Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Egg Donation - Giving the gift of life


For 85% of the population, making a baby requires little more than a kiss, a cuddle and a few meaningful moments (or longer if you are lucky). For some it requires even less. However for 15% of the population it requires a bit more than the kiss, cuddle and sex routine. For some it takes months and even years. And for the heartbroken few, no matter how many times they do the baby-making dance, absolutely nothing happens. That is when hopeful mothers-to-be turn their hopes to assistance of another kind – egg donation.

The first successful egg donation in humans was achieved in 1984 and represented a major breakthrough in modern reproductive treatment. It gave hope to many women who were unable to conceive using their own eggs.

As egg donation comes out of the closet and becomes more mainstream, and as infertility issues are steadily on the increase, the demand for egg donors is increasing.

Although egg donation has been around for many years, it was previously aimed mostly at the international medical tourists who were among the few wealthy enough to afford it. But all that has changed with the launch of a new egg donor program in South Africa, one that is aimed specifically at local egg donors and future parents.

Nurture Egg Donor Program is the brainchild of two of the most passionate people in the world of infertility. Tertia Albertyn, an infertility patient who conceived her twins on her 9th IVF and Melany Bartok, an ex egg donor herself.

“We wanted to create an egg donor program that was affordable and available to local couples”, says Tertia. “Infertility is something I am passionate about. Helping others gives some kind of meaning and sense to all the pain and loss I went through”.

An egg donor is a healthy young woman who is between the ages of 20 and 34. These special young women donate a few of their eggs to a recipient who is unable to produce eggs from her own ovaries. Following their removal, the eggs are fertilized with the recipient’s male partner’s sperm or with donor sperm. The resulting embryos are then placed into the recipient’s uterus. She then has the amazing opportunity of becoming pregnant, carrying, and delivering a child to finally create the family she has so long hoped for. A donor gives one of the most beautiful gifts possible—the gift of potentially growing a family.

The first step in the process is for the potential donors to complete an initial application (available online at http://www.nurture.co.za/), which is used to screen issues like weight (donors may not be either under weight nor overweight), health, menstrual cycle and contraception. If these criteria are met, donors then complete a comprehensive application with full medical history, genetic heritage, physical and personal characteristics of themselves and their genetic family, their reasons for wanting to donate etc. Once approved, a face to face information session is scheduled in which donor are fully informed of entire process involved – what to expect, what is involved, what, if any, the potential risks are. If the donor decides they want to go ahead with the process, their anonymous profile is made available to view by potential recipients.

Once a donor has been chosen by the intended parents, she has to undergo a psychological assessment by a registered psychologist, as well as a full medical with the fertility clinic, including various blood tests etc. It is only after this process that the donation goes ahead. None of these costs are borne by the donor.

As is evident by the description above, the application and selection process for becoming an egg donor is a fairly rigorous one. “We want to make sure these young women are mentally, emotionally and physically healthy enough to undergo egg donation”, says Melany. “It is not a decision to be taken lightly, but most of our donors return for a second and third donation because they realize what a meaningful gift they are giving”.

Donors are compensated ZAR5,000 for their time, travelling costs and any inconveniences experienced during the donation process. This figure is guided by the South African Medical Ethics Committee and is not intended to pay for the eggs donated as donors donate their eggs as a gift of hope, not for monetary reward. The compensation also does not even begin to come close to reflecting the immense gratitude the Intended Parents feel.

“Egg donation is a truly wonderful thing; it gives hope where there previously was none. There are an increasing number of women out there who can finally call themselves ‘mother’ because of the generosity of others. We are honoured to be part of this process”.

For more information on the egg donor program, please visit http://www.nurture.co.za/

Melany Bartok
Melany has unparalleled insight into the world of egg donation. Not only is she the country’s leading Egg Donor Director, but having donated twice herself, she intimately understands the thrill and privilege of a being chosen as an egg donor. Melany’s honest, passionate and dedicated relationship with her donors is at the heart of her success. Melany lives in Table View with her two charming huskies and equally charming husband. Contact Melany on melany@nurture.co.za or 0766 848489

Tertia Albertyn
Tertia Albertyn is a recovering infertile and now mother to twins conceived on her 9th IVF. She has written extensively about her personal experience with infertility, both on her award winning blog (http://www.tertia.org/) and in her book ‘So Close’, detailing her five year battle to conceive. She is passionate about infertility, and has dedicated her time to assisting those who are still in the trenches. Tertia has a MBA from the University of Cape Town, and lives in Durbanville with her husband and two children. Contact Tertia on tertia@nurture.co.za or 0824418639

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