Blyth, Eric (2004) Patient experiences of an "egg sharing" programme. Human Fertility, 7 (3). pp. 157-162. ISSN 1464-7273

This paper reports on a qualitative empirical study of the experiences of women (and their partners) attending one UK assisted conception unit, who have considered egg sharing. Aims: In the absence of any published research of the experiences of people contemplating egg sharing and the considerable concerns that egg sharing had generated (for an overview see Blyth, 2002), the major purpose of the study was to examine the experiences not only of those who had considered and proceeded with egg sharing but also those who had considered, but had then decided against, egg sharing. In addition, since the views of male partners are frequently overlooked in studies of assisted conception treatment (cf. Ahuja, Mostyn, & Simons, 1997) the project actively sought the involvement of the women's partners. The study was designed to explore couples' motivation for egg sharing, their experiences of treatment, attitudes regarding information about egg sharing treatment and outcomes, and attitudes towards egg sharing. Methods: The centre sent a written invitation to participate in the study to all women who had indicated an interest in egg sharing and who had received both information and counselling in advance of proceeding (n = 60). Of these, 43 had decided to proceed after the counselling session and 17 had decided not to do so. Expressions of interest in participating in the study were received from 20 women: (a) five women had proceeded with egg sharing but had not been successful with their own treatment at the time of interview--all husbands/partners also participated (n = 10); (b) seven women had proceeded with egg sharing and had conceived (one of whom had conceived unexpectedly without assisted conception services)--5 couples and 2 women participated (n = 12); (c) six women decided to proceed with egg sharing, however an insufficient number of eggs were available following egg retrieval to enable egg sharing to take place--all husbands/partners also participated (n = 12); (d) two women decided not to proceed--and both husbands/partners participated (n = 4). The study data were derived from retrospective semi-structured interviews conducted by the author with these 20 women and 18 husbands/partners. Respondents also completed a paper exercise following the interview indicating their level of agreement or disagreement with a number of statements relating to egg sharing that were derived from responses to the HFEA's consultation on the withdrawal of payment to donors (HFEA 1998a). While there was an overall 33% response rate, the response rate for those who had decided to proceed with egg sharing (41.9%) was greater than for those who had decided not to proceed (11.8%). Consequently, this study under-represents the views of women and their partners who had considered, but then rejected, egg sharing. Couples agreeing to participate in the research were given a choice of being interviewed together or separately and in their own home or at an alternative venue. This choice of separate or joint interviews was offered as part of the explicit effort to involve men in the study and to maximize participant choice. Twelve couples agreed to be interviewed separately; six couples were interviewed together and two women whose partners did not take part in the study were interviewed alone. There was no evidence of any significant differences in interview data between joint and separate interviews. Indeed, there was little disagreement between partners at all; this is probably not surprising, given that they will have discussed their decision about egg sharing together and will be aware of each other's views about at least some of the issues discussed during interview. All except four interviews took place in respondents' own homes. Two interviews took place in the centre at the respondents' requests and two interviews were conducted by telephone because of geographical considerations. All interviews were audio-recorded with respondents' permission and subsequently transcribed verbatim. The research was conducted in accordance with the British Psychological Society Statement of Ethical Principles for Conducting Research with Human Subjects (British Psychological Society, 2000). Ethical approval was given by the University of Huddersfield Ethics Committee.

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