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Egg Donation

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Among the different techniques of assisted reproduction, egg donation represents a high percentage of the total number of cycles in fertility clinics in Spain. This can be explained to a large extent by

the delay of maternal age in Spain, which is nowadays at 33 years old, far above the average of other European countries. The consequence of delaying motherhood is that it is harder for women to get pregnant, because egg quality and quantity diminish with age.

Moreover, this rise in the number of cycles is due to the fact that many foreign women or couples come to Spain in order to benefit from this technique, because they can’t do it at home due to legislation or long waiting lists.

1. When is this technique recommended?

A woman can have to resort to egg donation for many different reasons. The most frequent is ovarian failure due to woman age, especially from 40 years old on, because usually ovarian reserve and egg quality tend to be altered. From 45 years old on, the probability of evolutionary pregnancy is of less than 1%, with a very high percentage of miscarriage when there is a pregnancy.

Obviously, when the patient is menopausal, it means that her ovarian reserve is exhausted, and that she cannot get pregnant with her own eggs. The menopause can be physiological (due to age) or early (before 40 years old). Sometimes, younger women can have to resort to this technique because of ovarian failure, that is usually due to cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, or due to genetic, autoimmune or metabolic alterations. It is also indicated in other cases: repeated miscarriages (where a chromosomal alteration is detected in the generated embryos), repeated failures of IVF/ICSI (Intra cytoplasmic injection) if there is a low response to ovarian stimulation or when it is detected in the laboratory that the eggs have a low quality. Other women suffer from or carry a genetic or chromosomal alteration, which is the reason why they have to resort to this technique, in order not to transmit it to their offspring.

 

2. What does the Spanish law say about egg donation, and why is it different from other countries’?

Gamete donation (sperms or eggs) is regulated by Law 14/2006 regarding assisted human reproduction techniques. In fact, this law was initially enacted in 1988, being one of the first laws of that field in Europe, and was later updated in 2006. This law is complemented by the royal decree-law 9/2014, regarding quality and security of donation. This decree-law is relevant for techniques using gametes of donors.

As a result, gamete donation, as well as all the other assisted human reproduction techniques, is very well regulated by law, and follow the European guidelines closely.

Egg donation is voluntary, anonymous, altruistic and secret. Our clinic ensures the donor’s and recipient’s anonymity. Donation has to be altruistic, although the Spanish law establishes that a financial compensation to the donor is possible, because of the inconveniences produced by that treatment. Donation is rooted in Spanish culture, and Spain is a worldwide reference in the field of organ and tissue donation. Thanks to all of this, there is a good availability of donors in Spain.

Compared to other European countries and the rest of the world, in Spain, contrary to what one may think, the law is very permissive, although very well structured. Among European countries, there is a great legal diversity in the field of assisted human reproduction. Some of them don’t even have a specific law but decrees or legal regulations. In some countries, egg donation is not allowed, in others it can be anonymous or not, and in most of them there is a long waiting list due to low availability of donors.

As a result, many foreign couples or foreign women travel to our country in order to follow this kind of treatment, Spain being their favourite destination.

The existence of a specific law in Spain for many years, and the flexibility of that law allow for a wide array of possibilities. That is why Spanish clinics were able to grow in the field of research and to develop strongly in the field of fertility, being nowadays the leaders with 40% of the egg donations done in Europe (data of the Spanish Society of Fertility).

 

3. Who are the donors?

Donors are young women between 18 and 35 years old, with an average age of 24-25, and are usually single. They have to be physically and psychologically healthy. In order to select eligible donors, our doctors check their complete medical history and their family’s, to detect any disease that could be hereditary. There is also a long interview, to collect information such as socio-cultural data, lifestyle, and motivations to donate.

In addition, they have to run blood tests to discard HIV, hepatitis and other sexually transmitted diseases, and other specific blood tests to discard genetic or hereditary diseases.

We also collect data such as blood group, height, weight, complexion, skin colour, hair colour, hair texture and eye colour. Indeed, matching between donors and recipients has to guaranty the highest phenotypic and immunological similarity.

Donor profiles tend to be quite varied, but many of them come from sanitary or social branch, and decide to donate because they are sensitized to this problem. Some of them have a family member or someone close who has had problems to get pregnant; others usually donate blood or have an organ donation card.

 

4. What is the success rate of that technique?

Receiving donated eggs is the fertility technique with the highest success rate, which is of 74,1% at iGIn. This rate doesn’t change depending on the recipient’s age. Even menopausal women can reach this rate. Usually, the recipient’s profile is of a woman with high-level of studies and professional success, and aged 40-41 years old in average, and often without partner.

 

5. Important psychological aspects for recipient woman.

As is well known, fertility problems and fertility treatments can lead to high levels of anxiety and stress. In case of egg donation, these issues are combined with the frustration of not being able to use own eggs. In general, this is associated to mourning genetic maternity. However, this depends on how each person deals with it emotionally until accepting it. It is very important to reflect over emotional aspects of egg donation and to consider different parenting options before taking the decision to do an egg donation treatment.

Although genetic seems important for descendants, the pregnant woman plays a crucial role in how these genes will be expressed in the end and how the individual will be created. This is called epigenetic. There are also other kinds of characteristics that depend on learning, such as gestures and movements that are typical of each person and that make us look like our family members.

Once patients take the decision of doing an egg donation treatment, they usually live the entire procedure normally. When pregnancy and maternity are achieved, the love given and received thanks to the child dispels all the normal fears that arise at the beginning of the procedure.

About IGIN Institute

IGIN Institute is a medical centre specialising in gynecology and assisted reproduction.
With its head office in Bilbao, in a modern infrastructure that provides its services using the latest technology without underestimating the human connection.