What is Egg Sharing in IVF? – Process Step by Step

By (embryologist) and (fertility counselor).
Last Update: 10/18/2016

Egg sharing, shared egg donation or split egg donation is an alternative to conventional oocyte donation where donor eggs are used by two recipients, so that both of them have the chance to have a baby.

The main advantage of shared egg donation is that it helps reduce the cost of IVF with donor eggs, which is usually high. Egg sharers benefit from it as well, since they can receive free IVF treatment in exchange.

In countries like the United Kingdom, women already undergoing donor-egg IVF can decide to donate their unused eggs. This process is an alternative to egg sharing that gives the chance to achieve pregnancy to those who cannot use their own eggs.

What are the pros and cons?

Both recipients and egg sharers can benefit from shared donor-egg schemes, as this alternative to oocyte donation with a single donor achieves consistent success rates while helps fund IVF treatment.

The main advantage for recipients is that they can receive a substantial reduction on the cost of IVF and/or ICSI, or discounted treatment services, depending on the clinic and the country where it takes place. The age limit is set to 35 years old.

From the point of view of the donor, getting free IVF with egg sharing is probably the main advantage of egg sharing. In fact, it can be considered to be the cheapest form of IVF treatment available whenever this option is offered.

Likewise, feeling that you are helping others is often so rewarding and fulfilling that many women decide to donate their unused eggs so that childless women have the chance to create a family, which is an advantage for both the egg sharer and the recipient.

The fact that it helps reduce egg wastage is another benefit that should be taken into account. During IVF treatment, usually one or two embryos are transferred to the recipient's uterus, but egg donors usually produce around 10-12 eggs. In these cases, egg sharing may be a good idea.

The disadvantages of split egg donation are fundamentally associated with the emotional side of this procedure. Women who choose to become egg sharers may feel they are giving their children up for adoption, and end up regretting it, especially if they are unsuccessful with their own treatment.

Timeline and process step by step

Firstly, donors should self-administer fertility drugs to induce ovulation intravenously, so that multiple eggs develop at the same time. Once mature enough, the eggs produced are retrieved by follicle puncture.

Out of the oocytes collected through follicle puncture, each one of the recipients receives around 3-5 eggs for their own IVF cycle. Conversely, in conventional donor-egg IVF treatments, all the eggs retrieved (around 10) are used by a single recipient.

Secondly, the eggs are fertilized with the husband's/partner's sperm or donated sperm, and are left in culture for 3 to 5 days, so that those with the highest quality are selected for the embryo transfer.

To make sure the embryos will be able to implant to the endometrium, recipients should follow a hormonal therapy with estrogen and progesterone in order for their uterine lining to be in the best possible conditions: three layer pattern and thickness of 7-10 mm.

When the specialist determines the endometrial lining has reached its receptive phase, the embryo transfer is scheduled. It consists in inserting the embryos (1 or 2) with the best quality inside the uterine cavity, so that hopefully implantation and pregnancy occur.

If you want to learn more about this process, do not miss the following post: IVF with donor eggs.

Cost of shared donor-egg cycles

Egg donation with a shared egg donor has a lower cost than donor-egg cycles with an exclusive donor. This is because recipients use half the eggs retrieved from a single donor by means of follicle puncture.

On average, the price of shared egg donation programs ranges from €2,500 to €5,000, depending on several factor. On the other hand, donor-egg IVF cycles with an exclusive donor cost around €4,500-9,000 or over.

Nevertheless, these rates vary depending on whether you choose an anonymous or non-anonymous egg donor, need donor sperm, the recipient chooses to remain anonymous or known, etc. The following are the most common options with their cost:

  • IVF egg sharing with anonymous recipient: €1,700
  • Intra-partner egg sharing and anonymous recipient: €2,200
  • IVF egg sharing with known donor or partner and anonymous recipient: €1,100

It should be kept in mind that fertility drugs (estrogens and progesterone) to prepare the recipient's uterine lining are not usually included in the overall cost of the treatment, and may add an extra fee of €200-300 to the total price of the cycle.

For further information on the cost of egg donation and shared egg donation programs, please visit the following post: Costs of donor-egg IVF.

FAQs from users

Do I have a guaranteed number of eggs in spite of choosing egg sharing?

By Andrea Rodrigo B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

Yes. This number usually varies between 2 and 5 eggs, depending on the fertility center chosen. Often, when your egg donor does not produce a guaranteed number of eggs for both recipients, the eggs produced will be used by one of them and the other will be given the option to begin the cycle with another donor.

Are there waiting times for shared egg donation as well?

By Andrea Rodrigo B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

Yes, on the NHS, for example, the average waiting time for conventional egg donor programs is 3-5 years because there is a shortage of egg donors in the UK. However, with split egg donation, this period of time can be reduced by half.

What are the success rates of egg sharing if compared to IVF with an exclusive donor?

By Andrea Rodrigo B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

The odds of success with infertility treatments are not calculated baed on the number of eggs per cycle. For them to be properly analyzed, the average between all the cycles performed during a year is calculated. This means its pregnancy and live birth success rates are the same as those obtained with conventional IVF with donor egg cycles.

You can see the success rates of egg and sperm donation programs here: Pregnancy success rates with donor eggs and sperm.

Does egg sharing hurt?

By Andrea Rodrigo B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

The process of donating egg for donors is the same regardless of whether they are going to be egg sharers or conventional donors. Egg donors are prescribed fertility drugs to induce ovulation and produce mature eggs, which will be collected through follicle puncture. As a surgical intervention, it may cause certain discomforts or side effects that one should keep in mind.

The following post may be of interest: Potential risks of egg donation.

What are the ethical concerns of shared egg donation?

By Andrea Rodrigo B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

Some experts have referred to the ethical issues raised by paid egg sharing, as they consider it compromises the autonomy of patients to make free choices. If they are told they will have a discount or free treatment in exchange for the woman's eggs, they may choose this option even if they do not want to because of being paid.

Also, critics argue that it involves an indirect form of "egg selling", which related to commodification of human life. This is because women undergoing IVF have already accepted the added time and inconveniences associated with the process. So, it could be argued that the reduction in their IVF costs is a way of payment.

What is intra-partner egg sharing? What is the process?

By Andrea Rodrigo B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

Intra-partner egg sharing or partner-to-partner egg donation is a process aimed to same-sex couples wishing to have a baby. It allows both partners to be involved in the baby's development and birth, as one of them is the biological mother of the baby, and the other one is the birth mother.

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 Andrea Rodrigo
Andrea Rodrigo
B.Sc., M.Sc.
Bachelor's Degree in Biotechnology from the Polytechnic University of Valencia. Master's Degree in Biotechnology of Human Assisted Reproduction from the University of Valencia along with the Valencian Infertility Institute (IVI). Postgraduate course in Medical Genetics. More information about Andrea Rodrigo
Adapted into english by:
 Sandra Fernández
Sandra Fernández
B.A., M.A.
Fertility Counselor
Bachelor of Arts in Translation and Interpreting (English, Spanish, Catalan, German) from the University of Valencia (UV) and Heriot-Watt University, Riccarton Campus (Edinburgh, UK). Postgraduate Course in Legal Translation from the University of Valencia. Specialist in Medical Translation, with several years of experience in the field of Assisted Reproduction. More information about Sandra Fernández

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