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Why do Women Donate Eggs? Study Looks into European Egg Donors

Update Date: Jul 08, 2013 11:30 AM EDT

Women who choose to donate their eggs help provide couples that cannot reproduce on their own the opportunity of starting a family. Even though the act of donating eggs could be considered highly altruistic, a new study decided to research the reasons behind egg donors in depth. Since donating eggs or sperms in general could be controversial, understanding why some people choose to give up their unique genetic material to strangers could help researchers better understand why becoming a donor appears to be a growing trend.

The study, in the form of a questionnaire, was conducted by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology's (ESHRE) Task Force on Cross-border Reproductive Care and European IVF Monitoring Consortium. The questionnaire was administered to 1,423 egg donors from 60 clinics that were spread throughout 11 European nations. The study took place between 2011 and 2012.  The researchers found that the majority of egg donors reported donating their eggs for altruistic purposes over financial compensation. The researchers also presented statistics on age, employment status, relationship status, and several other variables.

"The fact that a person receives compensation or money does not mean that she is motivated by that money," Professor Guido Pennings of the Bioethics Institute in Ghent, Belgium, explained according to the press release. However, the researchers did find that financial compensation, which ranges from 500 to 1,000 euros ($640 to $1284), and even up to 2,000 euros ($2569) per egg, plays a huge factor for women depending on where they are from.

The researchers divided up the possible reasons for donating eggs into five groups, which were pure altruism, altruism and financial combined, purely financial, altruism and own treatment and treatment alone. In the same order as the list of motives, the researchers found the corresponding percentages of 46 percent, 32 percent, 10 percent, five percent, and under two percent. The team cited that high levels of altruism were mostly reported in Belgium (86 percent), Finland (89 percent) and France (100 percent). High levels of purely financial motives were found in Greece (39 percent), Russia (47 percent) and Ukraine (28 percent).

The researcher calculated that the average age of a donor was 27.4 years. The researchers found that 46 percent of women under 25-years-old reported donating eggs for altruistic reasons while 79 percent of women over 35 cited the same reasons. 12 percent of women under 25-years-old admitted that they donated eggs for financial compensation while only one percent of the women over 35 reported financial reasons as well. The researchers also revealed that over 50 percent of single women donated their eggs in Spain and Portugal, while 30 percent of single women donated their eggs in Greece.

Other statistics included the distribution of donors who were students, unemployed and fully employed.  For students, 18 percent from Spain, 16 percent from Finland and 13 percent from the Czech Republic donated their eggs. For women who were unemployed, almost one-fourth of Spaniards, 22 percent of Ukrainians and 17 percent of Greeks were egg donors. For the employed group, 75 percent from Belgium, 70 percent from Poland and 28 percent from Spain donated their eggs. The researchers found that around 33 percent of the donors in the study had a university degree and around 50 percent of them were already parents.

The findings were presented at ESHRE meeting. 

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