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The Gift of Life: The Rewards of Becoming an Egg Donor

Jessica Joseph, RN, BSN, MHA
March 16, 2023
Three young women outdoors who are potential egg donors
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Egg donation is a unique gift. Egg donors are in a generous position to help individuals, who cannot have children, expand or create their families. Intended parents, who achieve pregnancy using donated eggs, have immense gratitude towards their egg donor. Although the process is tedious, the end result can be rewarding for all parties involved.  Most egg donors I’ve worked with state the primary reason they donate their eggs is to help individuals who struggle with infertility, with the added benefit of being compensated monetarily.

 

Common questions that might arise are for an egg donor are:

 

What should I expect from the egg retrieval procedure?

Will I get to know the children produced from my eggs?

How long does egg donation take?

What amount of compensation will I receive?

 

Egg Donation Timeline and Screening

Egg donation involves electively donating your eggs to help a couple or individual who cannot achieve pregnancy on their own. According to Bright Expectations, the process can take two to three months, from health screening to the egg retrieval to recuperation after the surgery.  First, you will undergo a preliminary assessment to determine if you can donate your eggs.  The screening process involves diagnostic testing, which requires blood work for hormones, genetic conditions, and infectious diseases.  An ultrasound of the ovaries may be performed to predict how many eggs can be retrieved.

 

A psychological evaluation needs to be performed by a licensed therapist. During the assessment, common topics covered are family and medical history, understanding what it means to give up your eggs, and potentially having biological children you may never know.  Another consideration the therapist might review is the potential risk of biological children finding you via third-party DNA testing companies, such as 23 and Me and Ancestry.com.  If you wish to remain anonymous, you may have to accept this risk of exposure.

 

Egg Donor Recruitment

There are several ways to become an egg donor, which include working with an egg donor agency or a fertility program at an IVF center. Regardless of your route, the health screening process is always the first step. Each agency and fertility program have a basic set of criteria. For instance, Egg Donor Solutions outlines essential guidelines for potential donors, including health, education, scheduling, and responsibilities.  

 

After all your testing returns and you are deemed eligible to donate your eggs, you await to be matched with your intended parents.  Most programs have a database of donors with pictures and traits such as height, weight, eye color, education level, languages spoken, and hobbies.

 

Legal Nuances with Egg Donation

Legal considerations must also be addressed with the intended parents, and you each retain separate legal counsel. Attorneys provided for you are paid for by the intended parents or the agency that recruited you. Legal contracts drafted by the attorneys will outline commitments for you and the intended parents.  This includes honoring timeline obligations for screening and procedures and financial reimbursement.  Other matters drawn in the contract are:

 

  • Legal rights for intended parents towards children that resulted from your eggs 

  • The intended parents' legal control of the eggs and embryos created from the eggs

  • Parental rights are released after eggs are retrieved from the donor.

 

 

Anonymous vs. Known Egg Donation

As an egg donor, you can remain anonymous or be known to the intended parents.  It is a personal and complex decision decided together during the screening process.  You have plenty of autonomy when it comes to making this decision.  Even if you choose to remain anonymous, there is still potential to be found via genetic testing labs. 

 

Women may also elect not to remain anonymous and wish to know the intended parents to ensure it is a proper fit.  Some donors even stay in touch with the intended parents and receive updates on how the offspring from their egg donation are doing.  Even if you choose to remain anonymous, bear in mind that the intended parents might ascertain some information about you that might be critical to the egg retrieval process and eligibility. If you are considering egg donation and decide to use an egg donor agency or work directly with a fertility program at an IVF center, it is important to carefully vet the agency to ensure its core values align with yours.

 

Costs and Reimbursement for Egg Donation

There are typically no out-of-pocket costs for you, as either the agency that recruits you or the intended parents pay for all up-front and accrued expenses.  This includes travel, hotel, incidentals, medications, diagnostic screening, egg retrieval procedures, legal fees, and therapist consultations.  Furthermore, you are usually compensated in the range of $10,000-$50,000, depending on the agency and geographic location. Rates can be negotiated and are generally mediated via the agency or attorney. 

 

Companies, such as Cofertility, now offer women the option to freeze their eggs as compensation for donating them. This is an excellent option for women who are concerned about when they can have children.  Egg freezing assures that you may not have issues later in life by freezing your eggs at a young age. 

 

Egg Donation Procedure

Once the screening process is complete and you qualify for donation, the egg retrieval procedure can be performed.  Egg donation is similar to in vitro fertilization, commonly called IVF.  The main difference is that the embryos created will be transferred to the woman carrying the pregnancy, not the egg donor. In most cases, this is the intended mother; in some cases, it might be a gestational carrier, or surrogate, who is carrying for another individual or couple. 

 

Egg donation is coordinated with your menstrual cycle.  You may be advised to call on the first day of your period and come in for a baseline sonogram and blood work to check hormone levels.  At that point, you may start a course of oral medications or injectable hormone medication, depending on the protocol laid out for you by the fertility specialist.  An assigned nurse or coordinator will guide you every step of the way, instructing you about medications and appointments.  The medications aim to make your ovaries produce multiple dominant follicles, so multiple eggs can be retrieved instead of ovulating just one egg. After starting the medication, you will come back every few days to see how your ovaries are responding to the medication via blood work and sonogram. Once most of your follicles are the desirable size, you will be given a trigger medication, and the egg retrieval procedure is scheduled for two days later.  The procedure is done under mild anesthesia, recuperation is typically quick, and complications are rare.  Most women can return to work the next day and resume all regular activity within the week.

 

Egg Donation Outcome

The eggs are usually inseminated by the intended father’s sperm or donor sperm on the same day of the egg retrieval.  The intended parents will be notified of how many embryos are created by the eggs retrieved in roughly one week.  Depending on the scenario, you may be informed about embryos and subsequent pregnancies based on the agency's contracts, legal contracts, and your status as an anonymous vs. known egg donor. 

Sources

https://www.brightexpectationsagency.com/blog/how-long-egg-donation-process/

 

https://www.cofertility.com/

 

https://eggdonorsolutions.com/egg-donors/egg-donor-criteria/

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