Gifting, sharing, donating, helping: tracing discourses of altruism and medical need in clinics' recruitment of egg providers




Journal Title

Journal ISSN



Volume Title




Peer reviewed


Fertility treatment using donor eggs is a growing phenomenon, with over 40,000 cycles performed across Europe per year. European regulations stipulate that in advertising for women to come forward as egg providers, promotional materials must uphold the principles of voluntary and unpaid donation (VUD). This is interpreted differently between countries with some permitting a range of advertising methods and others limiting or prohibiting any form of advertising relating to human bodily material. This paper examines how egg donation is framed in fertility clinic marketing and recruitment discourse as a particular form of bodily donation associated with the treatment of infertility. It draws on a sample of 58 fertility clinic websites across the UK, Belgium and Spain and analysed using a combination of content analysis and frame analysis. We examine the ways in which clinic marketing materials present a particular version of what egg donation involves and an image of the type of woman who acts as an egg donor. We suggest that clinic websites are important cultural spaces that manage the tensions of the market and the logics of altruism within the European context. We illustrate how the promissory potential of donor eggs and associated ‘cure narratives’ are drawn from a distinctly biomedicalised and individualised imaginary which renders egg provision as a noble and socially essential action. In this way egg donation can be framed as a culturally valued practice that should be separated from the logics of the market.




Coveney, C., Hudson, N., LaFuente, S., Provoost, V., Herbrand, C., Pavone, V., Culley, L., Pennings, G. (2018) Gifting, sharing, donating, helping: tracing discourses of altruism and medical needs in clinics' recruitment of egg providers. British Sociological Association: Medical Sociology 50th anniversary Conference, Glasgow, September 2018.


Research Institute

Centre for Reproduction Research (CRR)