One of new fertility journey partners, Fiv Marbella outline why egg donation has become the treatment of choice for so many couples who travel to Spain.
Egg donation treatment is the procedure by which oocytes are received from a donor, and then matched to a recipient based on selection such as shared characteristics and a compatible blood group. These oocytes are then inseminated with sperm from the recipient’s partner or sperm donor. The resulting embryos are transferred to the uterus of the recipient woman in order to achieve gestation.
This technique is mainly used in cases of early ovarian failure (whether spontaneous or because of surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy), genetic alterations in the gametes, serious maternal genetic diseases, previous failure of reproduction techniques or repeated failures of embryo implantation.
According to the Spanish Fertility Society (SEF), this is the most effective assisted reproduction technique for achieving the longed-for pregnancy, in which patients who have already exhausted other possibilities such as artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization place their hopes.
“The rigorous donor selection process is one of the reasons of the success of this technique, as it is based on the use of gametes from young women without reproductive pathology, and therefore of high biological quality“, Enrique Criado, Director of the clinic FIV Marbella.
The FIV/ICSI Registry of the SEF for 2015 (based on latest data available) identifies pregnancy rates of 45.4% per cycle initiated and 54.5% per transfer. The data collected at Fiv Marbella is even more impressive: in 2016-2017, it had a pregnancy rate with transfer of 2 blastocysts of 86%, with vitrified oocytes.
Fiv Marbella, together with its Egg bank, Ovobank, has invested more than €3,500,000 to ensure the best quality, traceability and immediate availability without waiting lists for their oocytes. This investment is reflected in its revolutionary IT initiatives such as Ovotracker, a telematic traceability system and Ovomatch, a facial recognition system.
Ovomatch is an innovative facial recognition system based on mathematical algorithms which is connected to the clinic’s extensive donor database.
Ovomatch searches donors and selects those which display similar traits and characteristics to the recipient patient whilst preserving anonymity. The patient merely has to enter her physical data and take a “selfie” and the app will immediately tell her how many donors share a similar resemblance to her. This is the first time that facial recognition technology has been applied to egg donation treatments.
Thanks to their five centres in Spain, located throughout the country, Fiv Marbella have managed to get eggs from more than 4000 donors, who are protected by anonymity guaranteed by Spanish law.
The donation of oocytes is regulated by the Spanish law for Assisted Reproduction 14/2006, as well as the Royal Decree 09/2017, where it is defined as an anonymous, voluntary and altruistic act.
At Fiv Marbella, we recognise the psychological and financial considerations that patients must address before travel. Here we look at the main concerns and questions which have been highlighted and asked by our patients:
1. Who are the women who donate?
Legally, the donor must be aged between 18 and 35 however our donors are aged below 30. They must be local and we have a mix of students, stay at home mothers and repeat donors. In our case, the donors come from our 5 collection points: Madrid, Barcelona, Granada, Malaga and Marbella.
2. Why do women donate?
Our egg donors choose to donate for a variety of reasons, however, many of them are motivated by a desire to help couples and individuals in their quest for parenthood. Many donors are mothers themselves who want others to experience the same joy parenthood has brought to them. Others personally know someone who has struggled with infertility, and therefore are extra sensitive to the needs of the recipients.
3. What sort of screening do you undertake on the donor?
They are checked for Fragile X syndrome, Cystic Fibrosis and must have a normal karyotype. They are also checked for infectious disease and their family history cannot show any kind of mental issues, Diabetes, Epilepsy, or Cancer at an early age. They are also assessed by a psychologist. We employ an exhaustive criteria for donor selection where almost 70% of applicants are rejected. We do not accept potential egg donors who have a family history of serious illnesses like early onset of heart disease, diabetes, cancers, life threatening allergies and mental illness.
4. What kind of non-identifying information about the donor am I allowed to know?
You can be given her age, her blood group and medical information you will need to pass on to your doctor following a pregnancy should we achieve a positive result.
5. Is a sample of the donor’s DNA saved in case of future problems?
Of course, we keep a serum sample of all donors.
6. How many donors do you have? Will there be waiting lists?
We have about 4000 donors and therefore have no waiting list.
7. How long does it take to find a suitable donor after the initial consultation?
We generally have a match in a few days and treatment can be carried out a couple of months after your first visit.
8. Will fresh or vitrified oocytes be used for egg donation treatment? Is the vitrification method safe?
At Fiv Marbella it is the patient who chooses whether she prefers a transfer with fresh or vitrified oocytes. However, vitrification is the most effective method of cryopreservation of oocytes and has shown the highest survival rate to date. It is so effective that by gathering the data from our collaborating centres the survival of oocytes is more than 92% (Data obtained from our best Italian centres in 2016 following our devitrification protocols). Extensive work undertaken by Ovobank has led us to become highly skilled in vitrification and devitrification.
Some of the advantages of using vitrified eggs is the low probability of cancelling the cycle, because we avoid the problems that may arise from synchronization with the donor. This is much easier and less stressful when organizing treatments for foreign patients.
9. What are the laws of donation in Spain?
All donation treatments in Spain must be anonymous. In Fiv Marbella the donor will be chosen by matching physical characteristics and blood group with the recipient via our facial recognition system, Ovomatch.
10. What procedures are illegal in Spain?
We cannot perform sex selection or surrogacy. A non-anonymous donor can never be used.
11. Do all the staff speak English?
Yes. Your personally assigned coordinator will also be with you during all the visits to Fiv Marbella.
12. Does the clinic help with travel and accommodation?
We can arrange transport to and from the airport and identify accommodation convenient to the clinic. Our patient care team will be happy to give you all the information you need.
13. How long do I have to stay in Marbella?
We recommend a minimum stay in Marbella of 7 days as we aim to transfer at blastocyst stage.
14. What medication will I need for a donor egg treatment? Does it work out more cost effective to buy the medication in Spain?
You will need oestrogen and progesterone. Patients who are still having regular menstruations will also be prescribed a downs regulation injection. There isn’t a substantial difference between UK and Spain prices.
15. What are the regulations on embryo transfer numbers?
By law we can transfer 3 embryos, however our policy is to transfer only 1 embryo in as many cases as possible.
16. Do you have links with any UK clinics where the recipient’s interim monitoring of the pre-transfer uterine lining can be done?
Yes, we can help with blood tests, scans and prescriptions.
Visit the Fiv Marbella website for more information fivmarbella.com