The Scottish Government has defended a £186,000 advertising push urging young women to donate their eggs after campaigners warned that they were underplaying the risks.

Surrogacy Concern told The Herald it was “an extraordinary step for the state to take” and that they did not know “of any other Government in the world which is targeting its own people for their gametes."

But with more than 200 people waiting for a donor in Scotland, the government said a marketing drive was necessary to hike the number of altruistic donations.

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The Scottish Government first launched a campaign to encourage people to become sperm and egg donors in 2021, with two more phases in 2022 and then again last October, during National Fertility Week, when adverts ran across radio and the internet.

In their initial campaign they cited research which suggested that almost half of people in Scotland would consider donating gametes to those who need help to conceive.

To be eligible to donate eggs, the donor needs to be aged between 18 and 35 and be able to commit to the programme for about three months.

The digital campaign featured animated visuals of an egg and sperm joining together to spell out optimistic words such as Joy, Love and Hope.

Key messages included telling potential donors that they "could give the joy of starting a family to those who need help becoming parents" and that "NHS Scotland needs egg and sperm donors for those who need your help to create a loving family".

Helen Gibson, who founded Surrogacy Concern and obtained the cost of the Scottish Government campaign through Freedom of Information said none of the adverts detailed the health risks associated with egg donation.

She said: "We were appalled to learn the Scottish Government were targeting young women in this way; a woman's gametes are not public resources, to be harvested and shared out amongst the wider population.”

Ms Gibson added: “Many will consider this an appalling way to use taxpayers money. We do not know of any other Government in the world which is targeting its own people for their gametes.

"Women in the UK have died from complications arising from egg retrieval. Younger women are at increased risk for ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, a condition caused by egg harvesting, for which there is no cure.

“Nowhere on these adverts did health risks feature. Women's bodies are not resources to be mined. Targeting people as young as 18 for eggs and sperm is concerning in the extreme and we urge the Government not to repeat this campaign.

“The infertility of others is not young women's problem to solve.”

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A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “There is a shortage of egg and sperm donors across the UK and the Scottish Government, in partnership with NHS Scotland, launched the recent national donor gamete campaigns to help alleviate this shortage.

“All donations are altruistic and are made through a desire to help those people in Scotland who need help becoming parents.

“All potential donors within NHS Scotland receive mandatory counselling, and the four NHS Assisted Conception Units give prospective donors accessible and up-to-date information to enable them to make informed decisions about any consent they then provide.

“This is a thorough process and it takes months to reach the point of donation.”