Long considered mysterious, egg donation has become more familiar to the general public in the last few years. This is due not only to the growing number of egg donation agencies, but also the media’s interest in the field of assisted reproduction.
Consequently, a growing number of young women are finding themselves interested in learning more about the process and trying to decide if this is right for them. For those who find themselves asking whether or not they'd like to help others expand their families in this way, here is a list of 10 Things Every Potential Donor Should Know About Egg Donation:
1. Egg donors, on average, are physically and mentally healthy young women
They're typically between the ages of 21 and 28 who are willing to donate their eggs to a couple or an individual wishing to expand their family. Most agencies believe that love, not DNA, makes a family and do not discriminate against LGBT or single-parent families.
2. Egg donors take a series of injection medications for approximately two to three weeks.
Most reproductive endocrinologists agree that the ideal number of eggs to be retrieved is 15, although the number varies. Donors will also need several appointments with specialists to have their ovaries checked and their blood tested for hormone levels.
3. More and more donors and their recipient families are choosing to meet and even stay in touch.
The general consensus among psychologists in the industry is that this will eventually be the child’s journey and thus, the more open and willing the intended parents and donor are to future contact, the better it is psychologically for the child or children who are born as a result of this process. Meeting your recipient parent(s) is not a requirement, but it’s becoming more common and is widely encouraged.
4. In order to start the process of egg donation, donors must complete a psychological and genetic evaluation and an intensive medical screening.
Such factors as a history of depression or mental illness in the donor or her family would likely result in her not being accepted to a program, as would a history of highly genetic diseases (i.e. more than one generation with breast cancer, epilepsy, heart disease, etc.). Similarly, donors who are significantly over or under weight would likely not pass their medical evaluations.
5. Egg donors are not paid for their eggs in the United States (that is illegal), rather they are paid for their discomfort, time and assumption of risk.
The average fee paid to egg donors is between $5,000 and $10,000. Higher fees are typically paid to repeat donors (i.e. the assumption of risk being higher with each subsequent donation).
6. There's a limit to how often you can donate.
The American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) suggests that an egg donor cap the number of times she donates to six. Most agencies and clinics adopt this as a general rule.
7. The risks of this process for the donor are relatively slim, but they are real.
The most common complication of egg donation is ovarian hyperstimulation. The symptoms occur one to four days after the retrieval process and most commonly include abdominal bloating and tenderness, temporary weight gain, nausea and/or diarrhea, constipation and shortness of breath.
Some donors choose to ride out the discomfort for several days while others may have the excess fluid in their abdomen and ovaries removed for more immediate relief. There are other, less common complications that should also be discussed with the assigned fertility doctor prior to moving forward with the egg donation process.
8. All egg donors should meet with an attorney.
Ideally this person is familiar with reproductive law to review the contract between the egg donor and the intended parent(s). If an agency neither offers a list of attorneys with whom the donor can work nor pays for this service, potential donors should be wary of continuing with that agency.
9. As with anything in life, not all agencies operate by the same high standards.
Good egg donation agencies will answer all of your questions and, upon request, refer you to a reproductive endocrinologist prior to your official admission to their program. Keep in mind that your profile and photos are being shown to prospective parents immediately after you agree to be a part of the program and sign the appropriate paperwork, so signing up with agencies that do not do a one-on-one screening (either in person, via phone or Skype) prior to including you in their donor database is not recommended.
10. It's a big responsibility.
The intended parents-to-be who choose you as their donor have probably had a long, difficult struggle with infertility and you, as their egg donor, are offering them a sense of renewed hope. All donors who apply to be part of this process should do so empathetically; be transparent and honest about your medical history, make sure you have the time and flexibility to make your doctor’s appointments, and if you aren’t sure about something, don’t be afraid to ask! You are doing an amazing thing for the people to whom you are donating but you need to constantly keep in mind that they are not only counting on your sense of generosity to help them create a family, but your sense of responsibility.