Lauren became a mum six months ago, now she wants to make sure others get the same chance

Lauren with wife Taryn and baby Eve.
Lauren with wife Taryn and baby Eve. Photo: Photo: Niki Schuch

Lauren Walton only became a mum six months ago, but is already looking forward to being able to help another woman do the same. 

After conceiving her baby via donor sperm, the 30-year-old Melbourne woman is keen to help someone else create a life by donating her eggs. She made the decision after learning the wait for donor eggs in Australia could be up to five years.

The need for women like Ms Walton is even greater now as thousands of women who would normally travel overseas to access donor eggs are unable to due to COVID-19 travel bans.

Baby Eve was conceived with donor sperm.
Baby Eve was conceived with donor sperm. 

"I want it to go to a couple who have struggled the longest.  I just want to help them," explains Ms Walton.

Ms Walton and her wife, Taryn, 41, used donor sperm to have their daughter Eve, and while going through IVF heard so many heart wrenching stories from women who had struggled for years to conceive with their own eggs.

"I was in shock.  I felt like it was a whole other world.  Some of the women have had 12 years of IVF," Ms Walton says.

"I feel there is a huge pressure on women who think if they can't get pregnant with their own eggs, they can't have kids."

Conscious of the fact that without donated sperm, she and her wife wouldn't have been blessed with a child, Ms Walton is excited about the prospect of helping others.

Deputy director of Fertility Preservation Service at Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne, Dr Genia Rozen, says there is a huge unmet need for donor eggs.

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According to the latest ANZARD report there were only 1,182 donated eggs in Australia and New Zealand in 2017, and Dr Rozen said most of these would have been donated by friends or relatives of recipients. This number is a "drop in the ocean" compared to the number of women seeking eggs.

Dr Rozen said the number of women like Ms Walton who are donating their eggs to clinics is incredibly small.

Ms Walton had 22 eggs collected during her IVF cycle and hopes when she does a donor egg cycle to again get a large number, which will allow several women to benefit.

She plans to donate her eggs through Melbourne IVF and said she'd have no idea how to donate otherwise.

"I would prefer to go through the system.  Knowing the recipient adds another layer of complexity.

"I want to give it to someone who is deserving. It makes me feel really good," she explained.

Large numbers of women travel overseas to countries such as Greece, Spain, the Ukraine and South Africa to access donor eggs, and there are no records to know just how many.

Now, with international travel experts warning international travel may not fully resume until 2023 these women are desperately trying to find Australian donors.

Rachel, 43, from Hobart is one of them.  She began IVF in 2009 and after 15 failed cycles was told she had a less than a three per cent chance with her own eggs.

The Hobart clinic's donor program she was told is a three to five year wait.  

"Then I looked for a local donor and joined a Facebook group, but it felt like a dating site and it didn't appeal to me," she said.

In February her and her partner went to South Africa to access donor eggs and had one embryo transferred which didn't work. She planned to return in April to have one of the remaining eight embryos transferred, but was unable to due the COVID-19 travel bans.

"It's disbelief.  We have spent about $25,000 to go to South Africa.  We went to South Africa because I didn't want to wait because of my age.

"Now we have fantastic embryos and my chances of getting pregnant are high, but I can't get back over."

She is now looking into donor program in Australia, but she believes it's around $35,000.

Karen, 39, from Sydney said she also planned to go to South Africa when COVID-19 hit.  

"Trying to find a donor (in Australia) is like finding a needle in a haystack," she said.

"I wasn't comfortable about putting myself out there and advertising.  I am a very private person."

Dr Rozen expects the demand for donor eggs here to increase significantly. She is calling for a greater awareness of the need for egg donors as well as a rethink of the compensation available to women who donate.

"There are reasons why donating eggs for money is illegal and the only thing would be more fair compensation of costs incurred, such as for time off work, which may encourage more women to donate altruistically," she says.

Dr Rozen also suggested women who had frozen their eggs for their own future use and no longer required them might be compensated for their costs if they donated their unused eggs.