Are you thinking about becoming an egg donor?
Becoming an egg donor is a big decision, and it’s one that should take very careful consideration.
Egg donors help parents’ dreams of having a child come true. And while it can be extremely gratifying knowing you helped form a family, there is still a lot you should know before you sign up.
Unlike sperm donation, which is a quick trip to the sperm bank, egg donation is a long, tolling process. Many people who sign up for egg donation find out things along the way that they wish they knew beforehand.
So, what do you need to know about egg donation?
Read on to learn the top 9 facts you should know before becoming an egg donor.
1. It’s Highly Regulated
Even though millions of babies have been born through IVF (in-vitro fertilization–aka egg donation), there is still quite a bit of taboo around the subject.
Most of this taboo comes from people who don’t understand what egg donation is, or what it involves. One of the biggest misconceptions is that egg donation is some sort of back alley/black market process.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Egg donation is highly regulated by the FDA. In fact, the FDA treats egg donations the same way they treat the donations of other organs.
There’s an extremely thorough vetting process, both for the donors and the parents wanting to conceive. While some agencies are certainly “better” than others in terms of how they treat their donors, compensation, etc., you can rest assured knowing that none of these organizations are taking your eggs and selling them on the black market or performing shady medical procedures.
If you sign up to become an egg donor, you can rest assured knowing that you will be taken care of by highly trained medical professionals.
2. It’s a Big Commitment
Many people think egg donation is similar to sperm donation. With sperm donation, you sign up, go to the clinic, do your “business”, and then you’re on your way.
The reality is that egg donation is a huge commitment. From the time you send in an application to the time you actually donate your eggs, usually 6 months to 1 year will pass.
In fact, most egg donations agencies require you to give a minimum of a 6-month commitment before signing up.
Why does it take so long?
First, you need to go through an extremely thorough application process (more on that later). Then, if you sign up through an agency, which most people do, you need to wait until you have a match. The matching process involves potential parents looking through your profile and deciding if you are “the one”.
Sometimes, this can take a couple weeks. Other times, it can take months. Because you need to be in extremely good health to donate your eggs, most of the selection comes down to physical attributes.
Most parents want their donor to look like them, so their child looks like them. This turns the selection process into a game of luck more than anything.
It’s also very important to note that part of the donation process will require you to abstain from alcohol, sex, and intensive exercise (about a 3-4 week period).
3. The Screening Process Is Intensive
Ok, now let’s talk about the screening process. Many people don’t realize how extensive it is.
Before an agency even calls you in for a visit, you will first need to fill out a very lengthy application.
This application will require you to answer questions about your health history, as well as the health history of your immediate and extended family. Agencies want to know about any serious illnesses, such as cancer or diabetes.
Now, this doesn’t mean you have to get a hold of your aunt’s medical records and scour it to find out every illness they had throughout their life. But, it does mean they’ll expect you to know about the big illnesses that could potentially be passed on to offspring.
Obviously, no family has a perfectly spotless health history, so don’t let that deter you from applying. However, this does mean that if you are adopted, you can’t apply.
You will also have to answer questions about your education (most agencies require you to have a bachelor’s), your personality, lifestyle habits, hobbies, and more.
Basically, the agency wants to get a sense of who you are, inside and out.
If your application gets accepted, you will then come into the clinic for a screening.
This screening will involve a standard physical exam, as well as a mental exam. You will meet with a psychologist or social worker to ensure you are mentally fit to donate your eggs.
And, agencies will also test your blood to see if you are a carrier for certain diseases. (This is actually a really expensive test, so it’s nice to get it done for free!)
Also, keep in mind that if you don’t “pass” the screening process, you aren’t paid anything. So, you’re rolling the dice a bit by giving up a lot of your time for something you may not even be paid for.
Click here to learn more about the process of being selected as an egg donor.
4. The Risks and Complications Are Low
While complications with egg donations can occur, the risks are very, very low. Still, it’s very important to be aware of them before deciding to donate.
In terms of short-term side effects, you may experience mood swings, a bit of weight gain, tiredness, and bloating.
The biggest long-term risk of Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome. This is a condition that occurs when women take fertility medication to promote egg growth. Usually, the syndrome results in mild side effects, such as bloating and stomach cramping. Sometimes, however, the syndrome can cause damage to your ovaries.
Ovarian hyperstimulation occurs in less than 5 percent of egg donors, and out of that number, most experience short-term side effects.
5. Your Fertility Will Not Be Affected
Many people also think that donating your eggs decreases your chances of conceiving later on in life.
But, this is not the case. Women have about 300,000 eggs. During an egg donation, usually, no more than 30 are extracted from your body.
And, keep in mind that women chosen for egg donation already have higher fertility levels. So, think of it as having extra eggs to spare for someone who needs them.
6. But, Your Mental State Might
Egg donation does not cause mental illnesses, like depression or anxiety.
However, everyone has different feelings toward their egg donation. Some women donate their eggs, find the process to be easy, and never really think about it again.
Other women find themselves in a weird emotional state after donating their eggs. If your donor parents have a baby, that technically means you have a biological child out there in the world that you will likely never meet.
If this is something that freaks you out, you may want to think twice about donating your eggs.
7. You Have to Give Yourself Shots
Approximately 50 million Americans have a fear of needles, making it a top ten fear.
So, it’s definitely worth mentioning that part of the egg donation process involves giving yourself shots. If you simply can’t fathom doing this, then egg donation is definitely not for you.
You will give yourself shots for 2-3 weeks prior to the egg donation, 1-2 times per day.
These shots are relatively painless. In fact, the shots you get during regular doctor visits are considered much more painful. The needles are very small, and you’ll poke it into a pocket of fat on your body, usually in your stomach or buttocks.
8. You Go Under
Here’s another fact about egg donation that scares many people: during the actual egg donation procedure, you will be under anesthetics.
The process occurs in just one day, in which you will go to the clinic in the morning, and an anesthesiologist will give you an IV sedation. During the sedation period, the doctors will retrieve eggs from your body through vaginal needle aspiration.
Basically, it’s like they place a tube up your vagina and suck out the eggs. This means that you will not be cut into whatsoever. And, because you’re under anesthetics, you won’t feel a thing.
The process takes about 20 minutes, and then you are free to go home and rest.
You can definitely expect to feel extremely bloated the next few days, as well as dehydrated. It’s rare that you’ll feel extremely sick, but you may feel a little “out of it”. It’s very important to rest during these days and go easy on your body.
9. You Might, One Day, Have the Chance to Meet Your “Child”
Here’s another thing that catches some egg donors off guard: during the donation process, you will meet with a lawyer.
The lawyer will walk you through the legalities of egg donation, with the most interesting part being about the potential to one day meet your donor “child”.
In most cases, you will sign an agreement that states that when the child is 18, they can contact the donation agency if they’d like to know your identity. The donation agency will then get a hold of a lawyer, who will then get a hold of you and ask you if you are comfortable meeting the child.
You have every right to say no and to request that your identity is never released.
So, that scene you see in the movies where a donor child shows up at the donor’s doorstep unannounced is inaccurate.
Along those lines, it’s also important to note that the 30 or so eggs you give will be the legal “property” of the donor parents for their entire life. This means that they may decide to have multiple children, not just one.
Will You Become an Egg Donor?
As you can see, there’s a lot to consider before you decide to become an egg donor.
Take your time thinking about it, and don’t leap to any big decisions without doing your research.
And, if you are looking to learn other interesting facts, be sure to check out this section of our blog.