A great egg donation agency is like a doctor with a good bedside manner. Here's why…

When you’ve made the important decision to start or expand your family through egg donation, the next vital step you need to take is to select a reputable egg donation agency.

A great egg donation agency is a bit like a doctor with a great bedside manner. An understanding best friend who is always willing to listen and an attentive counsellor, who can guide you through challenging times all rolled into one! Infertility is a tough, lonely place – you need all the help you can get, to keep your sanity and your sense of humour intact.

Not only will a good agency provide you with a large database of wonderful and carefully pre-screened egg donors to choose from, but it will ensure that you receive excellent service from them as well as from the fertility clinic where you will be treated, every step of the way. This means that there will be constant interaction and intervention between the agency, the fertility clinic and the egg donor, and that you will be kept well informed at all times during the process.

An egg donor program that is managed and facilitated by a really good egg donation agency, will help donor recipients to better understand the process, answer any and all questions with patience and clarity. This will save prospective recipients from the trouble of having to wade through and trying to comprehend any medical or legal issues that they would like to clarify.

In South Africa, egg donor agencies are primarily located in the major cities such as Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban. In some instances, donor agencies have donors who are willing to travel to other cities to participate in the program.

When choosing a donor agency, prospective donor egg recipients need to explore important criteria such as the agency’s reputation, its affordability, efficiency, availability of egg donors, professionalism, the period of time it has been in existence, its association with top fertility clinics in the area and the quality of its service.

Another aspect that makes an egg donation agency excellent is its commitment to continuously expand and keep fresh its database of profiled egg donors by recruiting new donors. A great agency will also offer immediate feedback to any queries pertaining to egg donation fertility treatment.

A good egg donor agency doesn’t over promise and under-deliver. A good egg donor agency makes sure that all their donors that are listed as available, ARE available and meet the prescribed criteria. A good egg donor agency knows that by the time a recipient couple has reached the point of egg donation, they are tired, heartbroken and financially and emotionally depleted. A good egg donor agency does their utmost to ensure that this is the last chapter of the journey that ends with the words “….and they all lived happily ever after”.

Fertility tourism becoming trendy and more affordable

In the world of assisted fertility, in-vitro fertilization (IVF) is nothing new, according to a recent story on voxxi.com

And for women 40 and over, donor egg IVF – where eggs from a younger, more fertile donor are fertilized with the partner’s sperm, cultivated and then transferred to the prospective mom’s uterus – is often the only hope for achieving pregnancy.

But for US couples whose health insurance doesn’t cover infertility, the costs of these treatments can be prohibitively expensive; IVF with an egg donor costs an average of $30,000. That’s per try, pregnant or not pregnant at the outcome.

So increasingly, in a trend labeled fertility tourism, more and more couples are looking outside the US in their quest for a baby, to countries where the medical technology is on par with the States and the costs are significantly less.

Take a vacation, come home pregnant

In Europe, clinics in the Czech Republic and clinics in Spain currently vie for English-speaking patients; those seeking blond-haired, blue eyed donors head east, while those seeking dark haired donors with brown or green eyes head for the Mediterranean.

Donors are mostly young college students looking for extra money to pay tuition. Clinics have English-speaking staff and are located, not by accident, in desirable tourist locales – in major cities like Barcelona, Madrid and Seville, and in coastal resorts such as Valencia, Alicante and even the Canary Islands.

So, foreign couples can mix purpose with pleasure by making the required clinic visits, taking time for some sightseeing and relaxation, and hopefully, flying home with a proverbial bun in the oven. And even with a week to 10 days’ travel costs and the US $ to euro conversion factored in, a fertility vacation can still shake out a lot cheaper than treatment in the US.

In Spain, IVF with donor eggs costs between €7,000 and €10,000 per cycle. Even at the worst currency exchange rate and peak season travel, a couple can save at least $10,000 by traveling to Spain for treatment.

Some clinics, like URVistaHermosa in Alicante, offer a refund program, where clients pay for three donor egg cycles up front (at a discounted rate). If no pregnancy is achieved after the third cycle, 30% of that money is refunded.

And the clinic claims it has never had to give a refund.

