Saturday, November 27, 2010

Egg Donation – A Truly Special Gift

Imagine if you could give the gift of life to somebody, if you could put an
end to a fellow human being’s heart ache. If you are a woman between 21 and 34, you can, simply by donating some of your eggs. This gift could give infertile mothers-in-waiting the chance to have what so many of us take for granted – a child.

Nurture is a South African egg donor and surrogacy programme set up in 2008 to respond to the increasing demand for donor eggs. The first successful egg donation in humans was achieved in 1984, but, while it represented a major breakthrough in modern reproductive treatment, egg donation was still out of reach for many desperate South African mothers-to-be.

The brainchild of Tertia Albertyn, an infertility patient who conceived her twins on her 9th IVF, and Melany Bartok, a former egg donor, Nurture was set up make egg donation affordable and accessible to local couples. “Infertility is something I am passionate about,” explains Albertyn. “There was such a need for a local player to come onto the scene, one run by people who really understand fertility. Helping others gives some kind of meaning and sense to all the pain and loss I went through.”

One in every six couples struggles to conceive. That is not an insignificant number. And of these, about 35 per cent of the cause for infertility rests with the woman. Vitalab Fertility Clinic’s Dr Merwyn Jacobsen says infertility in women can be attributed to a number of problems, including having poor quality eggs, or no eggs at all: “Many women are unable to produce eggs from their own ovaries. The early onset of menopause leaves a woman with no hormones, and no eggs. Some women’s bodies fail to ovulate, while exposure to auto immune diseases and cancer treatments can kill or harm eggs. Some genetic diseases may also be carried over in the eggs, making it difficult to conceive.”

To date, Nurture has recorded a success rate of over 65% per attempt(which includes eight sets of twins) which in itself is remarkable, as Albertyn explains: “These are women who have been trying for years and years with no success and lots of losses. It gives such divine hope.” Albertyn credits the top-class clinics Nurture deals with – including Vitalab – for much of their success. “I have 100 percent faith in the clinics we use. This is their area of expertise and they are among the best in the world. We know that when we send our donors and our recipients to a clinic like Vitalab, they will be well looked after and have the best possible chance at success. We are also very strict about which donors to bring on board, which adds to our success.”

Prospective donors can apply online ( and complete an initial application which is screened by Nurture. Once screened and accepted, the prospective donor must complete a comprehensive application form which, when approved, is followed by a face-to-face interview. “Perhaps one of our biggest strengths is our database of donors,” says Albertyn. “We like to offer each intended parent a large variety of good potential matches. Some parents-to-be focus more on the physical attributes of the donor (so that these match those of the intended mother) while others place more importance on the donor’s personality, her academic achievements or sporting abilities. As diverse as we are as individuals, is as different each of our decision-making process is. It is important to remember that all our donors are anonymous, and only baby pictures are shown to the potential recipient.”

Unfortunately, while Nurture is justifiably proud of its donor database, there are certain categories of donors which do not have a strong presence. Donors of Indian and Asian descent do not feature much on the database, and Albertyn says there are not nearly enough Black donors. “Infertility, and therefore things like egg donation, are not as readily acceptable or spoken about in certain cultures, which means that fewer Indian, Asian and Black potential donors know about the opportunity to become an egg donor. This is a great pity as there are so many recipients out there who are desperate for someone to help them.”

Admittedly, becoming an egg donor is not a decision to take lightly. Donors should carefully consider the emotional, psychological and medical implications of becoming an egg donor. The medical procedure involves the removal of the eggs via vaginal aspiration, and the donors will be placed under conscious sedation – the same procedure as IVF. It is important to know that donating your eggs does not mean you are ‘using up’ your supply of eggs. Instead, the donated eggs are ones that would have normally gone to waste with your monthly cycle. Egg donation is a truly wonderful thing; it gives hope where there was previously none. There are an increasing number of women out there who can finally call themselves ‘mother’ because of the generosity of our donors.”

As for the recipient mother, the wonder of this gift of life is unbounded. According to Albertyn, while there is a definite sense of loss when she realises that her child won’t have her DNA, it helps enormously that she will still be playing an important role: that of carrying the baby. As one recipient mother wrote to Nurture: “being on the other side…. I can’t believe how much it (where the egg came from) doesn’t matter. It isn’t possible for me to love this child any more. He’s 100% mine, no matter how he was conceived, or from whom. I know there are so many people struggling with this decision, some feeling that they just can’t go the donor egg route. I’m telling you, once they feel that baby kick, or hold that child in their arms - nothing else matters. I wish I could put them in my life for a day so they could truly see. I wish I could convince everyone who is sitting on the fence with this issue. I have no doubt that some people will miss out on this wonderful opportunity because of the fears they have about donor eggs…..”

For more information on the egg donor program, please visit

About Vitalab Fertility Clinic

Vitalab is a unique fertility clinic in South Africa in that it is one of the country’s only comprehensive fertility facilities. Everything from counselling services, pathology facilities, a clinical hypno-fertility service, dietician and radiology department are located under the same roof as the fully licensed IVF operating theatre. All Vitalab’s practitioners are exclusively focused on infertility. The clinic is fast establishing itself as South Africa’s benchmark for assisted conception, combining the most recent advances in medical therapy with an open, holistic approach and the highest levels of patient care. For more information on fertility options, visit

About Nurture
Nurture - South Africa’s premier Egg Donor and Surrogacy program is the creation of two fabulous South Africans who have experienced the heartbreak of infertility first hand - Melany as an egg donor, and Tertia as an infertility patient who went through 9 IVFs to achieve her dream. Joined by two other IVF veterans, Kim (17 IVFs) and Jacci (currently undergoing IVF), the girls at Nurture make a formidable team who combine the best of heart and soul to provide truly excellent service. For more information about egg donation and surrogacy, visit

Issued on behalf of Vitalab Fertility Clinic by:
Jenni Newman Public Relations
Jenni Newman CEO
Tel: 27 (0) 11 772 1022
Cell: 27 (0) 82 882 8888


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