Egg donation laws and egg donor regulations vary greatly per country. In most countries donating and receiving eggs is legal, various egg donation programs are available (fresh or frozen eggs) and you can choose between non-anonymous (open ID donors) and anonymous donors. In some countries oocyte donors are financially compensated whereas in others, like Australia, egg donation is altruistic.
Getting pregnant with donor eggs in Australia
What is the situation of egg recipients in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane or Perth? Unfortunately, it leaves a lot to be desired. The law is stiff and obsolete. According to Australian regulations egg donor and recipient have to be known to each other and egg and sperm donors cannot choose to be anonymous – they are called open ID donors. All Australian oocyte donors are recorded on a special register and such details are available to the child when they turn 18 years old.
Is it easy to find an egg donor in Australia
Seeking egg donor in Australia may not be straightforward and can be quite challenging. Open ID donor regulations mean that some patients turn to a family member or friend who is willing to donate her eggs. What about all the others who are not so lucky to have such a generous person close to them? All the other women in need of eggs resort to searching the Australian egg donor forums, often begging and pleading online just to find a suitable donor. Even if they find a donor they like (matching phenotype, higher education, interests, etc.), it does not mean that this donor will accept the recipients. What is more, there seems to be little chance to match the donor’s phenotype to the recipient as this does not seem to play a role for the donors – the potential recipients remain at their mercy. It seems it is a constant struggle. The potential recipients described the situation as upsetting, unfair and stressful, writes Mark Saunokonoko in his article for Nine. Even Australian fertility doctors are careful with advising the egg donor route knowing the current situation in Australia.
It is not uncommon that the potential recipients encounter peculiar and highly questionable demands on the part of donors. Some of them request to play a part in the child’s life, such as attending birthdays and visiting during national or religious holidays. This may be difficult for some couples to accept. Many recipients agree to all that as they feel they have no choice but to accept the donor here and now, as it is their last chance. Some recipients prefer to have distant, if any, relationship, with their egg donor and, therefore, decide to travel abroad to use anonymous donor’s services. It seems easier and less stressful.
What is more, the women who refused an Australian donor’s offer were blacklisted and not able to continue the search. Egg recipients have been urged to be active on the Australian egg forums and frequent meetings to maximise their chances of closing the deal with a donor.
Donor eggs in Australia – the shortage and the money
Australia’s Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction Act prohibits selling or buying human eggs, sperm and embryos. Also, it is illegal to pay egg donors. The very idea of banning trading of human biological material is a very reasonable idea; however, this does not stop some people from taking advantage of the others’ difficult situation. Many childless couples in desperate need of donor eggs will do everything (even pay) to realize their dream. These payments usually cover “reasonable expenses” incurred by egg donors such as doctor’s appointments, travel, medicine or even parking.
Another problem the egg recipients are facing is time. Some couples have been on the waiting list for even 4 years with no egg donors in sight whereas European fertility clinics usually offer 2 month waiting lists and some clinics offer egg donors available almost immediately for fresh cycle. Most clinics in Europe have their own egg banks or work with the biggest banks in Europe to provide frozen eggs and sperm at a time that suits patients best.
Some egg recipients from Australia even reported dishonest practices by donors who demanded more money after they started undergoing their hormonal stimulation or sometimes even 1 week before the visit to the clinic. They threatened the women by withdrawing from the deal if they don’t receive more money. There have been donors who pulled out at the last moment – that adds to all the stress that is experienced by the egg recipients.
Egg donation abroad/in Europe
Australian women search for egg donors online, on forums and Facebook groups. However, it has happened that when some of them tried to discuss egg donation treatment abroad or buying eggs from an egg bank abroad, they were attacked online and banned from the group.
Some Australian women gave up the donor search in their home country and decided to travel to overseas IVF clinics (in Spain, Greece or Ukraine) and have affordable egg donation there.
Egg donation abroad seems simpler, stress-free and without all the hassle that surrounds dealing with an Australian donor. In IVF clinics in Europe you do not even have to meet the donor. They remain anonymous. More and more Australians travel for IVF with donor eggs to Spain, Ukraine, Czech Republic, the USA and Argentina. It is becoming more popular and more common than in the past. If they choose a clinic in Europe, they have many options to choose from:
- Anonymous egg donors – the egg donor remains anonymous, there is no access to donor photo. However, phenotype matching is mandatory (fertility clinics in Greece, Spain, etc.),
- Anonymous egg donors – you can see the photo of the donor as a baby (fertility clinics in Ukraine and Russia),
- Anonymous egg donors – you can see the photo of the donor (fertility clinics in Ukraine and Russia),
When they start the IVF treatment, patients in Europe deal only with the clinic, not with the donor. A patient buys an egg donation programme from a clinic.
Travelling abroad for fertility treatment may be seen by some as a new idea, however, it isn’t. Australians have already been travelling abroad to have dental work or cosmetic surgery (nose job, breast enlargement surgery) done in Europe or Asia. Mainly, because of more affordable treatment. Infertile couples are willing to do a lot to realise their dream about parenthood. Travelling overseas is not that big sacrifice for people who would go to great lengths to become parents.
Australian egg recipients say they are thankful to the generous donors for their beautiful gestures, however, they do not feel that all these requirements are truly needed. When you go to a trusted IVF clinic abroad, you can simply purchase eggs and sperm, and have the embryo transfer done at the clinic.
The final decision where to have IVF treatment belongs to women who plan on getting pregnant with donor eggs. If they prefer their child to have access to information about their egg donor when they turn 18 and are able to endure the arduous, time-consuming and difficult process of finding a suitable donor in their home country, then IVF in Australia should be a good solution for them.
On the other hand, if you do not feel that there is a need for your child to meet the egg donor in their adult life (who is practically a stranger for them), you can choose the anonymous donor route. It does not mean you have to hide the fact that your child’s conception was carried out with the help of donor eggs. Your child should know about their origins. If you are comfortable with this option and prefer to get in touch with a clinic where you can easily purchase and undergo egg donation program, then IVF treatment abroad is the best solution for you and your partner.
There seems to be no drive towards any change in law concerning egg donation in Australia. Still it is predicted that the demand for donor eggs will continue and even grow in Australia and all over the world.