No Octomoms allowed!

In Spain, as in the US and other countries, current practice at most clinics is to transfer blastocysts, embryos that have been grown outside the uterus for 5 days. Though fewer fertilized eggs arrive at blastocyst stage, those that survive the 5-day growth period have a very good chance of implanting in the uterus and turning into viable pregnancies.

To reduce the incidence of multiple births (twins, triplets or more), Spanish law prohibits the transfer of more than three embryos, and most clinics strongly urge patients to transfer just two.

Virtually every Spanish clinic boasts a first-time success rate of 60-70% with donor egg IVF, so if those numbers are to be believed, couples opting for fertility tourism have a very good chance of bringing back an extra special souvenir.

Four fertility trends to watch in 2012

The advances in reproductive medicine have been many. As the New Year begins, here are FertilityAuthority’s four trends you should watch.

1 Genetic screening of embryos for aneuploidy. A normal embryo has 23 pairs of chromosomes, including an XX or an XY to determine sex. Aneuploidy is the term used to describe an abnormal number of chromosomes, and majority of embryos with aneuploidy will not implant in the uterus or will result in a miscarriage. Many fertility clinics are now offering preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) for aneuploidy. One method that is gaining much attention is called comprehensive chromosomal analysis (CCS) tests a Day 5 or 6 embryo that is subsequently frozen and transferred during a frozen cycle. Women who have experienced recurrent miscarriages or recurrent IVF failure, or those who are of advanced maternal age, may want to ask their fertility doctors about PGS or CCS for aneuploidy screening.

2 Single embryo transfer (SET) as a safer and equally effective option in IVF. After examining a variety of studies to compare single vs. double embryo transfers, the Practice Committees of the ASRM and the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) issued a report in 2011 recommending an increase in the use of elective single embryo transfer (SET) in patients undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) that had a good prognosis. The conclusion was that SET could significantly reduce the rate of multiple births without affecting pregnancy rates. Fertility patients under 35, those with more than one high-quality embryo available for transfer, women in their first or second IVF cycle, women who have had prior successful IVF cycles and women who are using donor eggs may want to ask their fertility doctor about SET.

3 Egg freezing as a choice for preserving fertility. Information about egg freezing (oocyte cryopreservation) for fertility preservation is a must for women who are undergoing cancer treatment. And many fertility clinics are offering this option to women who are have not found the right partner or who have delayed childbirth for other reasons. Successful freezing and thawing of eggs is improving rapidly, and the methods will continue to grow and improve in the future.

4 Big advancement in male infertility research. Just as 2011 ended, German and Israeli researchers published a study in the journal Nature that they were able to create mouse sperm in a laboratory. The researchers used “germ cells,” which are cells in testicles responsible for semen production, and they grew the sperm by surrounding the germ cells in a compound called “agar jelly,” which created an environment similar to that found in testicles. This could be a a major breakthrough that would lead the way to producing artificial human semen that could help infertile men father their own children.

Via FertilityAuthority

Donating eggs has no effect on your fertility, and other important facts you need to know

The case for egg donation: why it should be seen in a good light. By Tertia Albertyn

Some say it is tantamount to exploitation of women’s bodies. The uninformed accuse those who participate of ‘selling their bodies’. The activity that is evoking such harsh and often over emotional reactions has nothing to do with hooking, taking a life, pornography, posing naked, stripping, or even – believe it or not – beauty pageants.

Surprisingly and rather ironically, those old staples of dubious morality have temporarily been swept aside by critics in favour of what many regard to be one of the ultimate acts of compassion and kindness: Egg donation. And just so we’re clear; we’re not talking about giving your breakfast grub to a hungrier person here.

But just in case you were thinking that, here’s a quick primer: Egg donation is a process through which a young woman voluntarily donates some of her eggs (ova) to be used during third party fertility treatments. These donated eggs are eggs which would normally be discarded as part of a woman’s monthly cycle.  Instead of being ‘flushed away’ each month, in an egg donation cycle these eggs are retrieved by a fertility specialist, fertilized in a laboratory with the intended father’s sperm (or donor sperm) and placed into the womb of the intended mother (or surrogate) a few days later.  Recipients of these donated eggs are women who have lost their ovaries to cancer or who have suffered premature ovarian failure. Or same-sex male couples who obviously need an egg donor in order to have their family.  The amount of women out there who need help to conceive is staggering. The World Health Organisation estimates that there are currently approximately 60-80 million infertility cases around the world.

