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January 20, 2015

Stay privacy-aware – egg donation and social media

facebook-privacy-policyAt Altrui we’ve recently started putting pregnancy and birth announcements online – it’s wonderful to share positive news and everyone who reads it feels good. But it’s got us thinking about how we can publicly celebrate donors’ amazing gift while protecting your privacy online.

We follow HFEA guidelines on anonymity, meaning we only let donors know the outline of
your couple’s details and situation. And although the couple has your profile, what we give them isn’t enough to identify you individually. We’ll never identify you, but if you’re talking about your donation online, it’s easy to tell enough of your story that, over time, someone might guess they have matched up a donor with their couple.

To avoid this uncomfortable situation, we’ve come up with a few things that could help keep your donation just to those people who you want to tell.

Facebook: Public posts on Facebook are searchable and anyone can read them. Even if you usually make all your posts public, it’s a good idea to share posts about your donation only with family, friends or a small group of people you trust.

If we post a pregnancy or birth announcement and you’d like to put this on your own newsfeed so people can congratulate you, the best way to do this is with copy and paste. Otherwise, any of the 2000 members of Altrui’s Facebook group can see who has shared it, and that you have posted.

Twitter: Everything is public on Twitter, except your private messages, so the whole world can see what you tweet, retweet and favourite. If you talk about your donation on Twitter, avoid giving details.

Forums: Some forums welcome both donors and people who need donors. You can make some really close friendships and get a lot of support this way, which is wonderful. But it’s also easy to share enough information about your situation that someone could make a guess – probably incorrectly! – about which donor matches which recipient.

Many couples’ circumstances are quite similar on the surface, so it’s an easy mistake to make. Hundreds of couples are treated every year, and the busy clinics we work with have lots of donors and couples going through at the same time, with retrievals regularly happening on the same day. All the same, having people speculate like this is not a comfortable situation to be in.

It’s natural for you to want to share what you’re doing with friends, family and to want to chat with other people involved in egg donation – we encourage you to do that because being a donor is an amazing thing. But, to maintain your privacy, details like your collection date, location, number of eggs collected, the words or a photo of your couple’s thank-you message and so on, are best kept to close friends and family.

December 1, 2014

Asian Infertility

An Altrui egg donor explains why she can’t let anyone know she’s donating eggs


For Asian women there are clear cultural attitudes about being fertile and having children, with a correspondingly large stigma attached to being infertile. It is automatically assumed that a couple will have children, which is a major milestone in any marriage, and it becomes of common interest, inviting talk and questions in the community, with nowhere to hide for the women who cannot conceive.

Children are seen as security and insurance for old age, as they are expected to look after older family members. The general attitude is that there is no point in getting married if a couple cannot conceive. Even professional qualifications are seen merely as a means to help attract a husband. They are perceived as elevating a woman’s status to make her a more attractive prospect with whom to have children.

Many questions, which can be pointed and inappropriate, directly address the issue of creating a family; “When are you going to have children?” or, even more directly, “Isn’t it time that you got pregnant?” Answers to these questions are of interest to the community, irrespective of a couple’s personal feelings or biological facts about their ability to conceive. Conception becomes not just a personal and private situation but seemingly a community’s right to know what a couple intend doing about having children.

Asian Boy

Infertility is met with silence, and no one is supposed to know about it, or tell anyone – so it becomes a ‘dirty little secret’. No one is to know that a couple want children yet have failed, so infertility is not discussed. It is isolating for those who are infertile.

Causes of infertility are completely bypassed; the only requirement being that the situation is resolved for all concerned as quickly as possible. The whole point of life is to get married and have children. Even should someone have a major illness or accident in which it is commonly known that the consequence is infertility, it is immaterial and almost irrelevant – they are still expected to have children. If they somehow do manage to have children, no one asks how they did eventually get pregnant, the fact that they did is all that matters.

Talking to an Altrui egg donor who has a Pakistani heritage, her feelings about becoming an egg donor are tied up in the cultural attitude in which there is a significant stigma attached to egg donation. She is aware enough of this to be unable to tell anyone that she is doing this, including her immediate family which is a huge shame.

Infertility is ostracising, it is considered to be a woman’s fault, she does not belong and is not accepted as part of the community, she is seen as an oddity … and it is women themselves who perpetuate this attitude and it is women who have to change it.

This donor is sensitive enough to know the anguish that infertility for Asian women causes as she has seen it first-hand. She can’t discuss it, nor say what she’s doing to help someone else but she’s enlightened enough to get up and do something.

To find out more about the difference that egg donation makes and how to become an egg donor go to

October 20, 2014

Videos about Egg donation

Video Library

There can be a mass of information to absorb going through the egg donation cycle as a donor, so to make some aspects a little easier to digest we have put together a series of short videos which go a long way towards explaining the treatment that egg donors go through. Thanks to two of our donors, Leanne and Hayley, along with staff at Guy’s Assisted Conception Unit, we have filmed some videos which explain various aspects of the egg donation process.

