About one woman in a hundred will enter menopause before 40 years of age.

Although the cause for this may not be known, some will have undergone chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer, or have a family history of early menopause. These women have 'run out of eggs' - the ovaries do not contain fertile eggs so treatment with ovulation induction drugs is not helpful.

Many patients with premature menopause have a healthy uterus and can carry a pregnancy normally. They can be helped to conceive using eggs donated by another woman, either anonymously or from a family member or friend.

An egg donor should be under 28 years of age (to ensure that her eggs are fertile). She will go through the IVF process of drug injection and vaginal ultrasound egg collection, allowing her eggs to be given to the recipient. Once the eggs are collected from the donor, they are fertilised with sperm from the recipient's partner. Although it is possible to transfer embryos two or three days later, embryos are more usually frozen for transfer later once the recipient's uterine lining has been prepared for pregnancy with hormone tablets of estrogen and progestogen.

Egg donation is the only treatment for women who are unable to produce their eggs. Despite its success, the use of egg donation remains limited because of the shortage of volunteer egg donors.

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