Egg donation or ovum donation is the process by which a donor hands over her eggs to a recipient couple. Donated eggs from these volunteers can be later fertilized with the husband’s or, conversely, using donor sperm. Resulting embryos will be then transferred with the sole purpose of achieving pregnancy.
In Greece, egg donation is regulated according to Greek Law 3305/2005 on the application of medically assisted reproduction, a law adopted on 27 January 2005. Such law addresses the vast majority of fields related to human reproduction and aims at ensuring that the performance of any assisted reproductive procedure and treatment does not compromise the best interest of the baby conceived.
Greek law on this matter entails the anonymity of the donor, both in the processes of egg and sperm donation. As a result, there are large amounts of donors, something that allows the recipient couple or indidivual person to choose the option that best fits their needs and at the same time reduces waiting lists.
In which cases is egg donation indicated?
Women who are unable to use their own eggs to achieve pregnancy turn to donor eggs to do so. Most common cases are:
- Premature ovarian failure or primary ovarian insufficiency
- Menopause, either if it occurs naturally or as a consequence of a surgical intervention or cancer treatments like chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
- Previous in vitro fertilization (IVF) failure due to poor embryo quality or implantation failure.
- Zero or low response to hormone drugs administered during the fertility treatment to trigger ovarian stimulation.
- Recurrent miscarriage
- Genetic abnormalities likely to be inherited by offspring.
Requirements for egg donation
As stated in Greek law on assisted reproductive technology (ART), the egg donor recipient cannot be older than 50 years old, whereas the recipient must be less than 35.
On the other hand, anonymity is a compulsory requirement within every egg donation process. This means the recipient couple cannot get identifiable information about the donor, nor vice versa. Crossmatch between donor and recipient is in the hands of the fertility clinic where the treatment is about to be carried out.
Before undergoing egg retrieval, the donor has to go through various blood tests to check she is free from any infectious disease such as hepatitis B and C, HIV, and syphilis. Such testing is conducted on the recipient as well. Besides, even though it is not required by law, most fertility clinics carry out a series of additional examinations as recommended by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM):
- Karyotype analysis
- Chlamydia screening
- Testing for Cystic Fibrosis (CF)
- Psychological interview to verify the prospective donor is aware of the potential risks involved in the egg donation process and she does not lack the appropriate motivation.
For their part, recipients usually request information about the donor’s physical traits such as: body constitution, height, weight, hair, eye and skin color, blood type and educational level.
Greek law limits to 10 the number of live births from the same egg donor in different families.
What does donor-egg IVF involve?
The process of donor-egg IVF can be basically divided into two parts, that is, the treatment the donor is required to undergo up until her eggs are retrieved, and the one for the recipient woman until she achieves pregnancy:
- Treatment for the donor: the first thing to do is self-administering hormone injections during 10-15 days to trigger the maximum production and development of eggs as possible. Once the follicles (little sacs containing eggs) reach an appropriate size of around 18 mm, follicular puncture will be scheduled. It is a simple surgical intervention performed under anesthesia, done to aspirate the follicular fluid where the eggs are located. Once retrieved, the eggs are fertilized using the hudsband’s or donor’s sperm.
- Treatment for the recipient: all recipients have to prepare their endometrium to receive the embryos. To do this, taking estrogens and progesterone either orally, vaginally or in patches is necessary. The intake of hormone medications will continue until the endometrium, uterine layer in which implantation takes place, reaches a trilaminar appearance and is at least as thick as 8 mm. From this moment on, embryo transfer will be scheduled and then the only thing left to do will be waiting for embryo implantation and therefore pregnancy to occur.
Embryo transfer stands for a simple, short procedure in which neither anesthesia nor special attention are necessary. After this procedure, the woman may rest for around 30 minutes and then she can leave the clinic, come back home, travel, and continue with her usual lifestyle unless otherwise indicated by the doctor.