“After years of not being able to fall pregnant more South African women are turning to egg donation IVF to become mothers. Dominique Oosthuizen explores how through egg donation women struggling to fall pregnant can have children.
Receiving the gift of life
Slowly the eggs (oocytes) are extracted through the vagina of the donor with a small needle. These eggs are her hope for a family. These eggs carry her dream to become a mother.
They are carefully fertilised in an in vitro fertilisation (IVF) laboratory with her husband’s sperm. The embryos are then cultured and grown over the next few days until the doctor cautiously transfer the embryos into her womb.
From these two cells all the babies’ organs and body parts will develop. From these two layers of cells a little miracle will form.
“When I saw their heartbeats for the first time it was surreal,” tells a donor egg recipient. “I cried and I cried and I cried. Finally! Finally it was my turn to become a mother.”
As she had only disclosed to her close family and friends of her journey with egg donation IVF the recipient decided to remain anonymous.
“There was no black or white explanation on why I could not conceive children, but I was determined to be a mother.
“Through the donation someone was able to give me such a selfless gift,” she says with great thankfulness to the anonymous donor.
She lightly laughs and adds, “The donor actually gave me twice the gift — she gave me twins. She helped me reach a dream that I once thought was unreachable.”
Donating agencies: collectors of apples
“The process of donating eggs can be compared to the collection of fruit,” says Jenny Curry, the owner of Baby2mom, a company that facilitates the egg donation process by co-ordinating the donor and the recipient.
“Every month a woman loses a certain amount of eggs — just as an apple tree will lose apples,” she explains.
“But, if you stand there with a basket to collect the apples it just means that they are going to good use. Those who are not collected will fall to the earth and rot.”
She says that instead of losing your eggs through menstruation they can rather be collected and put into good use.
“Egg donation is an extraordinary life-changing gift. It is a gift that offers hope to women who previously thought they could never have children.”
According to Curry, women who are in good health and who do not have any genetic illnesses or concerns can donate their eggs.
Companies such as Baby2mom, Nurture, and Gift ov Life have online databases where possible recipients can look at a profile of all the possible donors.
“The donor’s profile will among others provide a recipient with information about the donor’s physical profile, education/occupation, and behavioural traits,” she explains. Adding that the donor’s identity will remain anonymous.
“When a donor commits to donating her eggs she has the ethical responsibility to participate in the process as instructed,” says Curry.
“When the donor completes the process and does what is expected of her, she will receive a donation of R 6000 as approved by the South African Health Department.”
She emphasises that it is a donation and not a payment. “It is a gift for the donor’s effort, the incurred medical cost and the time the donor had put into someone else’s dream.”
According to Curry the donor has no rights towards a child that is conceived through egg donation.
“South African law says that the birth mother holds all the rights and responsibility when it comes to the child. Legally the child is the recipient’s child.”
Donating the ultimate gift
“We are born with over 2 million eggs and we lose them during our lifetime,” says Jamaine Krige, an egg donor who has donated eggs twice. “If they are going to be lost why not give them to someone that can benefit from it?
“We all know someone that is struggling to have a baby. While having children is not a priority for me right now — I know the importance that it carries to a lot of women,” she says.
“For the recipient it means the world. You are helping them get the family they have always wanted.”
Krige explains that egg donation is an important process. “Unlike adoption or surrogacy it actually affords the women a chance to play a part in the process of giving birth to her baby.
“The donor might provide the genetic material for conception, but the recipient still carries the baby. She still nurtures the baby in her womb.
“She plays a vital part in bringing the baby in to this life.”
Dr Paul le Roux, a reproductive medicine specialist at Cape Fertility Clinic, says that infertility exists when a women is unable to conceive after 12 months of unprotected intercourse.
“Ovarian failure may be due to previous chemotherapy, radiotherapy and/or prior surgery,” he says. Adding that infertility can also be due to poor egg quality because of age related deterioration or due to inherited genetic conditions.
According to Le Roux one in every three women, above the age of 40, will not be able to conceive naturally and will need fertility treatment in order to get pregnant.
Le Roux explains that once an egg-recipient has found a donor, either through a donor agency or through someone they know, both the donor and the recipient will see a fertility specialist for treatment.
