What It Takes to Become an Egg Donor
A Stranger’s Eggs
Roughly 15 percent of American couples struggle with infertility. And while fertility drugs, in vitro fertilization, and other fertility technologies do not work, couples who can afford it are turning to egg donors. Some ads in college newspapers offer as much as 10,000 dollars for the perfect eggs, a sum which would buy half a semester at some private schools. It is a tempting amount of money to many financially strapped college girls. But critics say the ads often focus on the desperation of infertile couples and the money they can be willing to spend and gloss over the obligations and also risks to the donor.
The American Fertility Association, that provides information for couples having trouble conceiving a baby, says egg donation may mean the difference between no kids and a family for a babyless couple.
But this lofty contribution by a young lady also requires drugs, at least a monthlong time commitment and a risk, though small of medical complications. Psychologists who work with egg donors say potential donors should also realize they’re creating a baby they can never acknowledge or have a relationship with.
Questions to Ask
How It Works
When the rules vary from program to program. The egg donors are working with reputable clinics would expect a battery of medical and psychological tests, including a medical exam, blood tests, and cultures for sexually transmitted diseases. Potential egg donors also meet with a geneticist to discuss family medical history in order to identify transmissible conditions, like as cystic fibrosis, which could rule them out as donors. Dr. Licciardi suggests rejecting programs that do screening by phone or by mail.
when donors are medically, psychologically, and genetically cleared, their anonymous profile can be matched with infertile couples looking for their characteristics. This process would take several months. Couples look for a variety of characteristics in donors, explains Dr. Richard Scott, the director of Reproductive Medical Associates in New York City.
“We see all kinds of differing opinions on what couples are looking for in a donor. They’re not necessarily concerned about whether these ladies are beautiful or not,” Dr. Scott says. “Healthy and intelligent almost always end up as the number one and number 2 factors the recipient parents are looking for in a donor. But beyond it, recipients look for different things. Some who looks basically like them or has a similar religious background, for example.”
when chosen, egg donors endure 2 to 3 weeks of hormone injections, which can result in occasional mood changes. Donors need to have many blood tests and ultrasounds to monitor the progress of the eggs before the egg retrieval.
“We are actually giving them the similar type of medications that an infertile patient would take during a cycle. That is why egg donors have to be monitored carefully because if you give them too much or too little, it is very dangerous,” explains Dr. Scott. “The cycle, when they are actually going through treatment, typically lasts two to three weeks. During that time they can anticipate being seen 6 – 7 times, plus the retrieval.”
The retrieval usually takes place in a doctor’s office or hospital, usually under general anesthesia. A needle is being placed through the vagina into the ovaries, where the eggs are removed. The procedure takes about fifteen minutes. Donors are typically able to return home in an hour or 2 after the procedure and can go back to normal activities the next day. Exercise needs to be limited throughout the injection period and for 2 weeks after the egg retrieval. Donors usually get their period of about ten to fourteen days after the retrieval.
Physical risks to the donors are rare but possible, says Dr. Licciardi. The overstimulation of the ovaries can occur if the ovaries are too sensitive to the drugs to become larger than usual, requiring hospitalization. Doctors will usually avoid this by lowering the dose of drugs as the cycle progresses, if necessary or by stopping the cycle if it looks as though hyperstimulation is occurring. Keeping checkup appointments will help avoid the risk.
Bleeding and infection during egg retrieval is very rare but can occur and would require antibiotics or a transfusion.
There’s generally no risk to the donor’s own fertility, later on, says Dr. Licciardi, unless she developed a severe infection during the process or procedure.
Originally created for AmericanBaby.com, with additional reporting by Stephanie Jones Wagle, June 2004.