In an interesting move to increase the number of egg and sperm donors, one UK fertility clinic is offering anyone who donates the chance to nominate a friend or family member for a free cycle of IVF treatment. The clinic carried out a survey which found that the thing that motivated donors more than anything else was knowing someone who was having difficulty getting pregnant – so this scheme aims to capitalise on that by offering them the chance to help someone they know as well as someone they don’t!
The clinic, Bourn Hall, has set up a new website for anyone wanting to know more about becoming a donor and potential donors can visit any of the Bourn clinics near Cambridge and Norwich and in Colchester.
Travelling abroad for treatment has been increasingly popular in recent years, partly driven by the cost of IVF here in the UK. Now, new research from the University of Texas at Arlington shows that more and more Americans are coming to Europe for IVF, often to Central European locations such as the Czech Republic.
Apparently they are sometimes looking for egg donors and are attracted by adverts which promise Caucasian donors and caring clinics. It seems to Czech Republic is a particularly popular destination, according to the researchers. You can read more about this work, carried out by Amy Speier, an assistant professor of medical anthropology, here on the University of Texas website
Congratulations to all at the Donor Conception Network on the exciting new children’s book they’ve commissioned and had published about being donor conceived. ‘Archie Nolan: Family Detective’ aims to tackle the issues young people may face around this, and is targeted at eight to twelve year olds.
If you’re considering using an egg or sperm donor, you should check out the National Gamete Donation Trust’s new website at www.ngdt.co.uk. The Trust does a lot of work to encourage more people to think about donating, so there’s lots of information there aimed at donors – but there’s also a wealth of information about egg, sperm and embryo donation for recipients. Ranging through practical, ethical and legal aspects of treatment, it’s well worth a look before you make any decisions.
What’s more, it’s a really easy-to-navigate and attractive website – well done to all at the National Gamete Donation Trust!
If you’re based in Northern Ireland, you may be interested in a one-day conference on donor treatment to be held in Belfast on 19 September at the Malone Lodge Hotel.
The conference is organised by Northern Ireland Fertility Counselling Service and it will be of interest to anyone considering donor treatment or those who are parents after donor treatment as well as anyone working in the field. A range of leading experts are speaking including Dr Marilyn Crawshaw from York University, Dr Petra Nordqvist from Manchester University, Rosetta Wotton from the HFEA, Jane Ellis who is a trainer with the Donor Conception Network and the mother of donor-conceived adults, Danny Ruddock, another Donor Conception Network trainer and father of donor-conceived children and Kate Litwinczuk who is a Donor Conception Network member and was herself donor-conceived.
It promises to be a very interesting day – and you can find out more here
Nature or nurture? It’s one of those eternal questions – but one which has particular importance to anyone considering donor conception. The idea of passing on our genetic heritage is part of our expectations when it comes to parenthood, and finding out that you will only be able to get pregnant if you use donor eggs or sperm involves thinking again about some of those preconceptions. But should it? Are genes really as important as we imagine?
I went to an event last week organised by Progress Educational Trust titled Do Genes Matter? There were presentations from leading fertility lawyer Natalie Gamble, from Pride Angel’s Erika Tranfield and Professor Carol Smart, a sociologist from Manchester University who has studied donor families. For me, some of the most thought-provoking ideas came from the geneticist on the panel, Professor Anneke Lucassen, who explained just how little of who we are comes from our genes. She showed that contrary to our beliefs, the variation in our genetic make-up is miniscule and that most of what we are is down to our environment rather than our genetic heritage – so choosing an Oxbridge-educated donor won’t impact on your child’s intelligence, but the environment in which he or she grows up will do.
Could it be that the way we think about genes is actually more folk culture than scientific reality? Are we all far too worried about the importance of genetic heritage when in fact it is largely irrelevant? What do you think? Do genes matter?
Another day, another survey… This one is being carried out by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and is aimed at anyone who has had donor treatment or is considering having donor treatment in the future. The HFEA wants to find out more about the sort of information you would like, were given, or would like to have been given, about donors.
Sometimes information can be limited, but you may get what is known as a pen portrait which is a description the donor has written about him or herself. You may also get a message from the donor to any children who are born, which is called a goodwill message.
The HFEA is keen to find out why not all clinics are currently making this sort of information available to people who have donor treatment and so this patient survey aims to get an idea of your experiences and views. Please do help with this if you have a spare five minutes as it will help others – you can find the survey here
The Donor Conception Network is twenty years old, and I was delighted to be invited to join members and friends last night to celebrate. I’m a huge fan of the DC Network which does so much to help anyone considering using donor eggs, sperm or embryos and their families. The network produces some fantastic information, but more than anything provides support for parents and their offspring – the film they showed about their work last night left a tear in many eyes as it was clear how they have helped people to feel proud and confident about donor conception.
The anniversary was also the opportunity to launch two new booklets produced by the Network and written by founder Olivia Montuschi. The first deals with telling friends and family for people who are considering using donor gametes, and the second is written for the family and friends of anyone using donor gametes. They are part of a series of books the network has produced called Talking and Telling which come highly recommended.
It is amazing how much things have changed since the DC Network was set up twenty years ago. At the time, using donor sperm tended to be something families kept a secret, and the decision to end donor anonymity was also very controversial when it was made. The members of the Donor Conception Network have played a key role in changing the way we view donor treatment as a society, and Olivia and Walter who have worked so tirelessly to help others deserve a huge thank you. It’s also the dedicated volunteers, and all the members who speak out about having donor treatment who are continuing to make such a difference. Well done to you all – and happy 20th birthday!