The majority of egg donors donate for altruistic reasons, although personal benefits such as financial compensation are also a factor, according to a large European study.
Researchers conducted 1,423 questionnaires across 11 countries in Europe, including Spain, the Czech Republic and Finland. They found that almost half of all egg donors were 'altruistic', and wanted to donate eggs solely in order to help others have children. A further third of women donated for altruistic reasons alongside the financial rewards offered.
'Altruism is the main motivation why donors donate but financial compensation certainly helps to persuade a number of donors', said Professor Guido Pennings, who led the study.
Younger donors were found to be less likely to donate eggs for altruistic reasons alone, with just under half of donors under 25 citing altruism as their motive compared to 79 percent of those over 35. 'The older you are, the more altruistic you are', said Professor Pennings. Women with a higher level of education were also more likely to donate altruistically, with around one-third of donors having a university degree.
Only one-in-ten women donated solely for financial reward, while one-in-fifty women donated eggs solely in order to take part in egg-sharing schemes.
'Egg donation is quite a controversial application of assisted reproduction, due to concerns about exploitation of donors due to [low] compensation and the donors' safety', said Professor Pennings. 'The general donor profile from this study is someone who is well-educated, 27 years old and living with a partner and child. This does not fit the idea that most people seem to have of a poor student who donates for money'.
In the UK, the need for egg donors is on the rise. 'In terms of egg donation, the UK is out of step with the rest of Europe and the rest of the world', said Mr Stuart Lavery, director of IVF at Hammersmith Hospital. Dr Françoise Shenfield, coordinator of ESHRE's Cross-Border Reproductive Care Taskforce, who was involved in the study, believes that this is due to a lack of information about such shortages. 'In the UK, there just isn't enough public information about the need for donations', she said.
It is hoped that the findings will be used to recruit more egg donors, but it remains unclear exactly what factors encourage women to donate and how the number of egg donors could be increased. 'There is an enormous diversity of factors, like reimbursement and anonymity, that contribute to donor motivation', said Professor Pennings. 'It is not possible to find out why some countries have a higher number of donors than others'.
The study was presented at the annual European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology meeting in London, and the paper will be published later this year.