What To Know Before Donating Your Eggs

Pregnancy | | Natasha Weiss
5 min read

Fertility technology is pretty incredible these days. Breakthroughs in the field have given people more and more options, especially in the face of fertility issues or when navigating parenthood as a queer couple or single person. 

One of these breakthroughs is egg donation. This is the use of someone else’s eggs, or ovum, to help people in their journey to becoming parents. Egg donation of course requires a donor. 

This brings up a lot of questions. Why do people donate their eggs? What is the process like? Are there any potential risks of egg donation? We’re here to clear up any confusion if you’ve been thinking about donating your eggs, or are looking for a donor.

Why People Donate Their Eggs

Egg donation is a lot more complex than sperm donation for example, so it begs the question – why? We’ll dive more into the process later on, but first, let’s explore the different reasons people are motivated to donate their eggs.

Financial Benefits

One of the most common reasons people donate their eggs is because of the significant compensation they can receive. Egg donation is not legal in every country, and even in countries where it’s legal, it may not be legal to compensate donors. 

In The United States, compensation is legal in some states, like California. In these states, payment can range anywhere from $5,000-$50,000 USD, and more in some cases. 

To Help People Start a Family

Whether you’re donating to a close friend or family member, or anonymously, egg donation is quite literally making someone’s dreams come true. Becoming a parent is not always straightforward, especially for queer couples or those that have had issues with becoming or staying pregnant. 

Donating your eggs gives you the satisfaction and fulfillment of helping make the dream of becoming a parent a reality.

To Be an Advocate for Fertility Issues

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about one in six people are affected by infertility. Donating your eggs helps create options for people struggling with infertility while being an advocate for the community. 

To Preserve Your Own Fertility

Freezing your eggs helps give you more fertility options in the future while taking the pressure off the present. But it’s an expensive process. Shared donor programs will cover the egg freezing fee or part of an IVF fee in exchange for donating some of the eggs retrieved. 

A Combination of Reasons

These different reasons are not mutually exclusive. People can benefit from the large payout they get from donating, while also feeling emotional gratification that they made a huge difference in someone’s life. 

Who Is Eligible for Egg Donation

Unsurprisingly, egg donation often requires a strict screening process. Strict eligibility requirements are to help ensure the best possible outcome for donor recipients. Some requirements may seem arbitrary and don’t necessarily have research to back them up, but different clinics are allowed to set their own requirements. 

The most common requirements for egg donors include: 

  • Between the ages of 20-30
  • Having both ovaries
  • No prior or current substance abuse
  • No smoking or illegal drugs
  • Minimal alcohol use, or social drinking only
  • No use of hormonal birth control or contraceptive devices
  • Having a regular menstrual cycle
  • Proportional height and weight
  • Flexibility in schedule to attend all appointments and take all medications for about three months
  • No family history of inheritable genetic disorders
  • Psychologically and physically healthy
  • Are able to abstain from intercourse during the process

Other more arbitrary requirements or preferences include having a University degree and having achieved high scores on standardized tests.

The Egg Donation Process

The first part of the process is going through a detailed medical, family, and personal history screening to ensure you meet the specific clinic’s requirements. After that, you may be required to meet with a psychologist or social worker, as well as a genetic counselor and fertility specialist. You’ll also be screened for infectious and genetic diseases and reproductive hormone levels.

The retrieval process is the same for people who are freezing their eggs or are undergoing IVF. If you’re selected, you’ll then start the cycle synchronization process which involves the use of artificial hormones. This typically involves going on hormonal birth control for a short period of time while starting injections of a synthetic hormone (typically leuprolide) that temporarily stops normal ovarian function. 

You’ll then use injectable follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) to help stimulate egg production. These injections are typically done by yourself at home. During routine office visits you’ll most likely have blood tests performed as well as vaginal ultrasounds to track your progress. 

After one to two weeks of the stimulating phase, you will then go in for the egg retrieval procedure. Egg retrieval is done by using an ultrasound probe in the vagina to identify follicles and a needle with a suction device to remove the eggs. This involves light general anesthesia so you will need someone to drive you to and from the appointment. 

Most people can resume normal activities after the retrieval, but some may need a day of downtime. The donation clinic or donor recipients typically pay for all medical and travel expenses.

Risks of Egg Donation

While minimally invasive, egg donation is still a complicated and time-intensive process. One deterrent for people is the risk of possible side effects. Let’s look at what those are. 

Some people do experience side effects from the use of hormones or during the egg retrieval:

  • Irritation, pain, or redness at the injection site
  • Bloating, weight gain, abdominal pain
  • Swelling of the ovaries

Although rare, more serious risks of egg donation include:

  • An allergic reaction to hormones
  • Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) occurs in 1% of donor cycles
  • Bleeding during retrieval that requires hospitalization
  • Damage to internal organs or infection

Currently, there is no comprehensive data or research that egg donation can harm your future fertility. 

Deciding if Egg Donation is Right for You

Deciding to donate your eggs is not a simple decision. There are potential risks, as well as being a fairly big time commitment. 

It’s important to weigh the pros and cons which includes looking at your motivations compared with the potential risks of the process. While most clinics require psychological screening, it may also be helpful to speak with your own mental health provider as well as people who have previously done it. Only you can decide if egg donation is the right choice.

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