The egg donation is done anonymously and altruistically from one woman to another with the aim of enabling that woman to have a child.
The EUDONA Programme is a private initiative which tries to help women who want to become egg donors. The donor eggs will be used by women who can not produce their own eggs.
Naturally, a woman produces one mature egg every month. If it is fertilised it becomes an embryo and develops during the pregnancy. If it remains unfertilised the egg does not develop and it leaves the woman’s body with the menstrual blood.
From the time of her birth, a healthy woman has some 400,000 oocytes in her ovaries. These oocytes are primary eggs and during the woman’s fertile life only one out of every 1000 (not more than 400 in total) will mature and have the chance to be fertilised.
Every month several eggs begin to develop at the same time and this process ends with their ovulation. Only one of these eggs becomes a mature egg, while the others deteriorate and lose their ability to be fertilised. The woman’s body now prepares for possible pregnancy. If the egg is not fertilised, it will be released with the menstrual blood.
Egg donation is an anonymous, free and altruistic act which allows another woman to have a child. The eggs come from a natural reserve in the ovaries and would normally never be used.
Therefore, although the egg donation consists of donating something from one person to another, it does not mean the definitive loss of something irreplaceable. It is also a way of taking advantage of some of those eggs which a woman will never use.
The female egg carries the chromosomes of the woman whereas the spermatozoon carries those of the man. However, people are unique because at the moment of the egg fertilization the genetic information from both mother and father is mixed. This procedure ensures that the combination of the particular characteristics of the parents is always different.
Moreover, maternity is a long process in which the future child has a strong bond with its mother. Throughout this process it will not only receive necessary nutrients for its development, but also immunological protection from the mother.
Lastly, it is the parent’s love for the baby that is born which shapes it as a person.
In other words, if donating an egg makes up an important and irreplaceable part in the making of a new person, then so does its fertilisation with semen, the happy outcome of the gestation process and the education of the new person in a family where it is wanted and cared for.
Donated eggs are the only alternative that some women have to give birth to their own child. This happens in cases where there is no medical or surgical treatment which will enable the couple to have their own child.
The reasons why a woman requires egg donation are diverse but they can be summed up in two large groups: either the woman does not have eggs in her ovaries, or they are of poor quality.
In this first case the main reason that causes a woman not to have eggs fit for conceiving is early menopause. This sometimes comes about before the normal age, 15 or 20 years before it would normally happen. If a woman begins her menopause when she is still very young and she has not yet had a child, she will not be able to have one without a donation from a fertile woman.
Epidemiological studies have shown that approximately 5% of women develop this pathology, which is much more than is imagined by many people who are unaware of this subject.
In other cases the cause is medical, such as with women whose ovaries were taken out because of a tumour, for example. Once they have recovered, these women still cannot have their own children unless they use eggs donated from another woman.
There are some cases in which women cannot have children because their own eggs are not capable of fertilisation.
This is due to certain genetic anomalies in which the woman cannot have healthy children because the genetic make-up of her eggs is damaged.
In other cases, it is not advisable from a medical viewpoint that a woman has children because there is the risk of transmitting a hereditary illness from her side of the family. This happens with certain illnesses such as haemophilia which affects the blood’s ability to clot.
Egg donation can be carried out, if desired, by any healthy woman who meets the conditions established by law. Once the donor has been found and, in order to carry out the donation, the menstrual cycles of the two women must be synchronized. Therefore, the donor and the recipient must be in the same phase of their period, which is achieved through an appropriate pharmacological treatment that allows the cycle to be regulated in an easy and effective way.
Any healthy woman who wishes to donate eggs can do so as long as she meets the requirements set down by the law.
Once the donor has been found the menstrual cycles of both women have to be synchronized. Therefore, both the recipient and the donor have to be at the same stage of their period. This is achieved using appropriate pharmaceutical treatment which allows the cycle to be controlled in an easy and efficient way.
Naturally, only one egg is produced per month in the ovaries of the woman. For this reason, and with the aim of guaranteeing the efficiency of the donation, the donor receives treatment to stimulate her ovaries so that more than one egg matures for the donation, as not all eggs are fit to be used. Some do not develop normally and do not reach full maturity, while others are not fertilized for reasons that are still unclear.
Treatment is controlled by means of ultrasound and hormone tests. Later, before ovulation takes place, the eggs are collected via aspiration with an ultrasound scan.
Bearing in mind that eggs cannot be preserved, the ovarian cycle of the recipient has to be synchronized with the donor’s so that they coincide in their ovulation. This is necessary both for the extraction of the eggs from the donor and for their implantation in the recipient.
Therefore, the recipient undergoes pharmacological treatment which prepares her endometrium to receive and protect the embryo. The endometrium is composed of the epithelium which covers the inside of the uterus and allows the embryo to find suitable conditions for implantation. When the woman does not become pregnant, the endometrium degenerates and leaves the woman’s body together with menstrual blood.
