Increasing numbers of women are deciding to become egg donors. Egg donation plays a vital role for thousands of individuals and couples who cannot get pregnant and have children on their own, and for this reason, egg donors literally help other people’s dreams come true. Most donor egg recipients use donor eggs because the recipient’s eggs cannot be successfully fertilized. Sometimes aspiring parents get IVF and gestate the baby in their own body and sometimes the egg is fertilized with IVF and the resulting embryo is placed in a gestational surrogate who carries the baby until the aspiring parents take over after the child is born.
Because women choose to donate their eggs, thousands of babies are born each year from IVF using donor eggs and thousands of new families are formed!
If you’re thinking about becoming an egg donor, you should know that it comes with great responsibilities as well as rewards. I created this page to serve as a resource to assist you as you make your decision.
Steps to becoming an egg donor
1. Make sure you fit the general qualifications for egg donors.
There are a number of general qualifications for egg donors. Age restrictions are common; usually egg donors are only accepted if they are 21 to approximately 35 years of age. Since the number and quality of a woman’s ova decline after her late thirties, older egg donors are usually not accepted.
In addition to the age requirements, you must also have a good family health history. If your family’s health history includes genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis or Tay Sachs disease, you may not qualify. Usually qualifications also include a weight limit or maximum BMI (body mass index). Finally, if you have a history of abusing alcohol or illegal drugs, you may not qualify.
2. Consider both the rewards and the risks of becoming an egg donor.
In terms of rewards, it is well known that egg donors are paid to donate eggs. At egg donor agencies that abide by the ASRM guidelines, egg donor compensation is limited to $10,000 per cycle, but the average payment is about $4,200. Although there are stories of egg donors receiving much higher amounts, most egg donors don’t make more than the specified limits unless they deal with individual donor egg recipients.
Aside from the monetary compensation, many egg donors report strong feelings of pride about what they’ve accomplished. While feelings of personal accomplishment won’t help you pay for college tuition or rent, they can bolster your self-esteem. According to a recent study, two-thirds of egg donors report feeling a sense of personal satisfaction for helping others have children.
But researchers don’t know enough about the risks of egg donation. Most researchers agree the short-term health risks from donating eggs are similar to those infertile women face when they get IVF (in vitro fertilization) treatments, the medical procedure that creates human embryos from eggs and sperm outside a woman’s body. The most common complication is ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, a medical condition which can range from mild symptoms such as bloating to severe ones like kidney failure, and even death.
The medications used in egg donation can cause mood swings, headaches, abdominal bloating, weight gain, nausea, and stinging pain at the injection site for some women. The egg harvesting procedure itself could lead to acute ovarian trauma, infection, infertility, vaginal bleeding, and lacerations and the anesthesia used could result in complications. In one study, 1.5 percent of the egg donors in the study required hospitalization due to complications from the egg harvesting procedure.
3. Find a local fertility clinic or egg donor agency.
Now you need to locate the local fertility clinics and egg donor agencies in your area. Study the agencies’ web sites and call them if you have any questions.
4. Fill out the egg donor application and submit it.
Although this step in the process seems self-evident, you should know a few things about the application process. First, it can be very time-consuming. Egg donor applications ask a lot of questions about your personal life, including education, work experience, previous pregnancies, as well as personal and family health history.
Frequently applications ask for photographs of you and any children you may have so that they can place them on your profile page in their donor database. Since your selection as an egg donor partly depends on this photo, I suggest you have a friend take a good picture which you can attach to the application. Out of focus photos, or photos in which you (or your children) are not the sole subject should not be sent.
5. Complete the medical and psychological screening process.
If you’ve gotten this far, it means you’ve completed an egg donor application and the agency or clinic has selected you to proceed with the next step: medical and psychological screenings. This step in the process may span several doctors’ appointments.
You will have a physical examination that including a pelvic exam. In this exam, doctors will draw your blood to check your hormone levels and perform an ultrasound, to examine your uterus, ovaries and other reproductive organs.
You will be screened for a number of infectious diseases, including sexually transmitted infections (chlamydia, gonorrhea, etc), hepatitis A, B and C and HIV.
Most egg donor programs also screen for inherited genetic diseases such as Huntington’s Disease.
In addition to the physical screenings, egg donor programs will perform psychological screening to assess your psychological health and your understanding of the egg donation procedures and requirements. Reputable egg donor programs want to minimize the chance that you will have regrets or psychological problems, or that you will experience psychological trauma from donating.
6. Wait to be matched with a donor egg recipient.
This step may entail a lot of waiting, or you may be picked fairly quickly. In either case, you need to be prepared for the fact that it is the donor egg recipients who do the choosing, not the donor. A good egg donor program should stay in close contact with you to let you know how the selection process is proceeding.
7. Complete the egg donation cycle.
Congratulations! If you’ve made it this far it means you’ve been selected by an aspiring parent or couple to become their egg donor.
An egg donation cycle lasts approximately three to six weeks and includes numerous appointments with fertility doctors. Previously I’ve described the egg donation process, but you should know that this step is the most physically and psychologically demanding. The doctors will prescribe numerous fertility drugs that each come with side effects.
Initially you will be prescribed a drug like Lupron to shut down your ovaries’ production of egg follicles. Fertility doctors need to be able to regulate your cycle and synchronize it with your recipient’s cycle. If this is prescribed, you will be asked to give yourself daily injections for a week or more. To see what that entails you should watch this video of an egg donor injecting herself with Lupron.
After synchronizing your cycle with your recipient’s cycle, the doctors will then begin stimulating your ovaries to produce eggs. Youur doctors will prescribe follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH) to increase the number of mature eggs your body produces. FSH injections are similar to the natural hormones your body produces. Most FSH cycles last about 10 days. Throughout this step in the cycle your doctors will continually monitor you with blood tests and perform ultrasound exams to determine your reaction to the hormones and the progress of follicle growth.
When your doctors decide your follicles are mature, they will schedule your egg retrieval. About 36 hours before your retrieval, you will be given an injection of the hormone HCG (or Human chorionic gonadotropin) to ensure that your eggs are ready to be harvested. You should not schedule anything else on the day of your egg retrieval.
The egg retrieval procedure is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that lasts about 30 minutes and requires a light general anesthetic, or “twilight”. The doctor will use a small ultrasound-guided needle inserted through the vagina to aspirate the follicles in both of your ovaries. Immediately following the egg retrieval you will rest in a recovery room for an hour or two.
Because you’ll still be sleepy after the retrieval, you will need a friend to drive you home. It can take one full day up to a week to fully recover, but generally donors can resume their normal activities the next day after retrieval.
8. Attend follow-up medical check-up.
Most programs schedule one or two follow-up appointments with a fertility doctor and a psychologist to make sure you’ve recovered from the egg retrieval. These are usually within a week after the procedure.
9. Get paid!
Within a few days after your medical check-up, you should receive your payment. Be sure to include the payment as taxable income on your income taxes.
For more tips and advice on becoming an egg donor, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Donating Eggs.