Understanding the Requirements to Become an Egg Donor
The use of donor eggs for conception is becoming much more common, especially in women over the age of 40. If you’ve ever considered donating your eggs, you may have questions about the pros and cons of being an egg donor, as well as the steps involved in how to become an egg donor.
In this article we’ll discuss the various aspects of egg donation, for both those looking to donate, and those who are interested in receiving egg donations.
What is an Egg Donor?
An egg donor is a fertile woman that donates an egg, also known as an oocyte, to another woman to help them conceive.
Women may use donor eggs if they have various conditions, including:
- Diminished ovarian reserve (often caused by increasing age).
- Genetic conditions that can be passed to a child.
- Premature ovarian failure: menopause has begun earlier than normal, often before the age of 40.
- Previous history of IVF failure.
Egg donation can be a life-changing procedure for both the egg donor and the recipient. Below we’ll outline the pros and cons of egg donation for both the donor and recipient.
Pros and Cons of Being an Egg Donor
- Allows you to help a couple conceive and start a family.
- Allows you to receive free medical testing and become familiar with your fertility. Often medical testing is elaborate and expensive, but the good news is these tests are all free for egg donors. You’ll likely be tested for genetic mutations, as well as various other diseases including HIV, hepatitis B & C, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, among others.
- You may be able to preserve some eggs for yourself. Since you’re already going through the process of taking hormones and egg retrieval, you may be able to retrieve some eggs for your own use during the process.
- There are financial benefits. As an egg donor, you’ll receive compensation for your time and effort, and also for your medical, travel, and legal expenses.
- The process can be stressful. It can be long and involve a lot of work, which may make you feel stressed and anxious.
- The medications used during the process may cause side effects, including headaches, hot flashes, mood swings, fatigue, and/or body aches. In rare cases, the medications may cause ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).
- There may be complications during, or after, the egg retrieval procedure, including reactions to anesthesia, bleeding, infection, and/or internal organ damage.
- It may result in your own pregnancy.
- Takes a lot of effort and time.
- It’s often anonymous, meaning you will have a biological child but will have no connection with them.
Pros and Cons of Using an Egg Donor
- It may help you conceive and start a family.
- You have a better chance of a healthier pregnancy.
- You get to pick the donor of the eggs.
- You may be able to save some donor eggs for future use in case the first cycle is not successful.
- You will not have your own biological child.
- Finding a donor may be difficult.
- Legal issues may arise. If you choose to use an egg donor, ensure that the donor contract clearly states that the egg donor waives all their parental rights, and that the children that are born by using the donated eggs are the legal children of the egg recipient.
- Cost responsibility. Typically, donor egg recipients are responsible for all of the costs associated with egg donation, including both your own procedure and all of the egg donor’s medical expenses, including the treatment of any complications that occur as the result of egg retrieval (such as infection, bleeding, damage to internal organs, etc.). In some cases, your insurance may cover some of the costs, so it’s worth a call to your provider to check. Additionally, the donor usually receives a fixed fee for donating their eggs. It’s important that your contract explicitly states this fee, how and when payment will be made, and also outline what happens if the donor withdraws from the contract before their eggs are retrieved.
- Pregnancy is not guaranteed. You should consider asking the donor if they will participate for more than one egg retrieval, if necessary, and this should be included in the contract.
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How to Become an Egg Donor
Once an egg donor and recipient are matched, the egg donor begins a screening process before commencing the egg donation cycle. The screening process involves fertility screening, including a physical examination, and blood tests.
A vaginal ultrasound may also be performed to evaluate ovarian reserve and function.
Additionally, medical screening to determine general health status, blood type, infectious diseases, and drug use is often performed. This is usually followed by genetic screening to look for genetic diseases, such as sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, etc., that can be passed from the egg donor to the fetus.
Psychological screening is also often performed to ensure that the donor is fully aware of the pros and cons of egg donation and can make an informed decision about the process.
The Egg Donation Cycle
Once the donor has successfully passed through the screening process, the egg donation cycle begins, and typically lasts 6 weeks. The egg donation cycle involves:
- The egg donor is given birth control pills to synchronize her menstrual cycle with the recipient’s cycle.
- The egg donor has a vaginal ultrasound after week 3 of her menstrual cycle and then begins injecting hormones for 7 to 14 days.
- This is followed by injection of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) for 8 to 10 days.
- During the timeframe when FSH is being injection, the egg donor is monitored every day with vaginal ultrasounds and blood work to measure follicle growth to ensure that it’s within normal limits.
- A second sexually transmitted infection (STI) screen is completed prior to egg retrieval.
- Once there is enough follicle maturation, HCG is injected to prepare the egg donors ovaries to release the eggs.
- The egg retrieval procedure occurs about 36 hours after injection of HCG.
During the egg retrieval procedure:
- The egg donor is lightly sedated during the procedure.
- Using ultrasound guidance, a needle is inserted through the vaginal wall to remove the eggs from each follicle.
After the egg retrieval procedure:
- The procedure lasts about 30 minutes, followed by an hour or two of recovery.
- Normal activity, not including extraneous physical activity, can usually resume one day after the egg retrieval procedure.
- Some clinics provide aftercare to donors, but not all clinics offer this service.
Egg donation can be a truly rewarding experience for both the egg donor and recipient. However, it comes with pros and cons and these must be weighed to determine if egg donation is the right choice for you.