Egg donor IVF program at Fertility First Hurstville is helping Australian couples conceive

Family focus: Dr Anne Clark from Fertility First Hurstville says Australian couples seeking donor eggs have traditionally faced limited options, but a new initiative aims to make the process more affordable and safer.
Family focus: Dr Anne Clark from Fertility First Hurstville says Australian couples seeking donor eggs have traditionally faced limited options, but a new initiative aims to make the process more affordable and safer.

An Australian-first initiative born in St George is helping couples conceive.

Fertility First, an IVF clinic at Hurstville, has partnered with Australian group, ManorIVF in the UK, to provide egg donors.

Australians seeking donors typically need to travel overseas, which has limiting options for couples seeking to start a family, Dr Anne Clark from the clinic says.

“Egg donation in Australia is rare, can be extremely expensive and the majority of couples wanting an egg donor are forced to access eggs outside of Australia,” she said.

“Not only is the conception process more difficult, to add to complexities, many overseas egg donor banks don’t always meet strict Australian standards and compliance regulations.”

The initiative has been built on Australian protocols and provides a screened donor program compliant with all key national regulatory bodies.

It enables couples to seek treatment in Australia, without having to outlay large sums of money on ongoing overseas travel for each and every pregnancy attempt, Dr Clark says.

“ManorIVF screens all participants, utilises Australian psychologists and counsellors to counsel donors, and places emphasis on appropriate donor to parent characteristic matches,” she said.

“They guarantee the quality and numbers of viable embryos and are strongly committed to enabling successful egg donor pregnancies.”

If less than three to four good quality embryos are created and a pregnancy does not result from the first batch of eggs, the partnership program guarantees couples a further free batch of eggs.

“Importantly, ManorIVF is not a standard donor bank comprising a large number of donors who are paid a lot of money,” Dr Clark said.

“They do much more than find a donor, they match characteristics to each and every couple.

“If an appropriate match isn’t available, the team will wait until the right donor for a couple is found before providing donor eggs.”

The first baby from the egg-donor IVF collaboration was born in July this year, with two more babies recently welcomed by their parents, all born to the first three couples who participated in the program.

Of the one-in-six couples in Australia presenting with fertility issues, half will end up having IVF treatment with 10 per cent of those proceeding to IVF, requiring donor eggs.

“The couples we typically see seeking egg donor treatment include those who have sought pregnancy later in life and those where the female partner has been through early menopause, has eggs that are not viable, or who has undergone cancer treatment,” Dr Clark said.

But she say it is important to remember a man is half the baby and therefore needs half the attention when it comes to conceiving.

“For a long time the focus was on women but male fertility is equally as important,” she said. “We know sperm changes occur from the mid-30s onward and sperm factors contribute to fertility issues.”

Lifestyle factors including a woman’s vitamin D and iodine levels are also reviewed. Even with a donor egg, it may effect the chance of conceiving by ​30 per cent and 50 per cent respectively.

More children born through Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) will also be able to learn about their biological heritage under proposed new laws, announced in October this year.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said that gaps in current laws will be remedied with proposed changes, which would require ART providers to confirm if treatment resulted in a birth.

“The changes are intended to ensure that all donor-conceived people, born after the ART Act commenced in 2010, can access details about their biological heritage,” said Mr Hazzard.

“This Bill will close off a loophole where information may not be recorded if parents fail to notify their ART provider if the treatment results in the birth of a child. The onus will be on the ART provider to seek information on the outcome of the treatment.”

ART providers using donated gametes or embryos would be required to take reasonable steps to find out whether the treatment was successful and resulted in a child being born.

Hurstville Private Hospital is hosting a public information seminar about the initiative from 6.30pm-8.30pm on November 8.

Australian fertility specialist and founder of ManorIVF egg bank, Shlomi Barak, is a guest speaker.

Bookings via email: fert1@fertilityfirst.com.au or call 9586 3311.

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