Page URL:

Egg donors mostly motivated by urge to help others

9 July 2013
Appeared in BioNews 713

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 Fran├žoise 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.

Egg donation in European clinics: Why do women do it?
EurekAlert (press release) |  8 July 2013
Why do Women Donate Eggs? Study Looks into European Egg Donors
Counsel & Heal |  8 July 2013
5 May 2015 - by Daniel Malynn 
Annie Caulfield's play has some truly touching moments and clever insights into egg donation...
23 September 2013 - by Rosie Beauchamp 
The UK's first dedicated egg bank for fertility treatment has been launched in London....
19 August 2013 - by Cait McDonagh 
The Governor of California, Jerry Brown, has vetoed a bill that would have allowed women to sell their eggs for medical research...
25 February 2013 - by Maria Sheppard 
Human embryonic stem cell lines approved for federal funding in the USA, may have been derived from sperm or eggs of unconsenting donors...
16 April 2012 - by Dr Rosie Morley 
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has launched a new strategy to increase awareness of egg and sperm donation and to improve the care of donors. It aims to address perceived obstacles to donor recruitment aired during its consultation on gamete donation last year....
14 November 2011 - by Dr Sue Avery 
The general public has been well informed about the HFEA's proposed changes in compensation for gamete donors. However, there has been no direct communication with licensed centres and no clear indication of when regulations will change. As a result we are having difficulty dealing with a wave of enthusiasm from potential donors...
24 October 2011 - by Professor Dame Marilyn Strathern 
'How far should society go in encouraging people to donate their bodily material?' is the question at the heart of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics' report on the ethics of donation for medicine and research, which was published earlier this month...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.