When a woman makes the important and difficult decision to become a mother using eggs donated by another woman, it is not rare that questions arise. One of the most frequently asked questions is: Will I be able to know who my egg donor is?
Spanish law establishes that egg donation must be completely anonymous. The woman receiving the eggs may never know the identity of their donor. But to ensure the closest resemblance between mother and the future baby, certain phenotypic traits may be made known.
Egg Donation Treatment
Egg donation is the number one reproductive solution for women who cannot get pregnant with their own eggs. Many couples come to the different clinics of the IVF-Life group here in Spain in search of a treatment using donor eggs. For the vast majority of patients, this treatment means having to face what is known as genetic grief. The realization of having to give up their own genes in order to become a mother is not easy for everyone.
Thanks to the law that regulates Assisted Reproduction in Spain, which guarantees the anonymity of the donors, Egg donation is a common practice in Spanish Assisted Reproduction centres. This law allows donations to be safe and of high quality.
How are egg donors selected?
Another question we get asked a lot by our patients is how the woman who will help them conceive will be selected. The donor selection process at IVF-Spain Madrid is also regulated by the Assisted Reproduction Law. This law stipulates that the donor and the mother must share a high similarity of phenotypes, this means that they must have a great physical resemblance. During the first visit to our centre, a quality photograph of the parents-to-be is taken. This photo allows us to analyse the main physical features of the parents and thus helps us choose the perfect donor.
As much as the donor and the future mother look-alike, it is not possible to predict the exact phenotype of the baby, as it depends on multiple factors including the genes, how they interact with each other and with their environment, which in this case is the uterus of the pregnant mother. It may happen that certain characteristic phenotypic traits, such as fair skin, may not be prevalent in the child (for example, having a child with slightly darker skin). This process is absolutely normal and can occur in any pregnancy, with or without the help of reproductive medicine.
More phenotypic selection criteria are applied when the parents express the desire for a donor with a compatible blood type. In this case, the blood type is taken into account during the selection of the donor.
Who is an adequate donor and what test are required?
The Spanish Law on Assisted Reproduction establishes a series of requirements to avoid, as far as possible, the transmission of hereditary diseases.
Among the important criteria for determining whether a donor is suitable is her age. The quality of the eggs depends to a large extent on this important factor. In Spain, the minimum age to donate eggs is 18 and the maximum age is 35, however, at IVF-Spain Madrid we choose to select donors under the age of 30. The average age of our donors is 25 years old, as we have observed that the success rate of pregnancy is the highest within this age group.
Another important factor is that, according to this law, no more than 6 children can be born from the same egg donor.
Furthermore, to ensure that donors do not suffer from sexually transmitted diseases, they are screened for the most common diseases, such as HIV, chlamydia, hepatitis, rubella, toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus and syphilis, among others. After that, donors undergo a genetic and chromosomal analysis to rule out possible genetic alterations and their muscle mass index (BMI) is determined, which must be between 18 and 25 to guarantee a good state of health.
At IVF-Spain Madrid we have gone one step further as in addition to the mentioned tests also perform the carrier screening panel on all egg donors. The carrier screening panel is a preconception genetic test with which we obtain information on more than 300 monogenic recessive diseases and thus, can rule out the transmission of diseases such as Cystic Fibrosis and Fragile X syndrome, among others.
Once the general health of the donor has been guaranteed, their reproductive health is checked. For this purpose, a fertility test is carried out in which the Anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH), a marker that provides information on a woman’s ovarian reserve, is analysed.
Finally, a psychological test is carried out. The aim of this assessment is to ensure the donor’s health before, during and after the treatment.
Mothers beyond genetics
There is no doubt that egg donors are real heroines. Thanks to their donation, couples are able to fulfil their dream to start a family and to become parents. We know how many emotions are at play when talking about the subject of egg donation as the parents-to-be themselves describe their immense gratitude towards these anonymous heroines in conversations with them and through letters to their donors.
Other important protagonists in this process that are not to be forgotten, are the future mothers. We know that egg donation is still considered a taboo subject in our society and that many women go through genetic grief when they have to come to terms with the thought that their baby will not share their genes. Deciding whether or not they will tell their children and what those around them will say is also not easy to cope with. But being able to hold their child in their arms makes it all worth it in the end.
At IVF-Spain Madrid we understand that being a mother is much more than just “planting the seed”. It also implies the dedication that has to do not only with the act of creating a life, be it “naturally” or in a laboratory. Being a mother begins with pregnancy and the birth of their child. When we begin to feel the bond between mother and child in the womb, that is when we learn what “being a mother” really means.