Women are being urged to ‘give the gift of life’ and to help progress ‘world-renowned’ fertility research
The globally famous centre in Tyneside provides high-quality care for a range of fertility issues remaining dedicated to research, innovation and supporting our patients.
Dr Meenakshi Choudhary is clinical lead for the Newcastle Fertility Centre’s egg donor program, as well as being a well-known clinician in reproductive medicine. She explained: “Donations are helping us figure out why women may go through the menopause early, why the quality of eggs is reduced and about the factors which contribute to miscarriage.
“We are able to look at the molecular changes to the eggs and our findings will help women in the UK and the across the whole world.
“There’s always been a shortage of donors in the UK, but in Newcastle, people who might have considered donating before Covid are unaware our service is running and there are many families in need of support.”
These vital donations help women who have problems with their ovaries; or those who may have been getting cancer treatment that’s affected their fertility. Some women may have hereditary conditions they don’t want to pass on. And of course, it helps, older women whose own eggs have reduced in quality.
Dr Choudhary is passionate about empowering women who volunteer to be donors and give a ‘gift of life’ to several women who suffer from infertility or deadly inheritable diseases. She believes in a ‘donor-centric’ approach keeping the best interests of the donors at heart without compromising the chance of a baby for the women needing these eggs.
This is why, she would like people to step forward and act as a “shining light” for families unable to conceive naturally
Newcastle Fertility Centre based at the Centre for Life is the only UK clinic approved to recruit donors for research purposes, as certified by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.
When deciding to volunteer Meenakshi intimated it’s important they understand the implications and for them to know they are “free to withdraw at any stage”.
She added: “We explain every step to the volunteer and offer emotional and physical support throughout the whole process. It’s a very similar process to going through IVF.
“The process begins with a short form to express interest and is followed by a meeting to discuss the available options.
For example, “If a person is considering eggs for treatment, they need to decide whether they want the potential baby to be able to identify and contact them when they turn 18.”
Following the consultation, a blood sample is taken before both an ultrasound and genetic testing are completed. If the tests come back clear, any donor can undergo a series of hormone injections for a couple of weeks, with a few appointments at the clinic to ensure the ovaries are responding correctly and the eggs are developing.
The hormone injections work to mature and recruit eggs that would otherwise perish, so there is still the same chance of an individual conceiving naturally after making a donation.
Dr Choudhry said: “The final stage is a short egg collection procedure, which is completed under sedation. A needle is passed through the vagina and into the ovaries under ultrasound guidance.
“Though each procedure carries a “very small risk of complication”, there is “no evidence donating eggs will use up your eggs or bring forward the menopause.”
The centre welcomes women aged between 18-35 with a body mass index below 30 to donate their eggs for fertility treatment. They’ll get a payment of £750 for doing so.
Those over the age of 35 are encouraged to donate for research projects, for which they’ll receive £500.
Dr Choudhary has published several publications in the field of human reproduction, receiving several awards, the latest being the Asian Women of Achievement Award 2020 Finalist.
From a religious perspective in Islam the Sunni schools and Imami school once considered fertilisation of an egg between non-mahram’s (close-family members) is haram or forbidden.
Scholars of the Imami school have now changed, and ruled egg donation and fertilisation between non-mahram’s is not haram because zina involves the physical relationship. So, egg donation is permitted.
Worldwide, the Islamic authorities have welcomed the new treatment technologies and are reconfiguring them in accordance with their own local religious moralities.