From scarcity to sisterhood: The framing of egg donation on fertility clinic websites in the UK, Belgium and Spain


The use of third-party eggs now forms an integral part of a global reproductive bioeconomy. In order to meet clinics' growing need for donors, they employ a range of recruitment strategies including adverts for donors via their publicly facing websites. Such websites are also key sites for the articulation and popularisation of culturally specific narratives about egg donation and are therefore a rich source of data regarding the social, cultural and economic framing of bodily donation. Drawing on conceptualisations from literature on blood, organ and tissue donation we focus attention on what we refer to as egg donation ‘recruitment regimes’; exploring how nationally situated recruitment and marketing strategies are used by fertility clinics to frame ideas about egg donation.

We use frame analysis to analyse 62 clinic websites in the UK, Spain and Belgium, connecting the framing of egg donation to the regulatory context of each country. Our data show that altruism and solidarity are dominant frames that underpin the supranational framing of egg provision within the EU. However, there are also important nationally specific differences that both reflect and produce different versions of egg donation. We describe three distinct and nationally specific ‘recruitment regimes’ which articulate different versions of egg donation: a ‘scarce gift with enduring responsibility’ in the UK, ‘disconnected tissue exchange’ in Belgium and ‘mutually beneficial sisterhood’ in Spain. These regimes contribute towards public imaginaries and shape egg donation as a social practice by creating opportunities for (some) women to give eggs in specific ways. These representations illustrate the complex entanglements of national policy, supranational regulation, cultural preferences and commercial priorities within the fertility treatment landscape.


The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.
Open Access article


Egg donation, Sociology, Fertility treatment, UK, Belgium, Spain, Europe, Reproductive bioeconomy


Coveney, C., Hudson, N., Lafuente-Funes, S., Jacxens, L., and Provoost, V. (2022) From scarcity to sisterhood: The framing of egg donation on fertility clinic websites in the UK, Belgium and Spain. Social Science & Medicine, 296, 114785


Research Institute

Centre for Reproduction Research (CRR)