“The recipient will have medication to prepare her womb lining for the embryo transfer, while the donor will have medication to grow the eggs. The donor will have to take daily injections of Follicle-stimulating Hormone (FSH) for approximately 10 days,” he expands.
“The donor will then be monitored with trans-vaginal ultrasound every couple of days until the eggs are ready to be extracted.”
According to Le Roux the IVF success rate in South Africa is approximately 35% per embryo transfer.
The reproductive specialist says egg donors should preferably between the age of 21 and 34 as “any eggs of a donor, older than 34, might decrease the success rate of the IVF”.
He also says for health reason the South African Society of Reproductive Medicine and Gynaecological Endoscopy (SASREG) suggest that oocyte donors should be limited to 6 donations.
“Medical risks for the egg donor are generally small, but risks may include ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome, pelvic infection, ovarian torsion, intra-abdominal bleeding, loss of future fertility and anaesthetic complications,” says Le Roux.
A mother’s words
“A mother is a woman who will love her children unconditionally until her last breath,” says the egg donor recipient.
“As a mother you choose to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own. As a mother you will have your patience tested to the ends of the earth.
“You will learn about your personal strengths you did not know you had and you will deal with fears you did not know existed. No greater privilege exists. Everybody deserves to be a mother.”
With thanks to journalism student, Dominique Oosthuizen for sharing her investigation into the Egg Donation industry with us!
You’ve been chosen by a recipient who has just invested a whole lot of time, emotions and money in the hope of becoming parents. By agreeing to be their donor, you’ve already done a truly wonderful thing, THANK YOU!
If you are wondering what you can do to improve your recipients chances at success…..keep on reading!
Well, there are lots of things you can do! Some of them are in the ‘can’t hurt, might help’ category – these include rubbing your Buddha’s belly, lighting your candles, singing your chants and saying a few prayers. We welcome as much help as the universe is prepared to give us. But there are even more things you can do, practical things that have been proven to increase the quality of your eggs.
Here is a list of Good Things and Bad Things that could affect whether your recipient conceives or not.
The Good Stuff
- Folic acid (also known at vitamin B9) is a VERY cheap over-the-counter vitamin that greatly increases the quality of the eggs and prevents deformities in the embryo. It only costs a few ronts at the chemist, so we urge you to get some as soon as possible. Added bonus? Better skin and hair for you – even more gorgeousness!
- Multivitamin – this is kind of self-explanatory. Anything that makes YOU healthier will make those eggies healthier too. So if you aren’t yet on a good multi vitamin, put yourself on one. Ask your friendly pharmacist for advice.
- Water, water, water… drink, drink, drink.
- Vegetables and fruit – the stuff your mother told you to eat as a child. She might have been off base with other stuff, but in this case she was right.
The Bad Stuff
- Ok, I know this is going to make your sphincter clench, but smoking is BAAAAAD for you. Even if you don’t care about yourself too much, every single research study says that smoking is bad for your eggs. Egg quality is greatly reduced by smoking, so please please PLEASE try and cut back as much as you can. And if you are up to it, why don’t you use this as motivation to quit all together. You will be doing your recipient a huge favour and yourself! Seriously – smoking = very bad for egg quality
- Smokers vs Non-smokers – how does it affect success rates:
| ||# ||% ||# pos ||% success ||ave # eggs |
|smokers ||22 ||36% ||10 ||45% ||12 |
|non smokers ||39 ||64% ||23 ||59% ||11 |
In other words:
- 64% of our donors don’t smoke.
- Smokers only have a 45% success rate per attempt, where as non-smokers have a 59% success rate per attempt.
- In other words, non-smokers fare 29% better as donors than smokers.
- Average number of eggs retrieved is the same.
- Drinking – look, we love our wine here at Nurture, so we would be the LAST people to tell you to give up, but as with everything, moderation is key. If you are going to drink yourself into a stupor, not only will you feel like poo the next day, but your egg quality will be reduced.
Bottom Line: Take a multivitamin (remember that taking folic acid is important to prevent neural tube defects in the early fetus), eat a diet rich in vegetable protein, low in animal protein, moderate processed starches and … drink water, lots of it. We are not saying “none” of this or “nun” of that – but a little extra tender loving care can go a long way!
