Written By Liz Ellwood, Founder and Director of Operations, Fertility Match
- Egg Donation in Canada in 100% Legal. The prohibition is against the “purchase” of eggs from an Egg Donor However, reimbursing a Donor’s expenses related to an Egg Donation is not illegal, and encompasses expenses beyond the “medications and travel costs” as per the Assisted Human Reproduction Act(AHRA). For the past 16+ years since this Act was put in place in 2004, Canadian egg donation programs have been doing just that: reimbursing Egg Donors for their expenses incurred that are considered in relation to an Egg Donation in Ottawa. This includes items such groceries and prepared foods (research has been done demonstrating that eating healthy can have a positive effect on egg health), wages for missed work due to appointments, a note taker for any classes missed, pet or child-care required to attend appointments, massage therapy and acupuncture to alleviate IVF medication related symptoms as well over the counter medications and vitamins as required. There is no shortage of healthy, educated and intelligent young women in Canada willing to donate their eggs to families in need, so long as they are able to have these expenses covered. In 2010, I chose to use a Canadian Egg Donor who was willing to meet a child born from the donation, because I believe that our legal landscape combined with the knowledge that our Egg Donor population has access to Canada’s universal healthcare was (and is) the best option available in Canada.
- International Egg Banks: Buyer Beware. Egg Banks in the United States, as well as overseas, have made hundreds of millions of dollars selling frozen eggs to Canadians based on the misinformation that “Egg Donation is illegal in Canada”. Selling Eggs to Canadians by these foreign egg banks is something that has been happening in droves since Egg Freezing was reclassified as “standard” and no longer “experimental” by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society (CFAS) in 2012. So, while purchasing international eggs is an option, I believe it is imperative we address the major downfall of this that is ultimately affecting the child more than anyone: the anonymity of international Egg Donors banks. The majority of these banks still trend toward anonymous egg donation exclusively, despite knowing that psychological research states that this is not in the best interest of donor conceived children.
- Pretend you were conceived with the help of an Egg Donor: Would you be curious to know more about or meet the Donor? This is a very important and even life altering detail that many Egg Banks and International fresh egg donation programs that only offer anonymous Donors tend to gloss over in their marketing and promotional materials. Initially, the idea of an anonymous Egg Donor might feel comforting to an Intended Parent. After all, they want to be the parent, and don’t want a Donor’s involvement to be confusing for their child. But when you dig deeper, consider the psychosocial impact this could have on the children and families they are creating, What do these banks and agencies plan to tell these donor conceived children at 18 years of age when they are trying to shape their identity and asking to know more about their biological origins? The only answer I’ve ever received when I ask them this question is: “they can do DNA ancestry”. To find a Donor that never signed up or agreed to being willing to meet a child and may not want this contract? That this decision was made for them and this door was closed before they were even created. Who is to be held accountable for the realities of the choices being made for these children? I am raising one of these children; Trust me when I say she would be very dissatisfied if this was the answer I gave her.
- All Fertility Match Egg Donors are Open-ID. We take pride in always striving to put the children and the families we are creating first. Although, we wish that all businesses would follow suit by providing these future adults and their families the right to know their Donor if they so choose to, this is still not the case. Although a large number of clinics in Canada have been working with Canadian egg donation programs and agencies for years, there are still a number of reputable fertility centres in Canada who refuse to work with these Canadian organizations, and simply tell patients the option of a Canadian Donor does not exist or that it is “illegal”. These fertility centres offer the option to work with international, anonymous egg banks or fresh programs that they have established relationships with or offer the patient(s) the option to bring a known Egg Donor to their fertility centre to do a donation cycle. The latter as most people reading this article know, is simply not a realistic option for most people. Even at age 26, when I was searching for an Egg Donor very openly, as it was no secret, I needed one after my cancer treatments. I had lots of young, fertile friends, but I didn’t have any jumping up and down offering their eggs to me. Nor would I have necessarily been comfortable with using eggs from a friend because of the emotional complications that could result. Unfortunately, many patients simply resolve to use the international egg bank option their fertility doctor is presenting to them. But those who decide to pull back the curtain, through researching topic, speaking to a lawyer or connecting with a counselor, will be empowered to make an informed and educated decision for themselves and their future children. At Fertility Match, we truly believe this decision is to select an Egg Donor who at minimum is open to her identity being disclosed and meeting a child born from the donation after the child or children is 18 years of age or older. At the end of the day, every decision we make in the fertility industry should be in the best interest of the children we are creating; Sadly, international, anonymous egg donation programs and banks are designed for the ease and profitability of large multinational fertility conglomerates; so in other words, NOT for your future child who is going to come to you looking for answers one day.
In 2007, when I was first looking to use a Canadian Egg Donor and Gestational Surrogate, most fertility centres would not even work with known Gestational Surrogates because of the AHRA. By 2010, two clinics in Toronto were willing. When we launched Fertility Match in 2017, agency Gestational Surrogates had become completely acceptable by almost all clinics. But 4 years later, we are still waiting for some of the more conservative fertility centres to open their doors to the amazing Canadian women willing to be Egg Donors. There are around 10 large sized fertility centres in Canada only offering the use of egg banks or a known Egg Donor as options for building their family with egg donation. But for the sake of the children being created, I do hope they consider this option soon. Because we already know better.
Finally, and perhaps the most important point for many, is that a fresh Egg Donor cycle is much more likely to lead to a viable pregnancy per egg than eggs from a frozen bank, as a fresh IVF cycle should result in more, higher quality embryos than those created with frozen eggs; given this and my other points the option of using fresh donor eggs remains the gold standard. Egg Freezing has improved. Frozen Eggs freeze and thaw much better than they did 15 years ago. But we have a long way to go until any fertility doctor can tell a patient a frozen egg is just as likely to result in a pregnancy as a fresh one. Fresh is still best.