovarian hyperstimulation, where fluid builds up in the ovaries. In extreme cases it can be fatal, which is worrying.
July 8: I had my last injection today — I won’t miss those! Tomorrow is the big day and I have to be at the hospital for 8am. I go to bed feeling excited, if a little nervous.
July 29: I get up at the crack of dawn and have a sip of water and some painkillers as I’m not allowed to eat before the operation. The egg collection will be done under sedation, rather than general anaesthetic, which means I’ll be semi-conscious.
Afterwards, all I can recall is the nurse counting eggs as I watched them sucked out on the screen. I felt a bit uncomfortable but there was no pain. Back home I sleep all afternoon and when I wake I can feel a piercing pain in each ovary. I spend the rest of the day on the sofa with lots of cuddles from Harry.
I feel happy I’ve done something which could change a woman’s life.
August 6: It takes a week to recover. I get mild hyper-stimulation as too much fluid builds up in my ovaries and I have to attend the clinic again. They recommended bed rest, which thankfully does the trick.
I receive a cheque in the post for my £750 fee, which I’ll spend on bits and bobs for Harry and put towards mine and Tom’s joint birthday in New York next month.
But it was never about money. I’d decided to donate my eggs before I knew the law would be changed. Critics say it’s unethical to pay donors but I think compensation can only be a good thing if it encourages more women to donate their eggs. August 14: In nine months, I will find out if a child was born to the woman I was matched with, while two batches of eggs have been frozen to help two other couples. It excites me to think someone is fulfilling their dreams of having a family thanks to me.
The facts about donating eggs
Eggs can not be taken from women aged 36 or older. Before you donate, you will have to be screened in order to reduce the risk of passing on diseases or deformities to any child. It is a legal requirement for written consent to be obtained from the egg donor. You can withdraw your consent at any time up to the point at which your eggs are used in treatment. You will receive compensation of up to £750 per cycle of donation to cover any financial losses such as travel, accommodation or childcare. You will have to contact a clinic that is licensed by the HFEA to receive donations. For further information visit hfea.gov.uk Most egg donors are provided anonymously. But children born from a donor sperm, embryos or egg have, at the age of 18, the right to know the identity of the donor.
Article: 6th September 2012 www.thesun.co.uk