It goes without saying that fertility treatments such as IVF and ICSI make use in the first instance of the ova and sperm cells of the couple in question. There are, however, exceptions to this rule. Sometimes, the use of ova or sperm cells from a donor is indicated.
Sperm cells from a donor
If the man has no sperm cells, if he is carrying a hereditary disease or if other treatments using his sperm cells have failed, sperm cells from a donor can be the solution.
Ova from a donor
Some couples rely on the use of ova from a donor. The most significant medical reasons are the absence of ovaries (congenital or following surgery), ovaries that are inaccessible for ovum pick-up, premature menopause, a genetic defect in the patient's own ova and minimal or no response to hormonal stimulation during IVF. Treatment using donor ova is given, as is the case with all treatments using Medically Supported Fertilization at the LUFC, only to women under the age of 43.
Since giving up ova is less straightforward (the donor has to undergo hormonal stimulation + ovum pick-up) than sperm cell donation, there is a shortage of ovum donors. Sometimes, the sister or friend of a female patient is willing to donate ova. The LUFC has opted for anonymous donation, more specifically cross donation. In this case, two individual couples each choose a donor and the ova from donor A go to couple B and vice versa, without the two couples knowing or meeting each other.
Like sperm cell donors, ovum donors also have to be in good general health. They are given an extensive medical and gynaecological examination. They are also screened for major hereditary conditions and for major congenital abnormalities. Ovum donors are below the age of 35 at the time of ovum aspiration and should preferably have at least one child of their own.
Extensive counselling is also provided, covering all kinds of social and psychological aspects (motivation for being a donor, anonymity, renouncing all rights and obligations regarding any children, etc.).
Ovum donation is not remunerated although the donor does receive reimbursement of expenses per cycle of ovum pick-up.
Finally, embryo donation and reception is another possibility. This treatment can provide a solution for couples where the female partner has one of the medical indications for ovum reception and where the male partner has one of the medical indications for the use of donor sperm. It can also be indicated if no ovum donor can be found.
The most obvious source of embryos for embryo donation is the surplus embryos resulting from IVF. This donation must be entirely voluntary and can also only be applied in a dignified way, if the biological parents fully agree with the anonymity of the procedure and, of course, waive all rights to any child that may be born.
A healthy child?
The careful selection of donors is intended to produce the maximum chance of pregnancy leading to the birth of a healthy child. Nonetheless, artificial fertilization or assisted fertilization using donor sperm cells, ova or embryos is not a cast-iron guarantee that a perfectly healthy child will be born. A certain risk of abnormalities or health problems always remains but that risk will be more or less the same as the risk facing couples who conceive without assistance.