Executive Vice-President at Generate Life Sciences, Generate Life Sciences
Donor Eggs, IVF Abroad
Ms Hayes recommends that donors should ideally be between the ages of 18-33 with a healthy weight and lifestyle. As with donated fresh eggs, frozen donor eggs are safe to use if fully screened.All egg donation services should provide in-depth donor health and psychological testing, with many also offering additional genetic screening; Ms Hayes warns that this type of testing does reduce the risk of having a baby with a genetic disorder but doesn’t completely eradicate the possibility. There are many differing opinions around how viable a pregnancy actually is from frozen oocytes and Ms Hayes is keen to clarify that, in her experience, frozen eggs are just as good as fresh. However, whilst they may be equal, many external factors do apply to the overall quality. The skills of the embryologist, in both the vitrifying and thawing processes are key, as are the laboratory equipment and conditions; oocyte quality can easily be compromised due to incorrect temperature and humidity levels. The storage of frozen eggs is also imperative; eggs are fickle and if exposed to air, they could die. When it comes to fertilising the frozen oocytes, Ms Hayes explains that prior to freezing, eggs are denuded, meaning their cytoplasmic texture is altered and could reduce the fertilisation rate. To overcome this issue, frozen eggs cannot be fertilised using conventional IVF methods and ICSI (Intracytoplasmic sperm injection) must be performed. This is when a single sperm cell is injected directly into the cytoplasm of the egg. One of the most frequently asked questions, when dealing with frozen oocytes, is how many should be purchased and what are the realistic expectations? In her experience, Ms Hayes would expect that from every eight eggs, circa three would develop into high quality blastocysts. This is based on a rate of 87.9%, or seven oocytes, surviving the thaw, 78.7% fertilising and becoming six embryos, of which three would continue to the five-day (blastocyst) stage. It is expected that the rate from six frozen oocytes would be around two, healthy, five-day blastocysts. However, these are only averages and treatments do result in more or fewer embryos; there is no quick and easy equation.
Whilst biology can never be guaranteed, some programmes do provide assurances regarding their vitrification techniques. The most popular guarantee schemes are oocyte survival, guaranteed three or day five embryos and the certainty of euploidy (embryo/s containing the correct number of normal chromosomes).Ms Hayes advises that the oocyte thawing promise is not as powerful as suggested as most eggs, if treated properly and professionally, will survive the thaw anyway. The euploid guarantee is something she would also question; euploid embryos do offer a greater and potentially quicker route to pregnancy, however, Ms Hayes states that when using donor eggs, it’s anticipated that approximately 70% of all eggs will result in a euploid embryo. She suggests money would be better spent on the guaranteed three and/or five-day schemes.
Donor availability tends to be higher when using frozen donated eggs as the oocytes have already been retrieved and are ready to go. This also means that logistics, for the cycle, are easier as there is only one patient; no synchronisation between recipient and donor is required.The use of frozen eggs should result in a decreased timeframe for treatment, but enable an increased range of options as, once vitrified, eggs can potentially be shipped anywhere. The cost implications of frozen oocytes are typically less than using fresh eggs too, yet birth rates are the same. As with any treatment, the birth rate is variable depending on client situation, competency of staff, conditions of laboratories and how many eggs are used. Whilst Ms Hayes advises equality in the use of frozen and fresh eggs, she does caution that it’s important to understand each case is unique, every patient is an individual and the particular circumstances of each person will inevitably lead to different outcomes. However, whether fresh or frozen, donated eggs truly can provide the ultimate gift, for those struggling to conceive.