Donating eggs to someone who longs to become a parent could give them the fairytale ending they dream of. Today, as part of our series “Child of our dreams” looking at the issue of donation to help those battling infertility, AASMA DAY talks to a Preston mum about why she chose to donate her eggs.
Sarah Fraser loves her five children and knows she is lucky as becoming a mum came so easily to her.
When she and husband Gareth decided their family was definitely complete after five children, Sarah admits her thoughts turned to those who weren’t quite so fortunate.
Sarah, 33, who lives in Fulwood, Preston and has children Jordain, 16, Joshua, 11, Jaimie, 10, Nikita, eight and Nieve, six, explains: “I’ve been very lucky as I had five pregnancies and have five healthy children.
“Although I also love having my own space and going to work and having my own life, I would not be without my kids and they mean the world to me.
“I started feeling guilty when I heard of a lot of people struggling to have children.
I felt for me personally, although I didn’t want any involvement afterwards, I wanted to know who my eggs were going to.Sarah Fraser
“I saw friends struggle and read things in the paper about people desperate to have children but couldn’t have them.
“It made me feel guilty as children came so easily to me.
“When Gareth and I decided we didn’t want any more children of our own, I felt selfish my eggs were going to waste every month.”
Sarah, a funeral arranger at H W Whalley and Sons in Preston, was 16 when she had her first son Jordain.
Although he wasn’t planned, Sarah says she couldn’t be happier fate worked the way it did.
She explains: “I was 16 and nearly four months pregnant when I found out I was expecting Jordain.
“I was very naive. I was a good girl and things like that didn’t happen to me.
“My family were very supportive and have continued to be so.
“Jordain was certainly not a mistake but an early gift.
“He has turned into a well rounded lovely young man.”
Sarah met Gareth when she was 18 and although Jordain is still involved with his natural dad, Gareth became a step-dad to him too.
The couple got engaged a few years later and set a date for the wedding.
However, Sarah then became unexpectedly pregnant and gave birth to son Joshua three months before their wedding at the age of 21.
Sarah and Gareth married at Our Lady and St Patrick’s Church in Walton-le-Dale near Preston and when Sarah was 23, they had their son Jaime.
Sarah says: “When it came to having Jaime, there was an element of ‘if it happens, it happens.’
“Jaime was my first premature child as he was born at 29 weeks weighing 2lbs 10oz.
“He was born healthy and well and was just smaller.”
Sarah admits after three boys, she fancied having a daughter, so when she became pregnant again, she kept her fingers crossed for a girl.
At the age of 25, she gave birth to Nikita born at 33 weeks weighing 4lbs 3oz.
After a while, Sarah experienced a wave of thinking it would be nice to have a little sister for Nikita and at the age of 26, she had Nieve born at 28 weeks weighing 2lb 15oz.
After being sure she didn’t want any more children of her own, Sarah began contemplating how she could help others less fortunate and started looking into egg donation.
Sarah recalls: “I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I decided I wanted to donate eggs but it seemed a logical thing to investigate to help other people.
“We talked about it as a couple and Gareth was very supportive.
“I discovered I could either be an anonymous egg donor or be a known egg donor to a family.
“I felt for me personally, although I didn’t want any involvement afterwards, I wanted to know who my eggs were going to.”
Sarah went on an online forum where women were appealing for egg donors.
She found a couple whose nearest fertility clinic was in Leicester and spoke to the clinic and the couple.
Sarah says: “I told them about myself and they wanted to know what I looked like and my genetic background.
“I had to carry out around 10 to 12 visits to Leicester and didn’t meet the couple until the very end.
“The treatment for egg donation was basically IVF treatment until the egg collection stage and I had to inject myself with hormone drugs.
“Although they managed to collect 12 eggs and the couple had two or three attempts at IVF, unfortunately none of them worked.
“However, a year later, they did get to the top of the NHS waiting list for donor eggs and had twins and named one of them after me even though it wasn’t with my eggs that they were successful.
“I thought this was a lovely thing to do.”
Sarah waited about a year and then felt the need to try to help someone else by donating her eggs.
This time the couple were closer to home as they lived in Manchester and the clinic had a different policy and Sarah met them first.
She says: “The lady was a bit older at about 40 so her chances of success were lowered.
“She was a lovely woman and we collected around eight to 10 eggs but again, it didn’t work.
