What is Egg Donation and How Does it Work?-image

What is Egg Donation and How Does it Work?

Medically Reviewed by Hertility on March 26, 2024

Egg donation is a procedure where one individual donates their eggs to be used in someone else’s fertility treatment. In this article, we’ll explain who might benefit from egg donation, the process and how you can choose a donor. 

Quick facts:

  • Egg donation is when an individual donates their eggs to someone else’s fertility treatment. 
  • There are lots of different reasons why someone might choose to use an egg donor.  
  • The process involves the same steps as a standard IVF treatment. 
  • Egg donors can be chosen from licenced clinics or sometimes are donated by friends and family.

What is egg donation?

Egg donation is when a woman or person assigned female-at-birth, donate some of their eggs to someone else’s fertility treatment. It’s proven to be a successful option for people unable to get pregnant using their own eggs. 

Sometimes eggs are donated to friends or family that are unable to get pregnant. More commonly, eggs are donated anonymously to help couples or individuals trying to conceive.

Who might need an egg donor?

There are lots of different reasons why someone may need to use an egg donor. Some of the reasons could include: 

  1. Having poor-quality, or no eggs but still wanting to have a child. 
  2. Having no ovaries but an intact uterus.
  3. Having genetic disorders that you don’t want to pass on to your children, like Huntington’s disease or a BRCA mutation.
  4. Having a history of IVF failure linked to poor egg quality
  5. Having Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI)
  6. Being in a same-sex couple 

What is the egg donation process?

The egg removal, fertilisation and embryo transfer procedures used in egg donation are the same as standard IVF treatment

  1. Egg removal: Usually, you only ovulate one egg a month, but fertility medication and hormone injections are given to the egg donor to mature a much larger number of eggs. Once the eggs are mature, they will be removed from the ovaries via a short procedure, under general anaesthetic or sedation.
  2. Fertilisation: The collected eggs will each be combined in a lab with either a partner or donor sperm in an attempt to fertilise them.
  3. Embryo transfer: If an egg is successfully fertilised, the embryo is transferred to the recipient’s uterus. This doesn’t guarantee a pregnancy. The embryo will need to implant into the uterus for pregnancy to occur.

How to choose an egg donor

The first step in choosing an egg donor is deciding if you want a known egg donor or not. You might prefer to use a friend or someone you know as an egg donor. 

If this is the case, your egg donor will need to go through ovarian stimulation and egg retrieval at the clinic you’ve chosen for your treatment.

It is more common for people to choose an unknown donor. Most clinics will have a list of donors you can choose from. Some clinics might have long waiting lists for donor eggs but you can shop around to find a clinic with shorter wait times if you’re keen to get started. Some clinics have special licences that allow them to offer the option of importing eggs from abroad.

Your clinic can’t provide you with identifying information about your donor. However, the profile available is extensive and transparent enough to allow you to make an informed judgement on your donor’s character and personality as well as including an accurate physical description.

The information available about your donor will include:

  1. Height, weight, eye and hair colour
  2. Ethnicity and country of birth
  3. Age at the time of donation
  4. Extensive personal and family medical history
  5. Marital status
  6. Whether or not they have children at the time of donation.
  7. Some clinics will provide childhood and adult photos of your donor.

To get an idea of your donor’s character and personality, most clinics will have a questionnaire and profile completed by your donor. This will include their interests, a brief personal history and why they chose to become a donor. Some donors chose to write a goodwill message at the time of their donation to any potential children.

You won’t receive any information that could reveal the identity of your donor and they won’t receive any information about you or your child once they’re born.

If you choose a donor through a licenced UK clinic, they will be subject to a strict screening process. This involves background family health checks, screening for inheritable genetic disorders and testing to rule out infectious diseases like HIV, syphilis, gonorrhoea, and hepatitis. If you choose to use a known donor, they are still subject to the same checks at the clinic.

What are the laws on donor eggs?

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HEFA) oversees assisted human reproduction in the UK. There are several laws in place to regulate licensed fertility clinics and donor conception.

It’s illegal in the UK to pay a donor for anything other than expenses. The donor’s expenses are usually covered by your overall treatment cost with the clinic but you can double-check this with your clinic if you’re unsure.

Donors have no legal rights or responsibilities to any children born with their eggs. That means if you conceive by donor egg, your donor will not appear on your child’s birth certificate, they won’t have any rights over how your child is raised, and they’re not required to contribute financially to the upbringing of your child.

In the UK, egg donation is anonymous at the time of donation. This means the egg donor and you, the recipient, won’t know each other’s identity. However, when a donor-conceived person turns 18 they have a legal right to know their donor. 

This means that if you have a donor-conceived child, they can choose to learn identifying information about their donor once they turn 18. The donor does not however have legal rights, claims or responsibilities towards your child and will not be able to contact your child or your family. 

You can learn more about the rules around releasing donor information and identity from the HFEA.

Are there risks involved with donor conception?

As with any medical procedure, there are risks with egg donation. There is some evidence that people who conceive with donor eggs are at a higher risk of some pregnancy complications, including higher blood pressure, small gestational size, early delivery, and caesarean section.

Are there any support networks for egg donation?

There are plenty of support networks for people who have already been through or are just beginning their donor conception journey.

DefiningMum.com founder and donor mum, Beaky Kearns, started the Paths to Parenthood support network to help you from the beginning of your donor conception journey through to parenting your donor-conceived child. 

Members have access to regular interactive webinars and live chats from other parents and experts. Here, you can share your experience, find support and chat to other members for advice. Including how to choose your donor. 

The site is full of resources from webinar recordings, personal stories, tips and other recommended resources.


  1. https://obgyn.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1471-0528.13910  
Bríd Ní Dhonnabháin

Bríd Ní Dhonnabháin

Bríd is a Senior Scientific Researcher at Hertility, with a BSc (Hons) in Physiology from UCC and a Masters in Reproductive Science and Women’s Health from University College London. Her research interests focus on fertility preservation, tissue cryopreservation, foetal and maternal medicine and sexual health education

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