Sperm donation and egg donation

Sometimes, as (a) prospective parent(s), you need the sperm or eggs of others in order to be able to fulfil your desire to have children. You will then be a candidate recipient.

Demand and supply

Genetic diagnosis
of your embryos

If your need for donor cells is the result of a hereditary defect, embryotesting (PGT) may be an alternative. PGT is an ART cycle involving the genetic diagnosis of the embryos before transfer.
But if PGT is not the right medical choice for you, donor cells may offer a solution.

The need for donor cells in an ART treatment can occur in the following situations.

Sperm donation

  • You are a single woman who wants children.
  • You are in a lesbian relationship and you want a child together.
  • You are a man and you don't produce any (good) sperm. An ART treatment with your sperm has little or no chances of success.
  • You are a man and you have a hereditary defect, which means we cannot (simply) use your own reproductive cells in an ART treatment.

Egg donation

  • As a woman you don't produce any (good quality) eggs or not enough:
    • because of early menopause, or
    • because your ovaries are damaged or were removed following cancer treatment – see also www.oncofertility.be.
  • You are a woman and you have a hereditary defect, which means we cannot (simply) use your own reproductive cells in an ART treatment.
  • You are over the age of 43. In this case, we don't use your own eggs for ART: the chances of success of the treatment are too small.

Become a donor?

On this site with information for egg donors you can register as a candidate donor.

On this site with information for sperm donors you can register as a candidate donor.

Anonymous or not?
Strict selection and genetic screening
Double checks

The demand for donor cells is far greater than 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).
We sometimes try to raise our own patients' awareness as regards the need for sperm or eggdonation, but we also look for 'voluntary' donors. They are fertile men and women who are prepared to donate their reproductive cells.
In the case of egg donation, it concerns women willing to follow the ART treatment resulting in the harvesting of ripe eggs. Often a couple finds a volunteer who is willing to follow a treatment resulting in egg donation, but the CRG also tries to motivate healthy young women outside the IVF circuit to be donors.

Anonymous, or not?  

The general rule is that the recipient does not know the donor, and vice versa.
Belgian legislation on ART and the use of donor material leaves the option of named donation open, but anonymity is the preferred option.
Anonymous donation has a number of advantages: see under named versus anonymous.

This is why the CRG also offers an anonymous alternative in the event of named egg donation: exchange donation. See also Types of egg donation.
  • In named egg donation a recipient explicitly chooses the donor she/they found and vice versa.
  • In exchange donation the ‘named’ eggs of the donor go to the egg bank and the recipient receives anonymous eggs instead.
    This allows couples to find a donor in their own family or circle of friends and still guarantee anonymity.

Strict selection and genetic screening  

Obviously, not everyone is a suitable donor.
  • There is the age factor.
    • For sperm donors the age is 44, i.e. that means you can donate up to the day before your 45th birthday.
    • For egg donors the age limit is 35, i.e. up to the day before your 36th birthday.
      Exceptions to this rule are only made in named donation.
  • All candidate-donors are subjected to rigorous medical screening before they are selected, on the basis of
    • an extensive family medical history questionnaire;
    • a preliminary blood analysis for the infectious diseases hepatitis B & C (jaundice), HIV, syphilis and (in men) chlamydia;
    • standard genetic tests:
      • chromosome analysis (karyotyping),
      • DNA analysis for cystic fibrosis (CFTR-mutation),
      • DNA analysis for spinal muscular atrophy (SMN1), and
      • a screening for thalassaemia (a blood disorder).
  • A family history may be drawn up to identify recurring characteristics in the family history such as life expectancy, physical health, mental stability, etc.

We also look for a good ‘match’: we try to match the donor's blood type and as many of his/her external characteristics as possible with those of the recipient(s). This is why during the preliminary examinations:
  • the donor's blood type and rhesus factor are also determined, and
  • his/her phenotype profile is mapped, i.e. the external characteristics such as skin type, eye and hair colour, build, etc.
    Unfortunately a phenotype match is usually very restricted because of the limited supply.

Double checks 

The donated human tissue is also subjected to extensive medical screening.
  • The NAT-test looks for the presence of viruses and allows us to detect HIV (among others);
  • With genetic tests we try to exclude as many hereditary risks as possible.
If a recipient is able to present a donor, it is not always easy to choose between the named and anonymous scheme. What are the benefits and drawbacks?

In terms of anonymity  
In case of egg donation – in terms of treatment  
In terms of waiting list  

In terms of anonymity  

Both the CRG and the legislator prefer anonymous donation.
  • Anonymity is a good way to safeguard both the donor and the recipient from disappointment, arguments and conflicts of interest. No matter how good their relationship may be today, there is no way of predicting what might happen in five or ten years.
    This is especially the case if something goes wrong with the pregnancy or the child has a genetic disorder. Under these circumstances, there is a risk that the relationship between the donor and recipient couple becomes very strained due to feelings of guilt.
  • However, conflicts cannot be excluded even if everything goes well.
    • Differences of opinion may arise over how open the parents should be with the child regarding his or her origins.
    • The recipient couple may expect the donor to remain emotionally involved with the child, whereas this may not be what the donor had in mind at all.
    • Or the donor may want to remain emotionally involved throughout the pregnancy and birth, and the recipient couple have a problem with this.

In case of egg donation – in terms of treatment  

A couple that supplies its own donor will automatically have exclusive use of all the eggs produced by their donor.
  • If the donor produces a large number of eggs, this is a benefit of course.
    All eggs are fertilised with the sperm of the recipient man or of a donor.
    If more embryos are produced than are transferred, the supernumerary embryos are frozen and stored. If the first ART cycle does not result in pregnancy or if you want another child later, you can use these supernumerary embryos.
  • However, if the donor produces only a few eggs after ovarian stimulation, the benefit turns into a drawback.
    The smaller the number of ripe eggs available for fertilisation, the smaller the chance of the treatment producing supernumerary embryos. If the embryo transfer does not result in pregnancy in the first cycle, you need to repeat the whole treatment in principle either using the same donor, if she is willing, or with a new donor.

In terms of waiting list 

One undisputed advantage of named donation is that there is no waiting list. Once the couple has found a donor who meets all the medical requirements, treatment can start.
  • However, recipients opting for anonymous donation with a presented donor can also receive help quickly. All available eggs are linked to recipients on the waiting list every month. For recipients who present a donor, the preparation for egg thawing and transferring the embryo can start as soon as the donor eggs have been deposited in the egg bank.
  • The waiting list for recipients without a presented donor depends on the supply of donor eggs and can vary from three months to one year.

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 father or joint mother of the child.
  • If the woman is unmarried, her partner may voluntarily acknowledge the child and thus become the legal parent.

In a lesbian relationship, you also have the situation when one woman donates eggs to her partner. In that case the situation is as follows. 
  • The donor is seen as the genetic mother. 
  • The woman who gives birth is recognised as the biological and therefore the legal mother.
  • If the couple is not married, the genetic mother is entitled to legally recognise the child after birth if the couple lives together.
  • If the couple is married, the genetic mother is automatically (the legal) joint mother.

To come to this 'legal' situation, both the donor and the recipient(s) must draw up a contract.
  • As a donor you expressly confirm you relinquish your genetic material. After signing the contract (and relinquishing your reproductive cells) they are no longer yours.
  • The recipient party (single woman or recipient couple) expressly accepts the donor material.