The procedure used is called in vitro fertilisation (IVF). It is a commonly used technique which helps treat fertility problems in sterile couples and involves fertilising the eggs obtained from the donor with the partner’s semen in a special medium in the laboratory.
To increase the fertilisation rates, intracytoplasmic sperm injection is used (ICSI). This procedure is a very delicate microscopic manipulation, through which a sperm is manually introduced in to the interior of the egg. This egg, once fertilised, will be transferred to the recipient’s uterus.
Having children is a right recognised by the Spanish Constitution. Therefore, the donation helps those women who are sterile due to pathologies or incurable conditions to become mothers. These women can therefore find a solution to their problem which otherwise would leave them no option other than to adopt.
Egg donation is a procedure authorised by Spanish legislation. To be precise, there are two legal texts which regulate this practice.
The Law 14/2006 on Assisted Reproduction Techniques is the judicial framework regulating the assistance medicine can offer to solve fertility problems of couples bearing in mind medical, legal and ethical aspects.
The Royal Decree 412/1996 is the document which outlines this law with regard to all the aspects of the donation of female gametes (eggs).
In conclusion, these documents set out that:
- Egg donation for the aims authorised by the law (in this case so a sterile woman can have a child) is a free, formal, and anonymous agreement between the donor and the medical centre formalised in writing.
- The law states moreover, that the donation should never have an economic or commercial benefit, and that studies and health controls should be carried out on the donors and recipients to guarantee their good health.
- Egg donors should be aged between 18 and 35, be fully aware of their actions and be in a good psychophysical condition.
- The donation has to be formalised through a written agreement after the donor has received all the information about the procedure to follow.
- It also has to be a voluntary act undertaken by the donor under no force or deception.
- Last of all, there has to be a total guarantee of privacy and all the information must be kept in complete confidentiality.
- If the donor already has children, then they must have no more than six and in no case is it possible to have more than six children from donations.
- Legal texts also specify that maximum physical and immunological similarities between available donors and egg recipient should be guaranteed.
The legislation specifies that women can be egg donors if they wish to and if they meet the following requirements:
- They should be 18 years of age and not be over 35.
- Be in good psychophysical condition.
- Sign the corresponding agreement.
- Can legally authorise it.
To be a donor they must visit a centre running a donation programme, follow a process in which they will receive all the necessary information and where their physical and psychological health will be assessed.
A medical check-up is carried out on the donors to be, which includes the personal family history as well as a physical examination:
- Height, weight
- Complexion (pale, dark)
- Eye colour (brown, blue, green, amber, black, others)
- Hair colour (blond, fair, brown, black, ginger, others)
- Hair type (straight, wavy, curly, others)
- Blood group and Rh factor (A, B, AB, O+, others)
The donors also undergo the following tests:
- Blood group and Rh factor
- VDRL or similar test to detect syphilis
- A test to detect hepatitis
- A test to detect signs of HIV
- A clinical study to detect toxoplasmosis, rubella, herpes, cytomegalovirus
- A clinical study to detect infection with neisseria gonorreae and chlamydia tracomatis
- A clinical study to detect rubella.
- A clinical study to detect infection with neisseria, gonorrhoea and chlamydia trachomatis.
All this means is that donors to be undergo a free complete medical and gynaecological check-up. This health check, which is necessary to guarantee their health allows them to gain precise information about their physical condition.
Being included in a donation programme allows a woman to ascertain her health condition since to be an egg donor she has to be in good health and prove this via a number of tests.
Egg donation also brings with it personal satisfaction which is a private experience for every donor and which undoubtedly justifies it for many.
There is also a chance that the donor will receive an economic reward for the inconvenience that the procedure may cause.
If it is the donor’s wish this reward can be sent to a Non-Profit Organisation, to a home for children, or to an association which helps women, among others.
When a woman wants to become pregnant and she cannot conceive with her own eggs, she can consider adopting or joining a donation programme. If she chooses donation, she is put on a waiting list and needs to wait for a female donor whose eggs can be fertilised with her partner’s semen.
In this way a woman can have children who could not have been conceived without the donation. Thanks to the donation she can experience pregnancy herself.
Anonymity guarantees the privacy of both the donor and the recipient and helps justify the donation itself.
The donation is an act of solidarity because it is anonymous, voluntary and altruistic. That is to say, there is no direct acknowledgement or gratification on behalf of the person who benefits from it.
The altruistic nature of this act makes it a donation since no gratification is expected in return. This condition, which is also included in the law, guarantees the absence of a commercial aspect in the donation and avoids possible economic exploitation.
Finally, the voluntary nature of the act is required in order to avoid the donation being undertaken under any pressure and against a person’s free will. It must be clear that the donor acts voluntarily.