Altrui egg donation experts explain the ins and outs of the donor-recipient matching process
For many, the concept of 1:1 egg donor matching is a novel one. With egg banks in the UK, you usually purchase a set number of eggs, which are almost always a share of the eggs a woman has donated, and split amongst several recipients. In contrast, 1:1 egg donation involves giving all of a donor’s eggs to one recipient or one recipient couple. In order to do this, we have to match each generous donor with one recipient or recipient couple.
So how are donors and recipients matched?
This is what we do at Altrui & Apricity, where we’ve been pairing amazingly altruistic donors with intended parents for over ten years. In this article, we set out to explain how matching works, benefits and challenges, and what it means for all sides involved.
In this article:
- Why 1:1 donation
- Getting started with 1:1 donation
- The matching process
- How long does matching take?
- Sharing the match
- Challenges in 1:1 donation
Why 1:1 donation?
Firstly, we believe 1:1 egg donation gives recipients the very best chances at growing a family. Because there is no egg sharing or splitting of the donation, all of a donor’s eggs go to the intended parents. While there are no guarantees in fertility, the average number of eggs we get from each donor is 16. That means a recipient (or their surrogate) often has multiple chances for pregnancy, granting a great chance of success alongside the possibility of genetically-related siblings.
Secondly, there is the bespoke aspect – and this is where matching is really important. Reaching the decision to use an egg donor can be a very difficult one. And even though egg donation is anonymous in the UK, many recipients want to feel a connection to their donor, and at Altrui we have the unique opportunity to facilitate this. We get to know both the egg donor and intended parents as much as possible, taking into account physical characteristics as well as qualities, values and personalities when we make our match. We match people who we think would really like each other, if they were to meet.
Getting started with 1:1 donation
As ours is a bespoke service, the way we match and go through the process varies from recipient to recipient, and donor to donor.
For many, egg donation is a really difficult and emotional choice, especially at the beginning of the journey. Some have just been told that egg donation is the only option left for a pregnancy, and thinking about what to look for in a donor can be really overwhelming. We are there to offer information, point to resources, answer questions, and remind our clients that these things can take time. Others have had egg donation on their mind for some time, and are keen for us to start looking for a donor straight away.
On the donor side, we’re also there to provide as much information and support as possible, so that women can make an informed decision. Some of these incredibly generous women have already donated and come back informed and ready to donate again. Others have just heard that donating eggs is something that they can do, and need time to absorb the information, understand what’s involved, and decide if it’s for them.
The matching process
For both sides we build a profile that takes into account characteristics, jobs, hobbies, interests, values, humour and education. Once we have a good understanding, we go out and look for a donor that matches the criteria. Once we’ve been given the go ahead from the recipient, we actively start looking for a donor. This includes advertising on various channels, working with our team of donor ambassadors and hosting events and webinars to engage with potential egg donors. We get to know our egg donors really well, building comprehensive profiles to share.
In addition to matching physical attributes, we also want to provide the opportunity to get a feel of the donor as a person. We provide donors with a lengthy questionnaire to complete called the Personal Profile. After the answers are checked for identifying information, they are shared with the recipients.
Questions donors may see on the profile include: ‘What made you donate?’, ‘What is your career?’, ‘What are your likes and dislikes?’, ‘What makes you angry?’ and, ‘If you had unlimited time and money, how would you spend them?’
The Personal Profile is an incredibly meaningful tool. For recipients, it’s a window into the donor’s mind, and for the donor, an opportunity to share it. And for us, it’s supplementary information to help us get the match right.
On top of general information, medical history and personal profile, we ask donors to share a non-identifying photo of themselves as a baby or a toddler, which is then shared with the recipient, if they wish. Donors are under no obligation to do this, but many choose to.
We also have photos of the donors as adults, and use these to help us match on the physical side. However, because they are identifying, we cannot share these with recipients.
How long does matching take?
We know time matters with egg donation, and unlike egg banks or many clinics, we can match you within weeks, not years. Currently, it takes around 4-6 weeks to be matched with an Altrui egg donor, although it does also depend on how specific your requirements are and whether a donor comes forward who matches your criteria.
All of our egg donors are all based in the UK, and thanks to our virtual pathways and network of clinics you (and they) can get started relatively quickly from home and receive treatment as close to home as possible.
Sharing the match
Once we are confident we have made a match, we share as much non-identifying information as the recipients like. Again, this is very personal – some recipients love as much donor information as possible, and come back with lots of questions. Others don’t feel comfortable with too much. There is no right or wrong way, and we’ll tailor our approach according to your wishes.
If the recipient or recipient couple agree with the match, we can proceed with the next step. If for some reason the recipient doesn’t agree, we try to understand the reasoning, and set out to look for a replacement.
Once the recipient agrees, we can let the donor know that we’ve made a match. This can be a really emotional and wonderful moment for the egg donor, and we’ve had these amazing ladies shed tears of happiness as a result before. We have the unique privilege of getting to know these wonderful women, who are driven, above all, by the desire to help someone else.
It is at this point that we can make arrangements for fertility treatment, usually through our sister company, Apricity.
Challenges in 1:1 donation
While there are clearly huge benefits of 1:1 matching, there are a number of challenges.
Shortage of egg donors from BAME backgrounds
The UK shortage of egg donors from these ethnicities is known and reported. Our commitment to honesty and transparency means that sadly, sometimes we have to tell recipients from certain ethnic backgrounds that we would struggle to match their desired ethnicity as quickly.
We are actively trying to find mindful, ethical solutions to recruit more donors from ethnicities with a shortage. We understand that there are cultural barriers that stop some women from coming forward. For many donors, it’s important that their eggs go to recipients of the same ethnicities, and we reassure them that this is absolutely something we can do. We have a few donors keen to de-stigmatise infertility and egg donation within their communities, and we try to help them amplify their stories. We are always on the lookout for donor ambassadors who can help us spread the word. Read more about the shortage of BAME donors.
The perfect match
Another challenge is when recipients are overly prescriptive about their egg donor criteria. Sometimes, we find that recipients are looking for mini versions of themselves in donors, for example with strict requirements on education background. However, in the interest of transparency, we also have a duty to share that too many requirements without flexibility may result in a difficult or lengthy search.
We believe that above all, the concept of 1:1 egg donation means treating everyone as an individual, and doing what is best for them. When that’s done right, there are few things that parallel the sense of achievement of helping someone find the perfect match for their family.
Explore egg donation with Altrui: