Mother gave gift of life after hearing radio ad calling for egg donorsSeptember 22, 2020
Mother-of-two who donated her eggs six times to help women with fertility issues says she’s ‘curious’ about seeing ‘who the children are’
- Leanne Armstrong, 39, from Peterborough, first donated her eggs in 2010
- The mother first heard about egg donation in an advert during her drive to work
- Overall, she donated her eggs six times, resulting in birth of two boys and a girl
- Said she would love to meet children: ‘I’d be interested in seeing who they are’
A funeral director and mother-of-two has revealed how she donated her eggs to help women struggling with fertility.
Leanne Armstrong, 39, from Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, heard an advert on the radio while driving home from work in 2009 and, despite not having previously known that donation was even possible, she immediately put herself forward.
The mother, who said her work with grieving families makes her appreciate the importance of life, ended up donating her eggs six times and only stopped because of rules generally banning donations from women over the age of 35.
Leanne said she now waits in happy anticipation for any of the children produced by her eggs to track her down, revealing: ‘Of course, I’d be interested in seeing who they are and knowing they are well, but mainly, I feel it is a great honour to have been able to help another woman to start a family.’
Funeral director and mother-of-two Leanne Armstrong (pictured with her fiancé Dan), 39, from Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, gave the gift of life three times by donating her eggs after she heard a radio advert which called on women to become donors
The mother-of-two donated her eggs six times and only stopped because of rules generally banning donations from women over the age of 35. Pictured: The mother with her own newborn Nyle
Leanne, whose children, Elise, 16, and Nyle, 11, are from a previous relationship and is now engaged to Dan, 53, said she had no idea egg donation was possible until she heard the radio advert.
Listening to the radio as she drove to work that day was a life changing moment for Leanne.
She said: ‘I’m usually a music blaring, singing along kind of driver, but something really stopped me in my tracks when I heard an advert for the egg donation agency Altrui, who are part of fertility clinic Apricity, asking for more women to consider donating their eggs.’
After thinking about it all day, when Leanne came home from work, she looked the company up on the internet and called its phone line – receiving a wealth of information, outlining the egg donation process, later that week.
The funeral director, who has her own two children, Elise, 16, and Nyle, 11, immediately put herself forward for egg donation after hearing an advert during her drive to work in 2009
‘There was so much information to take in,’ she recalled. ‘It was a lot, but I instantly felt excited by the idea.
‘I called them back after reading it all to get the ball rolling, but they put me under no pressure whatsoever.’
Within three months, Leanne had a series of blood tests, her egg count was determined and she had several counselling sessions.
After she was given the green light to proceed in 2010, it was her daughter, Elise, who helped her inject hormonal treatments for 10 days, to stimulate her egg growth, before having them harvested.
Leanne said she was inspired to donate her eggs because she ‘couldn’t imagine wanting to start a family and never being able to’ Pictured: The mother with Elise as a baby
She explained: ‘I’ve been honest with both the children from the start. Elise was always fascinated and thinks it’s amazing.
‘Nyle thinks it’s cool, but he’s a typical boy, so that’s about it. My husband at the time was nothing but supportive, too.’
Having the procedure at a London fertility clinic, Leanne had first to be ‘nil by mouth’ for the morning, recalling: ‘I was given a sedative, before they used a needle to extract the eggs vaginally.
‘It took 15 to 20 minutes and they managed to get roughly 20 eggs. Afterwards, I was up and on my way.’
Leanne said the process of egg donation is ‘not about financial gain’, and said it was about ‘helping people who are desperate to start a family to achieve their dream’ (pictured, with her own children)
Leanne was told within two weeks by the clinic that one of her eggs had led to a positive pregnancy test, and she explained: ‘It was absolutely amazing to hear that the egg had taken.
‘As a donor, I was desperate for it to work. You can’t imagine what it must be like for the recipient, waiting to receive the egg.
‘There’s no legal obligation for the donor to go through with the procedure, so they can pull out at any minute, it must leave the recipient on tenterhooks.
But sadly, she was then told they had miscarried, revealing: ‘Hearing the pregnancy had ended in miscarriage was upsetting, but as a donor, I had done my bit – the rest was out of my hands.
When Leanne first donated eggs in 2010, her daughter Elise helped her inject hormonal treatments for 10 days, to stimulate her egg growth (Pictured: Elise and Nyle enjoy hot drinks)
‘I was devastated for them, though, and it just made me want to donate again.’
So, six months later, Leanne went through the entire process again, but it wasn’t successful.
Donating her eggs four more times over the next five years, Leanne was elated to find out that three of the four attempts resulted in a successful pregnancy and birth.
Because it is illegal in the UK for egg donors to receive anything more than expenses – which can be up to £750 – it is a purely altruistic act.
Leanne, who last donated eggs in 2016 and is now too old to do so again because of rules limiting donors to women aged between 18 and 35 apart from in exceptional circumstance, said: ‘I got the cost of childcare covered and the train ticket to the clinic.
On the first occasion in which she donated, in 2010, Elise (pictured) helped her mother to inject hormones to stimulate egg production
‘It’s not about financial gain though, it’s about helping people who are desperate to start a family to achieve their dream.’
All Leanne knows about the children she helped make possible, is that two are boys and one is a girl.
She said: ‘I don’t even know how old they are, because the clinic doesn’t tell you specifics.
‘For all I know an egg could have been fertilised and frozen, before being used months down the line.’
Now Leanne hopes that, through her work as a volunteer ambassador for the fertility clinic, Apricity – a position she has held since 2018 – that she will help other women to share her joy by becoming donors, too
But all could be revealed one day because in April 2005, HFEA rules changed, allowing people conceived through egg donation to find out their donor’s full name, date of birth, and current address when they turn 18.
She said: ‘I always knew they could track me down one day and that’s fine. I’d say to them, ‘Yes, come and find me – knock on the door’.’
‘I’m quite curious to know how they look and whether they are well, but I’m more intrigued by the recipients. I’d love to hear their stories.’
Now Leanne hopes that, through her work as a volunteer ambassador for the fertility clinic, Apricity – a position she has held since 2018 – that she will help other women to share her joy by becoming donors, too.
The only thing that Leanne knows about the children she helped to bring into the world is that two are boys and one is a girl
She said: ‘As well as one to one calls with potential donors, I’m also part of a closed Facebook group that helps women in the process.
‘My main goal is to raise as much awareness about egg donation as possible – it really is one of the best things I’ve ever done.’
She said: ‘I’d never heard of egg donation before listening to the advert, but working in my industry and dealing with death makes you treasure life so much that it really hit home.
‘I can’t imagine wanting to start a family and never being able to. Now that I can’t donate eggs myself anymore, I spend a lot of my time helping other potential donors.
‘It’s one thing reading a fact box about egg donation, it’s another hearing it from people who have first-hand experience of it.’
Egg donation in the UK
Egg donation is when a woman goes through part of the IVF process in order to have some of her eggs collected, which she can then donate to someone else’s treatment, fertility research or training.
In many cases women donate to someone they know, such as a family member who may be unable to use her own eggs. Others donate for the pleasure of being able to help someone they don’t know have a much-wanted baby.
Usually women need to be between the ages of 18 and 35 to donate their eggs to someone’s treatment.
Clinics may only allow eggs from an older woman to be used in exceptional circumstances, such as if you’re donating to a family member.
Before you donate, you’ll need to have certain health tests to ensure you don’t pass on any serious diseases or medical conditions to the baby or mother.
You should tell your clinic about any inheritable diseases in your family.
It’s illegal to pay for egg donation in the UK.
Egg donors can receive compensation of up to £750 per donation ‘cycle’ to cover their costs (a donation cycle is one complete round of treatment, at the end of which the eggs are collected and donated).
However, you can claim more if your expenses for things like travel, accommodation and childcare are higher than this.
Egg donors have no legal rights or responsibilities to children born from your donation.
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