A woman unable to become pregnant with her own eggs due to illness has given birth to a baby conceived using a donated egg from an anonymous third party, a Kobe-based nonprofit organization that mediated between them announced Wednesday.
It is the first case in Japan of a birth resulting from an anonymous third-party egg. Until now, only eggs provided by recipients’ sisters, friends or acquaintances had been used for fertility treatments at limited medical institutions.
The woman, with a condition known as precocious menopause, gave birth to a healthy baby girl in January, the nonprofit organization Oocyte Donation Network (OD-Net) said.
The recipient released a comment saying: “I gained hope for my life through pregnancy, birth and [now] child-rearing. I’m deeply grateful to the donor.”
OD-Net was formed in 2013 by fertility clinic doctors, a patients group and others. It provided eggs of anonymous third-party donors to four women mainly in their 30s who were suffering from precocious menopause and other problems. Donated eggs were fertilized using sperm from the recipients’ husbands through in vitro fertilization.
Receiving donated eggs from sisters and friends may raise concerns that a parent-child relationship will become complicated as a baby born through the method will have two mothers, one in terms of genes and the other who gave birth. The agency’s arrangement to provide anonymously donated eggs is meant to help recipients feel at ease with the donations.
OD-Net only acts as a mediator for women younger than 40 who cannot produce eggs due to such illnesses as precocious menopause. About one in 100 women in their 30s are said to have such illnesses. Women suffering from infertility due to ordinary aging are not eligible for OD-Net’s services.
Donors and couples would not know each other’s information. However, when a child turns 15, they will be able to learn -- if desired -- the name and contact information of the donor.
Legal systems and other matters on reproductive medicine have been developed in many countries, where egg donation from third parties has become widespread as an option for fertility treatment.
On top of complicating family relationships, the practice puts physical burdens on donors. Though a council of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry compiled a report in 2003 to conditionally accept egg donation and called for relevant legislation, it has yet to materialize.
Quite a few couples receive donor eggs overseas. In the process, they spend several million yen, including for medical treatments, travel expenses, agency commissions and donor gratuities.
OD-Net director Sachiko Kishimoto said, “We urge the government to develop soon a legal system to protect the lives and welfare of children born through this method.”