Egg donation: give the gift of life this Easter
LADIES. There is another type of egg you can give this Easter that will put more than a smile on a child's face - it could help create a child.
Egg donation is the ultimate gift of life.
It gives women who cannot produce or use their eggs the chance to have a baby.
And it is a small amount of your time and a small amount of pain to go through to give someone this priceless gift, according to egg donor Samara Davis.
Morayfield sisters Samara and Sarah Cutts are egg donor champions.
The 32 and 33-year-old have done 27 donor cycles between them resulting in 17 live births.
Mother-of-three Sarah said donating becomes quite addictive.
"It makes you feel so good about what you've done you just want to keep doing it.
"And when you see how easy it actually it is to do it...all it takes is a few weeks out of your life and you get to help some make a family."
Mother-of-one Samara said she first started donating after having her own issues with infertility.
"I have lots of eggs it's just my oven that's not 100%.
"I didn't want anyone else to go through what I went though so I thought I'd donate my eggs."
She did her first cycle at 27, flying to New Zealand. And now five years on and 15 cycles later, Samara uses Gold Coast based Dr Kee Ong for her donations.
"An egg donor can use the recipients' clinic but I choose to use Kee. He always gets my best egg numbers."
Kee is Monash's senior IVF specialist.
He said they have streamlined the process of egg donation at Monash to ensure the best possible outcomes for patients.
"We now tailor medications for donors where there is no need for daily injections and ensure that we making the process as easy as it can possibly be, both physically and emotionally for everyone involved."
Samara said after counselling and the nurses' appointment, the egg donor and recipient go and see a specialist, such as Kee.
"The specialist will decide on the medication and timeline for each cycle.
"We then work on that time frame and it ends with the egg pick up."
An egg pick up is the process of collecting the eggs from the ovary. This is done by using a needle to remove the egg from the fluid filled sacs (follicles).
"I'm lucky, I tend to create a lot of follicles.
"I've had some cycles where they've got 10 eggs and others where they've got 34.
"The deal is the recipient gets whatever comes out.
"But for a woman who has no eggs - one egg is the world to them.
"I've literally been in recovery and begged for the number of eggs not be written on my hand because there is a woman in the bed next to me who got none."
It is eggs like Samara's that are giving these women a chance.
And one of these women is Paula Kavanagh.
The Toowoomba mother-of-one had done 13 unsuccessful cycles before meeting Samara and doing two cycles with her - one of which was successful.
"We did 10 cycles with my own eggs and another three cycles with donor eggs. Unfortunately they were all unsuccessful.
"Then we met Sammy and did a cycle with her. We transferred one embryo which split and we ended up with identical twins but they didn't survive past eight weeks.
"We transferred another two but they were also unsuccessful.
"Then we were lucky enough to do another full cycle with Sammy and transferred two embryos from that and that's how we ended up with Liam."
Liam has just turned 14 months old and while currently embarking on another cycle using frozen embryos from the last round, Paula said she already has her dream so if it doesn't happen again she won't be disheartened.
"My life is complete now with my son. I feel so content. It's our dream come true.
"It is unbelievable that people can give so much of themselves.
"The extent of what that gift is can't really be realised unless you're living the journey yourself.
"And ours was a long journey - 17 cycles. But perseverance and supporting each other and support from EDA was crucial to us succeeding."
Egg Donation Australia (EDA) is an online community forum created by Australia's most prolific egg donor, Gold Coast mum Melissa Holman.
Melissa is the unofficial world record holder for egg donations. She has donated over 20 times resulting in 18 babies and another on the way.
Melissa said she founded the organisation six years ago after she started donating and found there was no support for egg donors and intended parents.
"EDA started with five donors. Now we have over 700 donors and do up to hundreds of egg donations each year."
The organisation focuses on education, support and awareness for the cause.
For Samara, donating always starts with finding a recipient first and she met Paula at the EDA meet in Sydney.
Kee said avenues such as EDA provide a fast and efficient option for couples desperate to conceive.
"We need to address the myth that couples will wait three to four years to find an egg donor in Australia; it's simply not the case. We're now talking weeks or months and couples have more options and choices when it comes to finding the right donor fit than ever before."
Since its formation, EDA has celebrated more than 600 babies born via egg donation.
In Australia, egg donation is not anonymous and children born via egg donation can access their genetic information.
"We have systems and legislation in Australia to protect all parties involved; our recipient couples, our donors and the children born via donor egg conception," Kee said.
"Research has shown being honest with children born via egg donor conception provides the best outcomes for everyone."
Melissa said through EDA the door is always open for the child if they want to know who their donor is.
And for her personally, she knows where all 18 of the babies she has helped make, are.
"I still keep in touch with their mothers. We're friends on Facebook, we have coffee together. The kids know me. We say, 'who's this?' And they say 'Aunty Mel!' 'What did she give us?' 'Easter eggs!'
"Sometimes I'm an aunt or I'm just mum's friends but there is so secrets. It's very easy. They are not relationships based on obligation."
For Samara, it is the same.
"I speak to all my recipients and I let them decide how much contact they are going to have.
"But we all tend to try and catch up at least once a year. It's good for their kids and for my son."
Samara's son was three when she did her first donation.
"He is eight and knows everything about what I do and has met all my recipients."
She said for any woman considering donating her eggs just to "do it".
"Do your research and if you can, do it.
"You might think you can't or it might be too painful but it is a small amount of pain to go through to help someone go through to have a child.
"And it's not your child. I have a child and I know the difference."
Alexia Purcell is News Regional Media's social media editor. Follow Alexia on Facebook: www.facebook.com/alexiajpurcell/