Spain is the European capital of egg donation: this is being a donor

In Spain, more than half of the egg donation treatments in Europe are carried out, which makes it the largest provider of donor eggs on the entire continent. What’s more, every year thousands of international patients travel to this country to access private fertility treatment.

The popularity is due to the fact that in Spain any woman or man, regardless of their marital status, sexual orientation or age, can access these treatments. This contrasts with the situation in many countries of origin of patients, where there are restrictions and prohibitions, particularly in relation to egg donation. In addition, Spain usually has quite short waiting lists.

Another element in favor is that in recent years egg banks have proliferated in Spain, sending donor eggs all over the world as part of a multimillion-dollar industry.

About 15,000 women undergo egg retrieval cycles each year in this country. In many cases the motivation is economic, since the donors receive around 1,100 euros for a successful cycle. And that supposes that the greater economic compensations of all Europe.

Although there is research indicating that some women claim to donate their eggs for altruistic reasons as well, very little is known about the donation experience. For the most part, they are invisible.

To try to get a better idea of ​​what the process is really like, I interviewed egg donors and doctors, as well as observed different women in fertility clinics.

The reality of egg donation

Fertility clinic websites often describe egg donation as a quick and easy procedure. But women who want to be egg donors have to do a lot of preparation before the donation takes place.

First, they undergo a screening that includes psychological and health questionnaires, as well as gynecological and genetic tests. The potential donors then receive hormonal injections for about ten days.

Then we proceed to the extraction of the ovules, which consists of a surgical intervention under general anesthesia to extract the ovules through a vaginal ultrasound connected to a needle. It is a long, uncomfortable and sometimes painful process. And it carries medical risks such as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, which occurs when the ovaries enlarge and can lead to a number of serious problems, such as blood clots or bleeding.

Donors may also suffer from medication intolerance or side effects, as well as being at risk of infection during surgery. To top it off, and due to the limited number of studies conducted in this area, the long-term risks of being an egg donor remain largely unknown.

Egg donors often do not know how many times, where and when their eggs will end up being used.
HealthyCapture Studio / Shutterstock

I also discovered that the reality of egg donation can mean very busy schedules to balance work, studies and personal life. To avoid losing income, most of the women I spoke to did not interrupt any of their regular activities during their cycle. Instead, they were trying to fit everything into their busy lives, which sometimes put their health at risk.

This was especially evident when it came to egg retrieval. The programming of the intervention depends on the rhythm of the hormonal drugs in the body, so it cannot be decided according to the convenience of the donors. When the eggs are ready to be retrieved, they are, and this can vary from patient to patient. When the donors are ready, they have to give themselves the final injection, which is the one that makes them ovulate before they are scheduled for surgery the next morning.

The result is that, although clinics advise resting between 24 and 48 hours after the retrieval, many egg donors work the next day, or even the same day, on their afternoon shifts.

Payments and compensation

Compensation for a cycle is usually paid in cash at the end of the process. And it is only insured after the extraction surgery if there are removable eggs –donors charge the same amount regardless of the number of eggs–.

If the process has to be interrupted before the extraction for reasons beyond the control of the donor, such as the medication not producing the expected effects on egg production, most clinics do not offer compensation.

If donors undergo retrieval surgery but there are no retrievable eggs, the matter is often discussed between doctors, with significant differences between clinics. If there are indications that the donor may have missed her last hormone injection or that she did so at the wrong time, the clinic usually pays her nothing.

If the clinic believes that the donor has followed the rules but ovulated earlier than expected, the rules vary from clinic to clinic: some may give you the full amount, others only a partial payment, and others nothing at all.

Donors can also be required to reimburse all treatment costs if they decide to abandon the process halfway through for non-medical reasons, something most cannot afford.

In the event of side effects or complications after the extraction, donors are usually referred to the emergency room of public hospitals, since the donation contract does not include private medical insurance.

Artificial insemination, IVF in vitro fertilization of a human egg.
Egg donation is used in IVF.
Naeblys / Shutterstock

misinformed women

The few studies on the experience of egg donors that exist in Spain show problems and gaps in terms of the information provided to donors and the conditions in which egg donation is carried out.

Most of the women I spoke to did not know how many eggs were retrieved, the number of women who could be treated with them, or whether they would be used in the clinic, frozen to bank, or shipped abroad.

It is therefore clear that as the demand for egg donation increases, urgent action is needed to ensure that women in the global egg donation sector are properly informed, cared for and insured in the event of complications and effects. secondary.

Related articles