TWO……We hear you say!!!
Well, nope, nowhere close!
That would be the answer in ‘normal’ circumstances, but when a recipient is medically unable to conceive on their own and decides to enlist the assistance of an egg donor to have a baby, we are talking about a whole team of people – in fact you would be surprised at just how many people are involved in the donation process, especially in the support and care of our amazing donors!
There are well over 15 people involved in each cycle, each having a critical part to play in this incredible journey, all striving for the same goal – to help a recipient reach their dream of having a baby (or two!)
It starts at the beginning with you and your decision to be an egg donor. We know this isn’t a decision which is taken lightly – thank you for doing your research, homework and soul searching! Then there are the fabulous Nurture team who are right behind you 100% of the way, as well as the fertility clinic and all the team there who pull everything together to make the magic happen.
At the clinic your treatment is managed by a large team consisting of doctors, counsellors, IVF co-ordinators, admin staff, lab technicians (who take your blood samples), theatre nurses, embryologists (who collect, fertilise and take great care of your precious eggs) and many others who all have some vital part to play in the miraculous process of creating a life (or two!)
Not to mention the recipients, their friends and family who are in the background, waiting with high hopes for precious eggs and then with mixed feelings of anxiety and excitement for a positive pregnancy result! The recipient’s are so close to the final stretch that lies ahead of them and to hopefully welcoming their baby into the world, all of this is because of YOU! Rest assured they are holding you up high in their thoughts and forever in their hearts!
When you go for a clinic appointment, you might be thinking that it’s just you and one or two other people involved in your treatment, this couldn’t be further from the truth! Being a donor really is an incredible experience, your immense generosity affects a number of people, some who you will not meet, but take comfort in the fact that each time you go to the clinic, a very dedicated team will all be ready to apply their unique expertise to the different stages of your journey and the Nurture team are always right here to support you from beginning to the very end and beyond!
We too will forever hold you in our hearts! x
A heart warming message from an amazing recipient who’s donor donated a second time, so that she, the recipient will have the opportunity to have a biological sibling for her first child:
“I had my 7 week appointment with the Dr today and I am so pleased to say I am pregnant with TWO beautiful babies!!
I am so grateful to Nurture and more importantly to my donor who agreed to donate again. I have a lovely handsome son and now he will not be lonely, he will have two siblings.
I know I can’t communicate with the donor but please send my biggest thanks to her for giving me this precious gift of being a parent again. I know it’s God’s work and plan but he had a reason for me choosing this lovely woman! My son is peaceful and courteous and I am making sure he grows up to be the leader that I know he is.
I don’t have the words but THANK YOU. I am in tears writing this from both excitement and joy.
The whole Vitalab team shared in my joy today, it was so wonderful to see.
I won’t stop. So let me stop here.
Thank you to all of you.
- You’ll get to witness the wonders of modern medicine first hand.
- It will make you feel powerful in your ability to make positive social change.
- Many women and men desperately need eggs to make their families, and you could help them do that.
- The entire egg donation process only takes 2-3 months, and only 2 weeks of that is active participation
- You’ll learn more about your body, your menstrual cycle, and human reproduction in general
- Donating eggs will give you an appreciation of the beauty and power of your body
- Donating eggs will give you an amazing symbolic connection to your fellow human beings
- The experience will deepen your capacity to empathize with others’ suffering
- If your recipient is infertile, you can raise public awareness about infertility
- If your recipient is gay, you can raise public awareness about gay parenting
- “I’m an egg donor” makes a great conversation starter at parties.
- You’ll be able to look back on the experience with pride
- It is your opportunity to ‘pay it forward’ with some very good karma sent out to the universe.
- You’ll be a member of a very small, very unique “sorority” of women who have donated eggs to others.
- You will have the fantastic, wonderful, awesome experience of having the country’s best egg donor team support you through the process – the Nurture team are like a best friend times a million!!
Adapted from an article written by Abbie Waters
With only 9 Thursday’s left until Christmas, did you know that many of the clinics close for 2-3 weeks for the Holiday Season?
We are on our final push to get all cycles completed before the Holiday season! Contact us to view over 160 profiles of donors who are available to donate immediately.
And for those planning a January cycle, now is the time to reserve your donor for a baby-filled 2015!