“You feel really gutted for the couple when the treatment doesn’t work as you know how much they are pinning their hopes on it.
“However, if this woman had waited on the NHS waiting list, she would have gone past the age to meet the criteria so at least she felt like she had tried.”
Although Sarah’s donated eggs didn’t achieve a successful pregnancy, she is glad she did it.
However, she has decided her last attempt was her final one.
She explains: “It is quite an invasive treatment and takes a lot of time.
“I feel disappointed I wasn’t able to donate eggs which resulted in a baby for someone.
“I really wanted to give that gift to someone, but at least I tried and gave them a chance they might not have had.
“People often take having children for granted and I felt lucky to have mine and egg donation seemed the right thing to do.
“A lot of people take it for granted they will meet someone, fall in love, get married and have a baby.
“But unfortunately, it doesn’t work out like that for everyone.
“I am probably in the minority, but to me personally, an egg is just a cell that I didn’t need myself.
“If we can do things like organ donation, I felt why shouldn’t I donate my eggs to help someone?
“Having children is what we were designed as human beings to do.
“For me, it just happened without planning or thinking about it. In that sense, I was very lucky.
“I cannot even imagine not having the things we take for granted.
“It must be the most crushing feeling in the world when you want a child so badly but can’t have one.
“I certainly empathise with anyone who is in the position of needing an egg donor.
“With me, the couples paid my expenses which covered my petrol money to get to the clinic.
“It certainly wasn’t for profit, but it covered my expenses.
“If anybody is considering donating their eggs, I would encourage them to look into it.
“To be able to give the gift of the chance of a child to someone is very worthwhile and certainly worth any travel or temporary discomfort.”
Everything you need to know about egg donation
Every day, women up and down the country learn the devastating news they have very little chance of having a baby without the help of donor eggs.
There are many reasons why someone might need an egg donor. The female may:
• Have suffered a premature menopause
• Have reduced ovarian reserve
• Never have been able to produce eggs
• Have lost the use of her ovaries due to disease, surgery or cancer treatment
• Carry inherited genetic diseases and want to use donated eggs so as not to pass the disease on to their children. Those who have received the heartbreaking news they won’t be able to conceive with their own eggs and then bravely decide to take the next steps are often faced with yet another dilemma: there isn’t an egg donor available for them due to a shortage of egg donors. To meet current demands, more than 1,200 egg donors are needed every year from all nationalities, religions and cultures
To become an egg donor you must:
• Be aged between 18 and 35
• Be within a healthy weight range for your height with a BMI under 30
• Be willing to be screened for a range of medical conditions, including sexually transmitted infections.
• Be free from serious medical disability
• Be willing to have a healthy diet and lifestyle
• Know or be able to find out about your immediate family medical history
• Not have any hereditary disorders within your family
• Egg donation involves commitment. There are injections for 10 to 12 days, ultrasound scans and blood tests
• A simple procedure is used to collect the eggs - after a few hours rest you can leave • Counselling is advised to discuss the implications of donating eggs or sperm
• Egg donors are matched to a recipient by height, weight, hair and eye colour and blood group
• Any child born from donated eggs or sperm may at age 18 may request and be given identifying information about their donor
• The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has agreed a set level of compensation for egg donors to cover all travel costs, loss of earnings and out of pocket expenses incurred – this is £750
If you need IVF treatment yourself for factors unrelated to female egg quality, there is a way to receive significantly discounted private fertility treatment: egg sharing.
By agreeing to share your eggs with women who need them, not only do you receive cheaper fertility treatment yourself but you will also become an egg donor.
By taking part in the egg sharing scheme, you must meet the key egg donor criteria and your legal parenthood status will be the same as other egg donors.
Your IVF treatment cycle will go ahead as a typical IVF cycle except around half of your eggs will be kept for treatment for you and the other half will be given to your matched recipient.
Egg donors can receive compensation of up to £750 for each egg donation treatment cycle. This payment is to reasonably cover any financial losses you might encounter in connection with your donation.
You might also be able to claim an excess to cover higher expenses such as travel, accommodation and childcare.
The amounts clinics give and at which stage during the donation process does vary so always check with your clinic before you start your egg donation cycle.
The National Gamete Donation Trust is a registered charity covering the UK which supports people who are looking for egg and sperm donors and raise awareness of the need for gamete (egg and sperm) donation.
Call them on: 0845 226 9193 or visit: www.ngdt.co.uk