There are a number of reasons a woman may want to consider donating her eggs, whether she wants to help those in need who are trying to start their own families, or for the financial boost to start her own journey.
But no matter what those reasons may be, it’s one of the most generous things she can do in her lifetime. After all, donating one’s eggs provides the opportunity to have a baby for couples (including those with infertility issues and/or those in the LGBTQ community) who cannot conceive children on their own.
If you have ever considered donating your eggs, you may have a lot of unanswered questions and concerns. After all, it is a major life decision that has mental, financial, and physical implications to consider.
Things to Consider When it Comes to Egg Donation
We spoke to three respected professionals in the fertility field who gave us insights into the entire egg donation process, and everything a woman should think about when it comes to making this potentially life-changing choice, for both the donor and the parents.
“Once a woman has made the decision to donate her eggs, there are a few important things for her to consider,” says Renate Klam, the director of client relations of Conceptual Options LLC.
Some of these necessary questions to ask one’s self, Klam says, include: “What agency will you work with? How do you know if they are the right agency for you? Are you going to be protected medically and financially, as well as psychologically, through continual support and education, even after their donation is completed? Will your emotional needs, if any, be addressed?”
Other considerations one must make, according to Robyn Perchik, the managing partner of Beverly Hills Egg Donation, are time commitments (the process takes anywhere from 3–4 months and can include between 10–12 appointments in that time frame), drug testing (“Many doctors and intended parents do not want donors who have positive drug screens for nicotine, alcohol, and marijuana, even where they are legal”), and donor contracts (“Will the intended parents use all the embryo, donate them to science, or donate the embryo to a third party?”).
Understand What is Involved Medically
“Furthermore, and just as important,” Klam notes, “Women who are considering egg donation need to speak with their treating IVF physician before, during, and after the process so they understand what is involved medically in the process.”
In fact, your overall health (including any current medications you are on) should be a key factor in the decision, explains Amity Herrera, a certified physician assistant at Red Rock Fertility Center. In addition to your own (and your family’s history) of mental illnesses, Herrera says that any other serious health history issues (specifically breast or ovarian cancer) can be disqualifying factors.
If you have made all these major considerations and you’re ready to take the first steps in donating your eggs, here are some other important questions to have answered.
What Are the Age and Weight Limits of Donors?
While every agency is different, the ages and BMI (body mass index) of potential donors tend to fall within a certain range. At BHED, “an egg donor is any female, generally between the ages of 21 and 29, with a BMI of less than 27,” while CO is “looking for donors who are 21-29, with a BMI of 25 and under.”
What is the Egg Donation Process Like?
Egg donation can be broken down into various parts, the first of which, Perchik explains, “is a basic pre-screen for donors who are qualified.” If a potential donor has passed the pre-screen process, they’ll fill out the application, which outlines personal and family health, education, and occupation, and may include a short essay on why you want to become an egg donor.
Once the information is reviewed, Perchik says the donor will have an in-person interview and will be asked to supply proof of identity, review policies, and provide transcripts. “If the donor successfully completes all these steps, we ask them to get a current PAP and STD test,” Perchik says.
After that, the donor will be in the program’s database, allowing parents who are looking for an egg donor to see your profile. Once a donor is matched with intended parents, Perchik explains there will be psychological screenings to decide whether the person is suitable to continue the process. From there, you’ll meet with a counselor to go over your health history, of which a report will be written. You’ll then have an initial medical appointment where a doctor will do a physical exam, ultrasound, and bloodwork.
“Once the donor is medically cleared, she will undergo an IVF cycle where she will take injectable medication for about 8-10 days on average,” Herrera says. “Once her eggs are mature, the clinic will give her a trigger shot to mature her eggs and get them ready for egg retrieval. Egg retrieval will be timed for 36 hours after the trigger shot.”
Perchik notes that the egg retrieval generally takes place within two weeks of the start of medication.
What Does Egg Donation Pay?
All of the experts we spoke to said this can vary, but the average compensation for a cycle can be anywhere from $5,000-$10,000.
Compensation, Klam explains, depends on “adherence to the doctor’s protocol, time, and risk with the financial amount they have requested.”
What is the Legal Process of Egg Donation?
Though it varies from each donor, parent, and clinic, Perchik says that legal process generally takes two weeks to complete when it comes to egg donation.
“We refer an attorney to the donor to review the Egg Donor Contract with her, the cost of which is paid by the intended parent,” she says, adding, “There are several things that come up in the Egg Donor Contract, which include a restatement of when and the amount the donor will be paid.”
The contract also covers any travel expenses, any potential future contact that has been agreed upon, as well as what will be done with the final disposition of the embryo (i.e. will they all be used or donated to science).
“Once both the intended parents and the donor have signed their agreement, the intended parent’s attorney will provide legal clearance to the doctor,” Perchik says.
What Does Egg Retrieval Entail/Feel Like?
Herrera says that the actual retrieval only takes about 15-20 minutes and is performed vaginally, under anesthetic sedation.
“The donor is in recovery for an hour, and then will be allowed to proceed home with a companion, never alone,” Perchik says.
Because a donor has had anesthesia, it’s suggested to take the rest of the day (and the following day) to relax and recover.
What Are the Potential Side Effects of Egg Donation?
As with any procedure that has anesthesia, there are risks associated with that. Perchik also says that there could be possible bloating and cramping, similar to that of a menstrual cycle, after the egg retrieval process.
Flu-like symptoms are also a potential side effect of the retrieval, says Herrera, and “There is always a risk the donor can hyperstimulate so it is important to go to reputable clinics who are used to working with donors. The donor should not overheat, exercise or have intercourse during the cycle.”
How Many Times Can a Woman Donate Her Eggs?
“Although there is no rule or law regarding how many times a woman can donate her eggs, we recommend that a woman only donate a maximum of six times during her lifetime based on guidelines from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM),” says Klam. Exceptions can be made to this when it comes to what’s known as a sibling cycle.
Does Donating Your Eggs Lower Your Own Chances of Getting Pregnant Someday?
“There is no current research that states that egg donation will impact an egg donor’s future fertility,” Klam says. “However, all of our egg donors are required to discuss any of their concerns regarding the egg donation procedure and/or medications with the IVF physician before she starts any egg donation cycle.
Klam also points out that “a woman is typically born with a million eggs, and she gives an average of only 10 to 20 eggs when she donates. An egg donor has many more eggs than she will ever use.”
What Are Some of the Biggest Misconceptions About Egg Donors/Donations?
There are a few, perhaps most notably that donors are simply in it for the money, says Herrera. “Donors are normal people who think they are doing something wonderful for a family while allowing themselves the ability to help with school or make plans for their future. Both parties give each other a gift.”
Another misconception is that parents of a baby that came from a donor will not have as strong a connection. But Herrera ensures, “I have never come across a family who used a donor egg and has been regretful. Most of the time, they wonder why it took them so long to move forward with a donor.”