Embarking on the path of egg donation is a profound and selfless choice that brings joy to individuals and couples longing for the gift of parenthood.
If you have ever wondered about donating your eggs but found yourself overwhelmed with questions about the process, this article is for you. Our goal is to answer most, if not all, of the most important questions concerning egg donation.
A Look at the Egg Donation Process
An egg donation occurs when a woman donates her eggs to a partner, friend, or stranger to help them with the reproductive process. In other words, egg donations make it possible for recipients to have a baby with a sperm donor or partner.
Part of the egg donation process involves a doctor removing eggs from the donor’s ovaries. The eggs are then fertilized with sperm (either the partner’s sperm or a sperm donor) in a process known as in vitro fertilization. Once fertilized, the embryos are then implanted in a woman’s uterus. The woman will become pregnant if the embryo implants into the uterus.
Why Women Become Egg Donors?
Many people are under the mistaken impression that women decide to donate their eggs because they get paid to do it. While egg donor compensation is part of the process, it does not necessarily motivate women to become egg donors. After all, the egg donation process is quite tedious. How so?
- It involves multiple trips to a clinic.
- It can take up a lot of free (and non-free) time.
- Potential donors must go through a stringent screening process.
All of this is done to ensure that the donor is donating her eggs for reasons beyond monetary compensation. What are these reasons? Let’s have a look at three reasons why women become egg donors.
- Compassion: Most egg donors undergo the process because they feel compassion toward those who want children but cannot. Also, they may have a good idea of the struggles couples go through to start a family. Last but not least, through their egg donations, donors often help LGBT couples and infertile couples start a family.
- Empowerment: Before a woman can donate her eggs, she must undergo stringent medical and genetic testing. While the procedure is intended to help prospective parents, it also helps the donor know her own body.
- Joy: Many couples struggle for years to have a family. An egg donor is an infertile couple’s chance to experience the joy of parenthood. Donors and surrogates also feel joyful knowing that they helped intended parents realize their dream of parenthood.
Requirements to Donate Eggs
What are the requirements for egg donation? There are seven typical criteria for donors.
- Must be 21 to 32 years of age (this may vary from clinic to clinic)
- Healthy range for weight and height (healthy BMI )
- No drugs
- No smoking
- Review medical history that includes family history, surgeries, etc.
- Undergo a gynecological exam.
- Undergo various tests that relate to mental health, sexually transmitted infections, genetic history, and medical history.
Please note that egg donor criteria can vary by clinic.
Here are some examples of agencies’ screening processes and requirements for egg donors:
Steps of the Egg Donation Process:
If you decide to become an egg donor, your donation process will consist of two main steps.
Step 1: Medication Cycle
After the donor has gone through the medical screening phase and is given the “green light,” she will have to wait for her next menstrual period to begin the donor cycle. After 21 days, the physician will administer several medication injections to stimulate the ovaries’ egg maturation process.
Next, donors will be given morning appointments to be monitored at the fertility center. These appointments, which can last up to an hour, are set between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. The purpose of these appointments is to determine how the body responds to the medications, and they are mandatory.
The injections will continue until about 36 hours before the egg retrieval process. The doctor will administer one final injection to prep the eggs for maturation and retrieval.
Step 2: Egg Retrieval Process
During the retrieval process, donors will receive “twilight” anesthesia through an IV. The doctor will use a vaginal ultrasound probe to guide a small needle into the vaginal wall to reach the ovaries and eggs.
This process takes at least 30 minutes. Donors will need to rest after the procedure and are advised to avoid sexual activity or any strenuous physical activity until their doctor clears them.
There are no significant risks associated with egg donation. However, it’s essential to talk with your doctor to learn about the possible side effects of egg donation before donating your eggs.
Types of Egg Donors and Ways of Donating Eggs
There are two main types of egg donors:
- Anonymous Donors: These are donors who want to remain anonymous. An anonymous egg donor will provide her eggs to an unidentified infertile woman or couple. The donor and recipient are matched by criteria specified by the receiving woman or couple.
- Known Donors: These donors choose to reveal themselves and may have contact with the egg recipient. Usually, known donors are relatives or friends of the egg recipient (sister, friend, cousin, etc.)
Additionally, egg donation can be pursued through various channels, giving individuals flexibility in their decision-making. There are three primary ways:
- Through an Egg Donor Agency: Think of these agencies as job recruiters. They pay you based on your qualifications; the better your qualifications, the more you get paid
- Through a Clinic with Donor Services: Some clinics have services specifically for egg donation. It’s a more formal process, and they guide you through it.
- Direct Donation to a Friend or Family Member: If you prefer a personal approach, you can directly donate your eggs to someone you know, like a friend or family member. It’s a more intimate way to help.
Egg Donation Risks
While the egg donation process is considered quite safe, there is a possibility of donors experiencing short-term effects. Some of the more common possible side effects are:
- Antibiotics: You will be given antibiotics to prevent bacterial infections from occurring. Some of these antibiotics can cause an allergic reaction. If you believe you’re having an allergic reaction to an antibiotic, let your doctor know right away.
- Medications: In the egg donation and retrieval, you are given medication to mature your eggs. These medications can cause bloating, extreme tiredness, moodiness, and headaches. There have been some rare cases of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, which is very treatable.
- Blood-Drawing: Most blood draws lead to bruising and discomfort at the site of the draw.
- Ultrasound-guided retrieval process: After the eggs have been retrieved, you may experience pain, bleeding, bowel discomfort, and infection. Although rare, there have been cases where an egg donor has undergone surgery to repair internal damage resulting from the retrieval process.
- Pregnancy: An egg donor is much more likely to get pregnant after the retrieval process due to the fertility-boosting medications that were given to her. Do not have unprotected sex until your doctor has cleared you.
FAQ about the Egg Donation Process
Let’s answer the seven common questions about how to become an egg donor.
How much money do egg donors make?
Before becoming an egg donor, you might ask, “How much money do you get for donating eggs?” There is no simple answer to this question because the amount of money a donor makes will depend on several factors:
- Donor location
- Donation history
- Ethnicity (e.g., East Indian, Asian, and Jewish donors are in high demand)
What is the cost of an egg donation process?
The total egg donation cost for the intended parents will depend on several things, including medical expenses, agency fees, IVF costs, donor compensations, travel, legal expenses, etc.
How many times can you donate eggs?
While the American Society of Reproductive Medicine has found nothing to suggest that egg donation can have adverse long-term effects, donors are allowed a maximum of six donations. Before each cycle, the clinic must review the medical records to ensure that a donor is eligible for donation.
How often can you donate eggs?
Most women donate more than once because they find the egg donation process gratifying. If you want to donate more than once, your body must have two regular periods between cycles.
If you donate your eggs, can you still have babies?
The egg donation process does not affect your ability to become pregnant. Women are born with about 2 million eggs. Every menstrual cycle, about 15-20 eggs mature inside your ovaries. Of these, usually one is released. When you go through the egg donation process, you will receive medication that will mature all the eggs in your follicles, which are naturally available in that specific cycle.
What’s the difference between fresh vs. frozen eggs?
In an IVF cycle with fresh donor eggs, the donated eggs are immediately fertilized with sperm. These embryos are then transferred to the intended mother or gestational carrier or are frozen for future use.
On the other hand, if the IVF cycle is performed with frozen donor eggs, the eggs retrieved during the egg donation process will be immediately cryopreserved and fertilized later.