New York, NY (PressExposure) March 16, 2011 -- Egg donation, the use of donated eggs for assisted reproduction, is proportionally the most rapidly growing infertility treatment in the United States. In 2010, at New York City's Center for Human Reproduction (CHR), more egg donation cycles were performed than in the preceding three years combined. In 2009, the last year for which national statistics are available, about 9,500 donor egg cycles were reported in the USA, representing approximately 9% of all IVF cycles. Since 2003, the first year for which national statistics are available, there has been an 18% increase in the number of egg donations in the United States. Despite this growth, egg donation has remained controversial.
The first egg donation pregnancy was reported in 1983. It is unknown how many children have since been born through egg donation, but considering 4.5 million in vitro fertilization (IVF) births world-wide, a few hundred thousand are likely donor egg pregnancies.
In contrast to regular IVF, now practiced in all countries, egg donation IVF is legally prohibited in many. Surprisingly, this includes most Central European countries. Not surprisingly, egg donation has become one of the most prominent reasons for medical tourism in Europe.
What often has been called an "egg donation industry" evolved in some of the former Communist countries of Eastern Europe, where laws have been more permissive. Poor regulatory controls, however, raised questions about donor selection and coercive practices towards donors. Many patients, therefore, have avoided egg donation in these countries, and turned towards Spain, the only Western country in Europe where egg donation is permitted, and treatment standards are perceived as higher.
Even in countries where egg donation is legally permitted, the process is subject to severe service restrictions. For example, in Canada, the law prohibits payments to an egg donor. Having to rely on only altruistic egg donations, Canadian patients face extremely long waiting periods and lack options of donor selection. Inability to "match" a donor also applies to other countries with ethnically homogenous populations. For example, it will be difficult for a light-skinned, blond Scandinavian recipient to find a suitable egg donor in Spain. In the United Kingdom, recent legislation removed the right to anonymity for egg (and semen) donors, further limiting the supply of donors.
The Center for Human Reproduction (CHR) in New York City has a world-wide reputation as a leading clinical and research center for infertility. It also offers, likely, the largest and most diverse pool of carefully selected egg donors in the world. "Being located in New York City has distinct advantages," notes David H. Barad, MD, MS, the Center's Clinical Director of IVF. "Having a broad multi-ethnic choice of donors, and being under the most strict regulatory supervision anywhere in the world through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, leaves us in the eyes of the educated patient with really no competition when it comes to donor selection," adds Norbert Gleicher, MD, the Center's Medical Director. It is no surprise, then, that egg donation cycles at CHR practically tripled in 2010.