New results show remarkable success rates for sharers and recipients using the IVF technique of egg-sharing. In this article, the London Women’s Clinic discusses the issues relating to egg-sharing as the remarkable value egg-sharing provides to both sharers and recipients.
Egg-sharing is beneficial to both parties
If ever proof were needed that the IVF technique of egg-sharing is of equal and effective benefit to both donors and recipients, the latest results provide unequivocal evidence. Egg-sharing, a procedure pioneered by the London Women’s Clinic, by which a woman having IVF shares some of her surplus eggs in return for subsidised treatment, was pioneered more than a decade ago but since then has been the subject of much controversy.
The latest figures now show beyond doubt that egg-sharing is a technique of remarkable value to both sharers and recipients, and is able to generate impressive success rates.
Results of studies
The London Women’s Clinic (LWC) has analysed almost 500 consecutive egg-sharing treatments and results show that the benefits are conferred equally among those who shared their eggs and those who received. Almost half of the sharers (49.6%) and 40% of the recipients achieved successful pregnancies, results far higher than the UK national averages.
'So what we are seeing,' says Dr Kamal Ahuja, scientific director of the LWC and one of egg-sharing's pioneers, 'is that sharing eggs with a matched recipient does not reduce the chance of success for either party. This is the perfect example of a mutual self-help scheme in reproductive medicine.'
When the analysis projected the additional pregnancies expected from frozen embryos in storage, the total number of pregnancies was roughly equal to the original number of egg collections in the donor patients.
Issues relating to egg donation for fertility treatment in the UK
The benefits to the recipient go far beyond the promise of high success rates. Egg donation has become one of the great challenges in UK fertility treatment. There is a large group of unfortunate women with failing ovaries and an early menopause whose only hope of having children is with the donation of someone else's eggs. Yet, for a complex web of reasons, these eggs are simply not available in Britain. There is little incentive for women to donate eggs anyway, and even if they do they must go through the same stressful procedures as women having IVF. The usual solution is for UK clinics to refer their patients to clinics overseas - in Spain, Cyprus, Ukraine - where eggs are in more plentiful supply (and donors often paid).
It can reduce the need for cross-border IVF treatment
Cross-border reproductive care - as this trend has now become known - is a hot topic of debate, for both ethical and clinical reasons, and is one reason why Britain's fertility watchdog, the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA), is now reviewing the whole question of payments to egg donors. But what is already clear, without the outcome of an HFEA review, is that egg-sharing solves many of the problems found with egg donation. Egg-sharing means that eggs are available at home, the donors are having IVF anyway so don't need unnecessary treatments, and the incentive to donate comes in the form of subsidised treatment and an immediate chance to help another infertile couple.
The LWC analysis shows that 246 of the egg-sharing women received free IVF treatment, and 252 recipients were treated with donor eggs without having to travel overseas. It was also a testament to mutual self-help of egg-sharing that 53% of all the pregnancies recorded were 'concurrent' - that is, in the same treatment cycle.
It does not put a strain on the availability of eggs for fertility treatment
The figures also debunk the myth that egg-sharing puts an unnecessary strain on the pool of eggs available to sharers. In the LWC analysis, both sharers and recipients had around seven or eight eggs each, clearly sufficient - as the pregnancy rates suggest. But sufficient too as trends in modern IVF would require. Emphasis today, in Britain as elsewhere in the world, is to transfer fewer and fewer embryos in a bid to reduce the risk of multiple pregnancies. The HFEA has set a new target for UK clinics to reduce their overall twin rates to 20% during the coming year, and most clinics will achieve this by transferring just one embryo in suitable patients with a favourable outlook. The LWC figures show 35 sets of twins in the donor patients, suggesting that this high chance of success makes them particularly suited to single embryo transfer.