In one set of videos a senior nurse explains to an Altrui donor what the drugs are for and how to prepare them ready for use. Not all the centres we work with use the same medication in the treatment cycle, however whatever their generic name, all have the same principal function – to develop the follicles in the ovaries, to prevent them from being prematurely released and to ripen the eggs ready for fertilisation. For women thinking about becoming an egg donor, as well as donors who are actually in the treatment cycle, these short films give invaluable, accurate information.

Becoming an egg donor for an anonymous woman is a great act of kindness. For a donor, not being able to see the joy and happiness that their help can bring can be a great shame, but hearing from one of the doctors what this means for a couple, makes it very real and hits home about just how valued donors are and what a huge life changing gift this is. As one recipient put it in a letter to their donor:

“It is hard to put into words the gratitude we feel towards you. When we were told a few years ago that I had low fertility in my early thirties, it felt like my world had ended and I lost all hope of having the family I had always dreamed of. Since we found each other, you have filled me with so much hope, happiness and peace, something I thought I would never feel again…….

We will never forget you and thank you from the bottom of our hearts….”

Finally the whole process of fertilisation and what happens in the lab once the eggs have been collected is discussed by a Consultant Embryologist with an Altrui donor. Many egg donors must wonder, but never get to hear, what happens once their eggs are collected and how their gift to a couple progresses from eggs into embryos. Hearing how eggs transform into embryos and subsequently a pregnancy, sheds light on what goes on behind the scenes.


October 6, 2014

An egg donor talks about donating again, Part 2

Baby eating a heartI chose to become an egg donor for two reasons, the first reason being that my mum was adopted by the most loving couple and this was my way of saying thank you to my grandparents. And the second reason being that my little sister is unable to have kids (or so we thought).

Donating eggs for the second time:

I already told Altrui that I wanted to be an egg donor again I think a week after my first donation. The other reason I decided to become a donor for a second time was because of how smoothly my first donation went. I couldn’t help but feel I wanted to help another couple, so I called up Alison and asked if I could be an egg donor for a second time and Alison said of course, give it a bit of time and that she would be in touch.

This time the donation was at a different hospital in London. I have never met such friendly hospital staff as I did there. Everyone was saying thank you and telling me that I was an amazing person for doing this. Knowing what to expect the second time round, made it so much easier for me than the first time as there were far fewer appointments and I knew just what to expect and what to do, which always helps! Also what made it different from the first cycle was that the hospital knew how I’d react to the meds, so lots of the tests and screening that I had to go through the first time didn’t need to be repeated. So this meant it was quicker with about half the number of appointments, MUCH easier!! Taking the injections and donating a second time was like taking a walk in the park. I have to admit that I am lucky because I have never had a problem with anesthetics or needles. So an hour after I donated I left the hospital and went home and I was totally pain free like the first time. I even went to work the day after.

It was when I was going through my second cycle, that I got the news that my sister was pregnant! I was sure that this was my “reward” for helping out a second couple. Unfortunately my sister lost her baby after being 6 weeks pregnant. It absolutely broke my heart but it also encouraged me, because now we all know that my sister can get pregnant and she’s not giving up!

A couple of weeks ago I had my first consultation about being a donor for a third time and I can’t wait to start my cycle so that I can help a third couple fulfil their biggest dream. I think and hope that this cycle will be even easier than the other two. It really is so easy for me to do this and completely life changing for a couple, so why not.

I know it isn’t the same for everyone and I may have been lucky, but the sense of achievement and pride that I have from doing this will stay with me forever.


September 26, 2014

An egg donor talks about donating again, Part 1

Joy of MotherhoodI chose to become an egg donor for two reasons, the first reason being that my mum was adopted by the most loving couple and this was my way of saying thank you to my grandparents. And the second reason being that my little sister is unable to have kids (or so we thought).

First donation:

If I say that I wasn’t nervous the first time then I would be lying. But the amazing support which I received from Altrui and the staff at the hospital in London made my nerves go away. There were a lot of thoughts going through my mind, like: how is my body going to react to the injections, will the injections hurt, how will they take the eggs out and will I be in pain after I have donated?

But I was happy to discover that the injections didn’t hurt whatsoever and my body reacted to them as planned. My first cycle took around two and a half weeks from the first injection to the actual donation. When I left the hospital an hour after donating I was feeling fantastic. I thought to myself hopefully the couple will be successful. But unfortunately they weren’t the first time, but were the second time they tried as they had embryos to freeze and used these.

A lot of my friends have asked if I didn’t find it weird to give my eggs to another couple who I don’t know and never will meet. And every time I explain to them, that I want to be able to help the couple fulfil their biggest dream, which is to have a baby. And that is what makes it worth it all – that sense of having done something so important and special for someone else. I guess it was this feeling of having done something so worthwhile which got me thinking about doing it again …

Read about her second donation in our next blog