A comparative analysis of marketing materials used to recruit egg donors in Belgium, Spain and the United Kingdom (Poster).




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Peer reviewed


Study question: How is egg donation framed in clinic marketing material used to recruit and/or inform potential egg donors in (Dutch speaking) Belgium, Spain and the UK? Summary answer: In Belgium, egg donation (ED) was constructed as an engagement that required considerable investment and entailed clear risks in contrast to Spain and the UK. What is known already: Across Europe, ED recruitment is performed in different ways. Some countries permit a range of advertising methods while others limit or completely prohibit any form of advertising relating to human bodily material (e.g. Belgium). Much of the existing research on recruitment of gamete donors comes from the US where market forces shape practice more directly. This paper focusses on Belgium, Spain and the UK – three countries that hold a stake in the growing global reproductive bio-economy and share features of technological innovation and expertise, but have adopted different regulatory positions in relation to the governance and marketing of ED. Study design, size, duration: An interdisciplinary team of researchers (bioethics, political economy, sociology) conducted a content analysis (including high frequency words analysis) as well as a comparative thematic analysis to consider ‘framing’ of egg donation in the data. Interdisciplinary auditing was used to challenge constructed categories and the conceptual framework at several points in the analysis. The findings were compared with country laws and informed consent rules and the implications for informed consent were studied. Participants: In Belgium, all Dutch language websites of centres were included compared to around 20 clinic websites in both Spain and the UK. For the latter countries, maximum variation sampling was used taking into account geographical location, number of cycles, and sector (public/private). In Belgium, ED is almost entirely situated in the publicly funded system whereas in Spain and the UK it is mainly performed in the private sector. Main results and the role of chance: In all three countries, ED recipients were presented as women whose fertility problems were no fault of their own, constructing a clear need for the donor to fulfil. Descriptions of medical profiles included ‘early menopause’ while natural menopause was absent. With regard to the act of donating, in Spain and the UK, words such as ‘sharing’, and ‘helping’ were considerably more frequently used compared to the Belgian data. Especially in Spain, ED was constructed as a form of solidarity between women nonetheless with a clear emphasis on the compensation. In Belgium, where clinic advertising is strictly regulated, ED was presented as requiring a considerable investment of time and energy from the donor. Potential egg donors in Belgium were repeatedly warned that the act was ‘not straightforward’ and ‘something to reflect about very carefully’. The Belgian material also appeared to be more focussed on risks and side effects than the Spain and UK material. The data were analysed within the policy context of the countries. We will discuss the possible impact of the public/private sector setting and of the Belgian ban on advertising for the way ED is framed and the implications of the differences in marketing material for informed consent. Limitations, reasons for caution: The results are limited to three countries, and to a (well considered) selection of clinics, therefore precluding generalisation to whole countries. Further research will be needed on the effects of recruitment discourses on potential donors in order to generate more general conclusions and recommendations. Wider implications of the findings: These results can contribute to a more complete understanding of the recruitment of egg donors as a practice that depends on specific discourses and is embedded in particular policy contexts. The identification of problematic framing of marketing material is crucial in terms of safeguarding true informed consent of donors.




Provoost, V., Coveney, C., Culley, L., Herbrand, C., LaFuente, S., Pavone, V., Pennings, G., Hudson, N. (2018) A comparative analysis of marketing materials used to recruit egg donors in Belgium, Spain and the United Kingdom [Poster]. European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology 34th Annual Meeting, Barcelona, July 2018.


Research Institute

Centre for Reproduction Research (CRR)