Study question: Do the socio-demographic and fertility-related characteristics and motivations of oocyte donors differ in European countries?
Summary answer: The socio-demographic and fertility-related characteristics and motivations of oocyte donors differ considerably across countries.
What is known already: There have been no other international studies comparing the characteristics of oocyte donors. Regarding their motivations, most studies indicate mixed motives.
Study design, size, duration: The proposed study was a transversal epidemiological study. Data were collected from 63 voluntarily participating assisted reproduction technology centres practising oocyte donation in 11 European countries (Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Greece, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, UK and Ukraine). The survey was conducted between September 2011 and June 2012 and ran for 1-6 calendar months depending on the number of cycles of oocyte donation performed at the centre. The sample size was computed in order to allow an estimate of the percentage of a relatively rare characteristic (∼2%) with a precision (95% confidence interval) of 1%. The calculation gave 1118 donors.
Participants/materials, setting, methods: In total, 1423 forms were obtained from oocyte donors. All consecutive donors in these centres filled out an anonymous questionnaire when they started their hormonal stimulation, asking for their socio-demographic and fertility-related characteristics, their motivations and compensation. Population characteristics were described and compared by country of donation. Motives for donation and mean amount of money were compared between countries and according to the donors characteristics.
Main results and the role of chance: The socio-demographic and fertility-related characteristics and motivations of oocyte donors varied enormously across European countries. The number of received forms corresponded with a participation rate of 61.9% of the cycles performed by the participating centres. Mean age was 27.4 years. About 49% of donors were fully employed, 16% unemployed and 15% student. The motivation in the total group of donors was 47.8% pure altruism, 33.9% altruism and financial, 10.8% pure financial, 5.9% altruism and own treatment and finally 2% own treatment only. About 15% of the donors were egg sharers (patient donors), mainly from the UK and Poland. Women were donating for the first time in 55.4% of cases, for the second time in 20.3% and for the third time in 12.8%. The motivation to donate was significantly related to being of foreign origin (P < 0.01), age (P < 0.001), living in couple or not (P < 0.01), level of education (P < 0.001) and number of donations (P < 0.001). The amount of compensation differed considerably between centres and/or countries. The general donor profile in this study was a well-educated, 27-year-old woman living with her partner and child who mainly donated to help others.
Limitations, reasons for caution: The selection of clinics in some countries and the limited participation rate may have led to a bias in donor characteristics. A possible effect of social desirability in the answers by the donors should be taken into account.
Wider implications of the findings: The diversity of the donor population reflects the differences in European legislation (for example, on anonymity and payment) and economic circumstances. The differences in systems of reimbursement/payment demonstrate the need to have a thorough discussion on the specific meaning of these terms.
Study funding/competing interest(s): The study was funded by the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology. The authors declare no conflicting interests.
Keywords: altruism; compensation; ethics; motivation; oocyte donors.