Let’s face it, if you’re having a baby in your 50’s then you’ll be using an egg donor at the very least, you may also need sperm or embryo donation. So before you choose your clinic you need a do a bit of research on how they find their donors, how old they are and the tests the clinic asks them to complete. Age is particularly important for the egg donor as it’s maternal age that is the main risk factor for Down’s Syndrome so the younger the better. UK guidelines say all egg donors should be aged 35yrs or younger. Overseas clinics will vary and some have lower age restrictions. Although the UK has many generous women who are altruistic donors (they can only claim up to £750 in expenses), a growing number of egg donors are women undergoing fertility treatment themselves. These may decide to share their eggs with another woman to offset the costs of their own treatment. Women overseas are more likely to be paid for their egg donation, although some countries limit the amount. Although I can’t find any research to back this up, my feeling is that egg donors overseas tend to be younger than those in the UK as they are less likely to be donating eggs to offset the cost of their treatment. This was one of the reasons I went overseas and my donor was 23yrs old. The other advantage, of course, is that with an exclusive donor, you should get more eggs.
In the UK, all donors are placed on a register managed by HFEA and must agree that identifiable information will be available to any children once they reach 18yrs. I couldn’t find any other country that offers this so if you go overseas the donor will remain anonymous. This is a key reason some people choose to go overseas. You may wish to keep the fact you used a donor secret and perhaps you would prefer for your child to have no way of contacting their donor. Personally, I preferred the UK option and this was the only reason I seriously considered the UK for my treatment. In the end, however, knowing I would probably need three rounds of treatment and the higher cost and lower success rate in the UK compared with overseas meant I reluctantly decided that overseas was a better option for me. Perhaps European legislation will change in the future and my child may have access to their donor if they wish.
For me, making this decision was the hardest of all and I agonised over it for some time.
Some clinics offer guarantees around treatment which I felt showed confidence in their abilities and some degree of peace of mind for me. But, as always, the guarantees differ so look around. My clinic, for example, guaranteed two embryos of the highest quality available on the day of embryo transfer for people using donor eggs. But another clinic I looked at guarantees a minimum of four eggs from the donor. Well, there’s a big difference from four eggs (do they guarantee maturity?) and two embryos. And there may be other guarantees depending on the treatment you choose, for example, reductions off the third cycle or the third cycle free of charge. The guarantees can be very important. Someone going through treatment at the same time as me received no eggs from her donor so was not charged at all for the treatment. Check out that small print!
I used online forums extensively when looking for a clinic. I felt the best source of information was the fertility friends forum, although as I started to narrow down my list of clinics I Googled each of them to see what other women were saying. Fertility Friends is a UK based forum with members from all over the world. The forum has a thread specifically for women over 50yrs as well as boards for most of the well used clinics in the UK and overseas. There’s tons of information on there and I found this the best source of information on recent treatment successes. Yes, it’s purely anecdotal but it’s up-to-date and I found it the best place to get specific questions answered and get a real feel for what the clinic is like. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
I started out trying not to let anything other than logic and the results of my research influence my choice of clinic but, after reading other women’s opinions, I came to the conclusion that you must let your instincts lead the way and you will eventually find yourself drawn to a clinic which will be right for you. Perhaps there really is something in female intuition after all so we might as well use it!