Sperm, egg and embryo donation

Donation can literally be a matter of ‘give and take’.

  • Sometimes prospective parents' only chance of having a child is when they can use other people's sperm, eggs or embryos.
  • And the other way round, patients having an ART treatment may be prepared to donate (some of) their eggs, sperm or embryos to help other prospective parents.

If one of these situations applies to you, please read these pages.

Donation - what and how



There are various reasons why you might need donor material if you want to have children.
  • Two specific groups of patients who need donor material to have a child, are:
    • single women, and
    • lesbian couples.
    They can possibly be helped with donor sperm.
  • For other patients, the need for 'foreign' donor material is largely due to two conditions:
    • there are no reproductive cells (the man or the woman are infertile).,
    • or the available cells are not suitable for use (either the man or the woman or both have some form of hereditary genetic abnormality).

Needs

The need for donor material in an ART treatment is pretty much down to the following causes:
  • Sometimes a man does not produce any sperm which means artificial insemination or IVF (even with ICSI) does not offer an alternative.
    KID, artificial insemination with donor sperm, can offer a solution.
  • Sometimes a woman does not produce any or sufficient eggs:
    • following 'premature menopause', i.e. the early failure of ovarian function (before the age of forty).
    • because the ovaries have been removed or were damaged following cancer treatment.
    • Genetic diagnosis of your embryos

      If a hereditary defect is the determining factor of your 'infertility', PGD is an alternative, i.e. an ART cycle with genetic diagnosis of the embryos before transfer .
      But if you don't want this treatment or if this is not the right medical choice for you the use of donor material might offer a solution.

    • Once you pass the age of 43, your own genetic material is no longer used for any form of ART treatment: the chances of a successful treatment is too small (0.5%) to justify it.
    In all these cases, egg donation may offer a solution.
  • as a man, or woman, or as a couple you have a hereditary defect, which means you cannot (simply) use your own reproductive cells.
    If a PGD-treatment is not an option, you can - depending on the situation - be helped with donor sperm, donor eggs or embryo donations;
  • embryo donation is a possibility if your fertility problem is a (not necessarily hereditary) combination of both male and female factors. 
Anonymous or not?
Strict selection and genetic screening
Double checks

The demand for donor sperm exceeds the supply. This is why the CRG is always looking for new donors. The greater and more varied the supply, the better the selection for the recipient couple.
If you are interesting in becoming a sperm donor please check the website www.spermadonor.be.

There is also a permanent shortage in the supply of donor eggs and embryos. The CRG actively seeks couples who are willing to help solve this problem.
More information about this is available on www.eiceldonor.be
  • Initially, we talk to women and couples having IVF treatment themselves at the CRG about becoming egg and embryo donors.
    • If you become a donor, some of your ripe eggs can be donated to an anonymous recipient after egg retrieval. This principle is known as 'egg sharing' or 'partial donation'.
    • Couples who have a surplus of frozen embryos after an ART treatment and have no need for them anymore (e.g. because their child wish is fulfilled) may also decide to donate them.
    • And if you are a woman having IVF treatment with donor material (in this case donor sperm), the CRG will try to motivate you through a system of 'solidarity donation' to act as egg donor (even partial).
  • Do you want to be an egg donor?

    Contact the Contact centre or read more here about egg donation during your own treatment.

    We are also always actively looking for 'voluntary' donors. These are women without any fertility problems of their own but who are willing to follow that part of the treatment required to allow ripe eggs to be harvested. In most cases, a volunteer is found by the couple who require an egg donation, but the CRG also tries to encourage healthy young women from outside the IVF circuit to volunteer as egg donors.

Anonymous, or not?   

The general rule is that the donors are not told who the recipients will be, and vice versa.
The 2007 Act on ART , and anything related to donation, allows for named donation, but in the formulation of the rules implies a marked preference for anonymity.
A specific situation in which this general rule may be waived is that of egg donation. This is a situation when the recipient couple explicitly chooses a donor and vice versa.

But an anonymous variation is also possible for this situation:
  • several couples bring a donor,
  • the donor eggs go to the egg bank, and
  • the couples receive anonymous eggs from the egg bank.
This allows couples to find a donor in their own family or circle of friends and still guarantee anonymity. See anonymous versus named for the benefits of the first.

Strict selection and genetic screening   

Obviously, not everyone is a suitable donor.
  • There is the age factor:
    • for sperm donors the limit is 44.
    • for egg (and embryo) donors it is 35. Exceptions to this rule are only made in certain cases of named donation and with the recipient couple's explicit permission.
  • All donors are subjected to rigorous medical screening before they are selected.
    • In addition to an extensive family medical history questionnaire, the following genetic tests are performed for all candidate sperm donors:
      • DNA testing for CFTR mutations (cystic fibrosis),
      • DNA testing for spinal muscular atrophy,
      • karyotyping (chromosome analysis),
      • and screening for Thalassemia.
    • Moreover, a detailed family history may be drawn up to identify recurring characteristics such as life expectancy, physical health, mental stability, etc.
    • During the preliminary examinations the blood is tested for infections such as hepatitis (jaundice) and HIV (the aids virus).
  • Verder wordt gestreefd naar een goede 'match' tussen donor en acceptor(paar). We proberen indien mogelijk de bloedgroep van de donor en zoveel mogelijk van zijn/haar uiterlijke kenmerken bij de acceptor(en) te laten passen:.
    • the donor's blood group and rhesus factor, and 
    • mapping the phenotype profile, i.e. the physical characteristics such as skin type, eye and hair colour, build,...
  • Unfortunately a phenotype match is usually quite restricted because the offer - and certainly the offer of eggs and embryos - is too small.

Double checks  

All donated sperm, eggs and embryos are subjected to extensive medical screening too:
  • genetic screening to avoid congenital disorders, and
  • it is subjected to the NAT-test, or
  • (in case of donor sperm) stored for six months prior to use.
    Six months is the period the body needs to produce antibodies against certain infections and against HIV in particular. The presence of antibodies therefore indicates the presence of the virus.
    By testing the sperm donor again after six months before using his frozen sperm, the CRG is certain that the frozen sample is not infected.

Most of the time, however, we use the so-called NAT test, which immediately detects the presence of the virus itself.
We don't only do this to screen sperm. We also use it to screen eggs and embryos.
This way the CRG is certain that all donor material is free from infection.
In Belgium, the law makes no distinction between couples who conceive naturally and couples who use donor sperm, eggs or embryos:
  • the woman who gives birth to the child is always the legal mother;
  • if the woman is married, her partner is automatically the other parent (father or joint mother);
  • if the woman is unmarried, her partner may voluntarily acknowledge the child and thus become the legal parent;
  • when in a lesbian relationship one woman donates eggs to her partner, the woman who gives birth is recognized as the legal mother.
    In Belgium, the biological mother’s partner, the genetic mother, is entitled to legally recognize the child after birth if the couple lives together.
    If the couple is married, the genetic mother automatically has a legal relationship with the child that her partner has given birth to.

To come to this 'legal' situation, both the donor and the recipient(s) must give their consent in writing.
In other words, you fill out a contract and sign it. In case of embryo donation or egg donation following IVF treatment both partners have to sign.
By signing this contract you confirm
  • you relinquish your hereditary material. They are no longer yours.
  • as recipient party (single female or recipient couple) that you accept the donor material.