Egg donation, also known as oocyte donation or ovum donation, is a fertility treatment by which a woman hands her eggs over to another woman who is unable to use her own reproductive cells to undergo assisted reproduction and this way get pregnant.
Spanish Law relating to Assisted Human Reproduction Techniques (henceforth, LAHRT) regulates egg donation in this country. There, egg donation is described as an anonymous and altruistic procedure that turns out to be the final reproductive solution to a large number of women and couples.
How does egg donation work in Spain?
Both altruism and anonymity are two of the main features that differentiate the egg donation process in Spain from that of other countries. In fact, they are the reasons why a broad range of foreign patients travel to Spain in the pursuit of a fertility treatment that allows them to achieve parenthood/motherhood.
With the adjective anonymous we refer to the fact that neither patients nor donors have access to each other’s identity, something that encourages young women to become egg donors, with the subsequent increase in the number of candidates and, therefore, the chances of finding the ideal donor for each patient.
On the other hand, although it is an altruistic act of solidarity, donors are allowed to get an economic compensation. Even though it is not too high, it has become an additional motivation for girls to offer themselves as prospective egg donors in spite of the inconveniences it may cause and the risks involved.
In addition to these two main features of the egg donation process in Spain, there exist two more aspects that should be borne in mind as well:
- Egg donor selection: the selection and allocation of the donor to a recipient woman is carried out by experts at the fertility clinic on the basis of her physical and immunological characteristics.
- Recipient age: even though the LAHRT does not establish any age limit to undergo a fertility treatment, Spanish clinics have reached an agreement through which women older than 50 won’t be accepted in egg donation programs.
Pros and cons of egg donation
Women diagnosed with ovarian insufficiency or any genetic alteration, hindering this way her chance to use her own eggs, have no choice but to use donor eggs in order to get pregnant and deliver a healthy baby.
Main advantages or benefits derived from this treatment are:
- The patient does not have to undergo follicular puncture for egg retrieval, which means that ovulation induction drugs are not necessary.
- It allows women with poor ovarian reserve or without healthy eggs to get pregnant, as well as women of advanced maternal age, whose eggs are more likely to develop any genetic alteration.
- Since the eggs have been donated by young, healthy girls who have previously undergone a thorough medical and psychological screening process, chances for your IVF treatment to be successful are higher. This is due to the fact that the eggs used are of optimal quality, which means that developing any chromosomal alteration is unlikely.
- The treatment for the recipient woman is simple and does not take a long period of time. It is just about preparing the endometrium for embryo transfer through hormone medications based on estrogen and progesterone.
The main drawback of egg donation is the absence of blood lineage between parents and children, since the unborn children won’t share the genetic code of the mother. If, apart from donor eggs, donor sperm is used for fertilization, that is to say, if we are talking about double-donor IVF, future children will share neither the physical features nor the biological origin of the intended parents.
Coming to terms with this last part may become hard for many couples. In fact, a wide range of women in need of donor eggs to become pregnant seek expert psychological counseling to go through the process.
Shared egg donation
Shared egg donation is an alternative through which the cost of egg donation can be considerably reduced, since a single donor is allocated to more than one recipient. This means the eggs of a single egg donor will be donated to two or more recipients depending on the number of eggs obtained, as long as they are viable.
By doing this, each recipient woman will receive an average amount of 3 to 4 eggs from the same donor to undergo her fertility cycle. In a full egg donation process, the total amount of eggs—an average of 10—obtained after follicular puncture from a single donor will be used for the treatment of a unique recipient.