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The Pros and Cons of Becoming an Egg Donor

Pregnancy Journal
Published: May 31, 2019

 

Infertility can be devastating for couples who have long dreamed of building a family of their own. Despite a handful of treatment options available, donor eggs are often needed for women with diminished egg number or quality. Donor eggs are also used by same-sex male couples who wish to start a family.

Egg donations occur through a clinic or agency. At Methodist, we take pride in backing up the services and products we provide patients. Should an issue arise with the donor – which then impacts the quality of her eggs – another donor or “backup” would be identified for the patient. In other words, couples are never out the investment they make at Methodist.

In special cases, donor eggs may come from someone the hopeful couple knows, like a sister, relative or friend. That arrangement would lighten the financial burden for the couple and answer any unknowns about who their donation is coming from. Usually, egg donation is usually an anonymous process. The only details couples are typically given about their donors are features like height, hair and eye color, ethnicity or skin color, educational background, and personality.

With so many women in need of quality eggs, the wait list for donor eggs is extensive. It’s not uncommon for a couple to wait over a year for a donation. While the demand is great, the donation process is nothing to take lightly. There are benefits to becoming an egg donor, but there are also factors that may give you some pause.
 

The egg donation process

Before becoming an egg donor, you are required to undergo a rigorous screening process. At Methodist, we begin with a phone interview. If we want to find out more about you, we’ll ask you to come in for a face-to-face interview.

Ideally, an egg donor should be:

  • Approximately 30 years old or younger
  • A nonsmoker
  • In good health
  • Exercising no more than three hours a week
  • Responsible and trustworthy (showing up for appointments and taking medication as prescribed)

If you are selected to begin the process, you’ll likely need to take an oral contraceptive for a few weeks so your cycle can be controlled and aligned with the intended mother’s. Shortly after discontinuing birth control, you’ll begin fertility drug injections. These medications are meant to stimulate your ovaries so you produce several eggs at once.

You’ll continue with the injections for a couple weeks. During this period, you should refrain from sex. You will be very fertile, and you’ll have a high chance of becoming pregnant.

On the day of egg retrieval, you can expect to be put under with anesthesia as your medical team removes your eggs with a needle. The actual retrieval process takes roughly 10 to 15 minutes.

Recovery is a relatively quick process, with most women returning to work the following day. You can expect a full recovery and resume all normal activities within a few weeks.

While some women may experience cramping, bloating and other symptoms typically associated with PMS, many women experience little to no side effects at all.
 

The pros

The gift of a family

If you have children of your own, you’re likely familiar with the kind of love, pride and joy that each of them bring to your life.

What a gift to be able to share that with another couple who has felt the pain and suffering of not being able to conceive on their own.

Your decision to donate can provide hope and life. It can build a family and make dreams come true.

Compensation

As an egg donor, you can be compensated thousands of dollars per cycle. If it’s your first time, you can expect to be paid approximately $5,000 for your time and commitment. If everything goes well, and you choose to go through the process again, you can make even more.

If you’re in good health and deemed a candidate for donation, you can undergo up to six donation cycles throughout your life.

It costs nothing to donate, and you’ll have no financial obligation for any baby that is created with the help of your donation.


The cons

Complications

As is the case with any procedure, you do run the risk of experiencing complications. Antibiotics are used to help minimize the risk for infection, but it can happen.

In rare cases, some women may experience ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), which happens when the patient over-responds to the fertility drugs, causing swollen and painful ovaries. Depending on severity, it can be life-threatening.

You also run the risk of twisting your ovaries with strenuous activity. Surgery is needed to fix what is known as ovarian torsion, but this can be prevented by refraining from exercise.

Long-term effects

It’s natural to have some level of curiosity about the long-term health effects tied to egg donation.

At Methodist, your health and well-being is our top priority. We go to great lengths to ensure that you’re not only well-informed before making this decision, but also healthy enough.

Two of the most common questions potential egg donors often have are:

  • Does egg donation cause cancer?
  • Will it make me infertile?

While there are reports in which some former egg donors blame the fertility drugs they were once on for cancer diagnoses, most studies suggest there is no significant risk of female cancers with the use of such medication.

And while I have treated former egg donors for infertility, some studies suggest egg donation does not cause infertility. Regardless, most egg donors tend to be women who already know they don’t want children or women who are done having children.

A lengthy process

The entire egg donation process can take several months. You may need to factor in time for:

  • Screenings
  • Evaluations
  • Being matched with intended parents
  • The medication cycle
  • Various monitoring appointments
  • Recovery

It’s important to think about your current lifestyle and daily schedule before committing to what can be a lengthy and somewhat exhaustive process.

 

An important decision

If you think you’re ready to donate your eggs, there are a few more things you’ll want to consider – specifically with your emotions and mindset.

You must be OK with giving up your eggs and not feeling an attachment to them. You must be comfortable with the thought of never getting to meet the child your eggs helped create. Again, while the need is great, egg donation is simply not for everyone.

If, however, you’re intrigued by the thought of helping others in this way and getting paid for it, it’s certainly worth a conversation, and we’d love to hear from you. Contact Reproductive Health Specialists at Methodist Women’s Hospital today.

More resources

Carolyn Maud Doherty

About the Author:

Dr. Carolyn Maud Doherty always had an interest in medicine. She takes pride in the fact that patients can trust her to tell them exactly what their issues and options are.

“They know I’ll always give it to them straight,” she said. “And I think that’s important.”

She’s proud to be part of a health system that makes patient-care its top priority.

 

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