I vividly remember seeing the ads when I was in college.
Earn money by donating your eggs.
That was almost two decades ago, but the requests are still common to this day. Women are promised money for their eggs and many do it because college expenses are real. I personally did not donate back then because I had an academic scholarship and a part-time job that covered my bills. I didn’t need the promised thousands in order to survive or get through school.
The burning question stands.
Who is placing these ads and why do they want my eggs?
Now I’m on the other end of the spectrum. I realized this recently when I was in conversation with someone I know and she said this…
I’ve met my match. I’ve encountered the one thing that being smart and working hard won’t fix.
This person was talking about the reality of finding out that her egg quality was such that getting pregnant spontaneously or by IVF would likely take a miracle. Her eggs quality was found to be too low to conceive a pregnancy.
It can happen to anyone at any age, but it can become more likely as we get older. We are born with all of the eggs we will ever have or need, but at some point, the eggs can become abnormal, or not respond to the hormonal signals intended to make them release, or ovulate.
That leaves one option for having a pregnancy in your own body: Egg Donation.
I will answer the following questions in this post:
- Who is the best person to donate?
- Why do fertility centers target college students for donation?
- What does donation mean PHYSICALLY for the donor?
- What financial costs and compensation can be expected?
- Does egg donation take your best eggs? What health risks are associated with egg donation?
With an egg donor pregnancy, a woman is given hormones to prepare her body for pregnancy. The donor egg is fertilized by sperm in a lab. The sperm can come from your partner or a sperm donor. The embryo (which is the egg and sperm united) is allowed to divide and germinate for 3-5 days, and is then implanted into the uterus of the mother-to-be.
The egg quality is important when it comes to the chances of the pregnancy taking hold and leading to a live pregnancy. The age of the person who the eggs came from (the donor) and her health matter. The health of the mother-to-be who will receive the embryo matters too. The younger the age of the egg donor, the better for the chance of a live birth.
Who is the best person to donate?
The younger the eggs the better. That is because the eggs from a young adult are statistically more likely to result in a live birth than those from an older adult. They are more normal and healthy. They are more likely to function properly.
Many ladies or couples in search of an egg donor also want to see that the person doesn’t carry any high risk genetic diseases that could drastically impact the health of the baby. They want to know the health, ethnicity and credentials of the donor. A person or couple selects a donor based on something like a resume containing their complete bio.
Why do fertility centers market to college students?
It is because people in search of an egg donor are also often interested in their future child being smart. Someone with ambition and showing signs of academic success is highly coveted. Also, a young adult is often physically healthier and less likely to experience complications from the ovulation induction process (the process required to donate eggs.)
What does egg donation mean for the donor, physically?
Normally a person’s ovaries release one egg per month. In the setting of egg donation, it is ideal to essentially ripen at least 12-15 or more eggs for harvest in a single month. There is a process involved to achieve this.
There are a number of hormonal injections needed to make a persons ovaries produce more than one egg at a time. A donor should expect to be on hormonal birth control for one month, then be prepared for multiple injections, blood draws and ultrasounds within the month of the planned egg aspiration (removal).
There are potential side effects and risks as well, including bloating, abdominal discomfort, the formation of blood clots, and ovarian hyper-stimulation. Abstinence is also important during this time for various reasons.
There can also be emotional side effects of hormonal stimulation. Mood changes can absolutely be a thing. A psychiatric evaluation is often performed prior to initiating the process and therapists are often on hand to help women manage through the ups and downs associated with ovulation induction.
What financial costs are associated and what does compensation look like?
The medications used to stimulate the ovaries cost thousands of dollars. They money paid to the donor ranges based on location, ethnicity, experience etc. Some estimated fees are listed here on the ConceiveAbility website. The total cost to the recipient of an egg donor egg can range easily from 30,000-60,000.
Egg donor compensation usually averages around $8,000, when a cycle is completed with retrieved eggs. Remember, that dollar amount depends on health, experience, and yes, ethnicity. I have seen compensation higher than $10,000, and closer to $5,000. This is taxable income. You will receive a 1099. I don’t know if compensation is negotiable, but it’s worth asking.
Does egg donation take your best eggs?
That depends on what you mean by “best”. The best eggs from a fertility perspective are your youngest eggs. The younger you donate or even get pregnant, the healthier the eggs are. While young pregnancy can present many other challenges, from an egg quality perspective, the younger the better.
We are born with all of the eggs we will ever have. This is in contrast to men who make new sperm every day. We are born with about 1-2 million eggs. By the time puberty happens, that number is reduced down to about 400,000. In our entire fertile lifetime, we release about 500 eggs. Yes 500 eggs, out of 400,000.
By the time menopause happens, there are about 25,000 eggs left. This is because every month you also prepare more than one egg to release but the ones that don’t release kind of fizzle and die like old fruit that didn’t get picked. The point of all of this math is that there are a LOT of extra eggs. The older you get, the older your eggs get. So if you don’t donate, it isn’t like you are saving those eggs for later. Well, that is unless you really DO save your own eggs for later by freezing them. But egg freezing is another discussion with it’s own benefits and risks.
Egg donation can put the ovaries at risk. Ovarian hyper-stimulation, at its worst, can lead to the loss of one or both ovaries. This risk is highest if you get stimulated but DON’T go through with the procedure and have the eggs removed. The take home message there is, if you start the process, you should finish it in order to minimize the risk of the ovaries being in jeopardy. If you are unsure, don’t even go down that path at all.
Ultimately, if you are considering egg donation…
… do your research. Make sure the place you are working with seems reputable and has high levels of screening and surveillance. Make sure your compensation and expenses are reasonable. Be sure to pay close attention to your own symptoms, both physical and emotional in order to make sure the process is as safe as possible.
And above all, remember that you are giving someone a gift that they couldn’t get on their own. People only seek egg donors when they can’t use their own eggs but still want to be pregnant with a child. A partner can have the biological child they always wanted. A woman can experience pregnancy if her ovaries aren’t capable of providing the egg. You are giving these people a chance to even have and carry biological siblings depending on your egg production.
Even though we talk a lot about money, it is truly a priceless gift.
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