Egg donation laws and egg donor regulations vary greatly per country. In most countries donating and receiving eggs is legal, various egg donation programmes 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 those 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 recipient. 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 for potential recipients to encounter peculiar and highly questionable demands from 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 various demands as donors are so scarce. Some recipients prefer to have distant, if any, relationships 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, women that refuse an Australian donor’s offer have been blacklisted and not able to continue their 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. It is also illegal to pay egg donors. The very idea of banning the trading of human biological material is a very reasonable idea; however, this does not stop some people from taking advantage. Many childless couples in desperate need of donor eggs will do everything (even pay) to realise their dream. These payments usually cover “reasonable expenses” incurred by egg donors such as doctor’s appointments, travel, medicine or even parking.
Another problem egg recipients face is time. Some couples have been on the waiting list for more than four years without getting close to finding a donor whereas European fertility clinics usually offer a 1-2 months waiting lists and some clinics offer egg donors who are available 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 didn’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 in Facebook groups. However, it has been reported that when some of them have tried to discuss egg donation treatment abroad or buying eggs from an egg bank abroad, they have been attacked online and banned from groups.
You may be interested in reading: Australians go to Europe for IVF with donor eggs
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.
Some Australian women have given up searching for a donor in their home country and have decided to travel to overseas for IVF treatment (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 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 been accustomed to 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 of parenthood. Travelling overseas is not that big a sacrifice for people who are willing to go to great lengths to become parents.
Australian egg recipients say they are thankful for generous donors and their beautiful gestures; however, they do not feel that all these restrictions and limitations are necessary. 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 will be a stranger to 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 and therefore it is predicted that the demand for donor eggs will continue to grow in Australia like elsewhere.