Egg donation in South Africa is 100% legal and strictly regulated by the Policy Committee of the South African Society of Reproductive Science and Surgery. Suitable donors are healthy, young women over the age of 21 from[T1] any ethnicity and background. Unlike in many other countries, donors in South Africa remain anonymous, with merely her medical history, education, and description of physical features, characteristics, her interests, etc. being revealed to prospective donor egg recipients. She never meets or makes contact with the recipients. Only baby photographs of the donor are submitted.  Although most recipient couples choose a donor that somewhat resembles the future mother, recipient couples make their final selection based on various criteria which could include a physical match, a personality match, an academic match or a combination of these factors.  In South Africa, egg donors receive some money for their time and effort. This is often the cause for the stigma and misconceptions that surround egg donation. This is where the critics cry ‘exploitation!’ However, what the detractors fail to realise is that the amount paid (which is R5 000) has been carefully assessed and determined to essentially cover the incidentals that the donor will incur, such as getting to and from the clinic during her participation in the donor programme. Although the money certainly helps, it is definitely not the motivating factor, and egg donors donate out of sheer kindness and to make a genuine difference in someone else’s life.  R5,000 is not exploitation, it is reasonable compensation for the time, effort and expense involved in this selfless act of generosity.

This is exactly what inspired Janet (not her real name) to become an egg donor. After she had filled out an application with Cape Town-based egg donor agency Nurture (www.nurture.co.za), she was accepted and registered to the agency and placed on their donor list. Two months later, she was thrilled by the news that she had been selected by recipients to be their donor: “I really, really wanted to be able to help someone achieve their most yearned for dream, and they chose ME.”

Donating eggs has no effect on a donor’s future ability to conceive, since those eggs would have gone to waste anyway during her menstrual cycle. This was another factor that prompted Janet to donate: “I am not using my eggs, they are literally flushed down the toilet now… I don’t see or think of them as babies, but as potentials. They are part of the ingredients needed to make a baby, but on their own, they are nothing.”

And what about the donor process itself? All the medical stuff? First off, the donor does not pay for any of the medical procedures or scans that the she has to go through relating to the donation. It is all funded by the recipients. The actual process of donation involves going on the pill for a month, followed by two weeks of hormonal treatment which culminates in the egg retrieval process.

One question that prospective donors always ask is whether there are any risks involved in egg donation. According to Nurture’s website, it carries some risk, just like all medical procedures do. The primary risk is a condition called Ovarian Hyper-Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS), but it is extremely rare and occurs in less than 1% of all donations. It is caused by the ovary producing too many eggs as a result of the drug stimulation. OHSS can vary from mild to severe. Donors are closely monitored to check that everything is in order throughout the donation process and to prevent OHSS from happening.

The other misconception that abounds is that by donating eggs, these young woman are somehow ‘using up’ their supply of eggs, which means they will run out by the time they themselves want to have a child – not true!  Each month the ovaries produce eggs, whether you donate them or not.

As for possible pain and discomfort: During the egg extraction procedure, the egg donor is placed under conscious sedation, which feels like a deep sleep. Janet said afterwards, when she woke up in recovery, she felt okay. “I was a bit dozy but otherwise felt pretty okay. After a while I felt some period type cramping, but nothing really more than that. It was most likely from the mirena anyway.” (Janet had used a mirena as birth control beforehand and had to have it removed during the donation process. Right after the extraction, while she was still under anaesthetics, it was replaced free of charge.)

“All in all, the experience has been far easier than I expected and not bad at all.”

Two weeks later, Nurture informed Janet that her donation had resulted in the ultimate gift, and that her donor recipient was pregnant. “I feel so honoured and privileged to have been allowed to be part of something so very special and important and life changing.”

For more information about becoming an egg donor, visit the Nurture website www.nurture.co.za

[T1]21 and over. Not over 21