Egg Donation Process FAQ
More and more women are donating their eggs to help other women who do not have high quality eggs become pregnant. Part of the increase in egg donation is due to improvements in the egg freezing process, making pregnancy success more likely with a donated egg. Egg donation is also increasing due to greater awareness about this unique opportunity to help others become parents. The compensation that comes with donating one’s eggs can also play a role in a woman’s decision to donate.
Becoming an egg donor requires careful consideration. First, the donors must feel comfortable undergoing extensive screening to test for infections, health problems, psychological problems, genetic diseases, and sometimes drug use. Second, the donor must be able to administer medications (injections) and undergo ultrasounds and a medical procedure to remove the eggs. Third, the donors must feel comfortable with the concept of being genetically related to the resulting child belonging to another person.
Given the numerous items to consider, and because egg donation involves a complex and costly procedure of in vitro fertilization (IVF) for the intended parents, we strongly recommend that women interested in donation carefully think about whether they are suitable candidates before applying and then committing to be an egg donor. Few things are as disappointing to recipient parents as a donor that backs out mid-cycle if she realizes she can’t complete the treatment.
We’ve compiled questions that we frequently receive from donors and prospective donors, along with our answers, as a reference guide for women considering egg donation.
Why is it called “donation,” aren’t I selling my eggs?
In general, fertility specialists and their professional organizations make the distinction that an egg donor is in fact donating her eggs, but is being compensated monetarily for her time and effort. The time involved for the egg donor is considerable, about 56 hours all together, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). The donor must also undergo medical procedures to stimulate the production of eggs and harvest them for donation.
How do you decide how much an egg donor is compensated?
Our compensation of $4,000 per egg donation cycle is based on regional economics and is in line with compensation offered by other fertility clinics in the country. Compensation has been much debated in the fertility community. TRM adheres to the underlying belief that donors should be compensated, but that such compensation should not be so high as to attract donors who might not otherwise be interested. Data suggests that compensation for egg donation does not detract from a donor’s desire to help someone out. In a recent study, 88 percent of egg donors who were compensated at a fair rate said helping someone was the best part of the experience. When a woman donates, she is likely to produce multiple eggs, and these are covered with the one compensation payment.
Is the egg donation process safe?
Yes. Studies have shown that there do not appear to be any serious long-term effects on the egg donor. The two different considerations of safety involve hormone injections a donor takes to stimulate production of multiple eggs and the egg retrieval process. We review all potential risks and side effects involved with the treatment as part of the consent process.
Risks of the injections include soreness at the injection site and possible side effects of breast tenderness, feeling full and moodiness. Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) can occur in anyone using these medications and cause bloating, pelvic pain from the enlarged ovaries, nausea and vomiting. We monitor the egg donor throughout the medication stage to help decrease the chance of OHSS and use special protocols in donors to keep this risk low. Severe forms of OHSS are very rare, occurring in less than 1-2 percent of donors.
The risks of the egg retrieval are the same as for any minor surgical procedure and may include some discomfort, bleeding, pelvic infection, and rarely (< 1%) could involve injury to a nearby organ. Following retrieval, the egg donor will rest for a few hours before someone drives her home. Most women merely need a little rest afterward and return to normal activities within one to two days.
How long will the egg donation process take?
We estimate the total time frame for an egg donor is six weeks. The application and screening process take about one month. The egg stimulation and egg retrieval process take another two weeks. The application and screening process generally involves two or three office visits. Once a donor is started in a stimulation cycle, she will need to come in for office visits every two to three days for a two week period.
Why should I donate my eggs through TRM and not another egg donor agency?
- TRM is not an egg broker that gathers donor applicants and sends them off to other clinics for screening, donor matching and the egg stimulation and removal procedures. This ensures continuity for the donor and also helps keep the cost down for the egg recipient.
- TRM uses egg freezing for our egg donor program. Utilizing this technology makes the process easier on donors, as the timeline is more flexible than having to synchronize the donor’s menstrual cycle to the intended parent’s menstrual cycle. Freezing eggs also allows us to use the eggs removed from one donor for more than one intended couple, which means we can keep the costs lower for our intended parents.
- We are experts in all fertility treatments, including all aspects of egg donation. We have achieved excellent results in our egg donation program and pride ourselves on a compassionate, caring approach to all our patients and donors, taking time to explain things to them and address their concerns as if they were family members. The screening process is quite personal, and we approach it with sensitivity to the donor as an individual who is making a worthy contribution to others.
My friend’s application to be an egg donor was denied, why would that happen?
It’s difficult to address why a specific application was denied when we don’t know the particular history of that person. But in general, we do not include donors who have significant health problems, are significantly overweight or obese, or who have a family history concerning various health problems. The intended parents are looking for a donor who is healthy, of normal weight, has a healthy family history and is compliant and trustworthy. There are many reasons for not meeting criteria to be a donor including age, weight, health history, family history, education level, medication use, prior surgeries, infectious risk exposures, where the donor lives, and many others. The donor screening process is held to an even higher level of scrutiny than if someone was donating a kidney. It’s not as easy as some people think, in spite of some advertisements that make it appear quite simple. On average, we are only able to accept about 10 percent of the people who apply to be donors, as most people have something that makes them ineligible.
If I carry a genetic condition (for example, cystic fibrosis), can I still donate?
Carrying a genetic condition does not completely disqualify you from donating. However, carrying a genetic condition does limit your ability to be matched with a couple – as the male intended parent must be screened for the same condition to make sure he does not also carry the same condition. During our initial screening of potential donors, we discuss medical conditions and family medical history. If we discover that you carry a condition on your genetic screening tests, we will notify you of the result and whether you can remain a candidate in the donor egg program. However, we don’t usually stimulate a donor’s egg for our egg bank if they carry a genetic disorder that causes severe problems in children. If they have unique features (for example, are of a race in which we have few donors), then we may still keep them in our list of available donors for unique situations.
I use an IUD, can I still donate eggs?
Yes, using birth control, including that particular form, does not on its own disqualify a woman from being an egg donor.
I’ve had my tubes tied, can I still donate?
Yes, you can. A tubal ligation prevents an egg from traveling into the fallopian tubes for fertilization during the menstrual cycle, but it does not affect your ability to produce eggs.
What are TRM’s age restrictions for donation? Why do most places limit it to age 32?
Our age requirements are that the donor must be between 20-32 years old. Because most of our donors go through more than one egg retrieval procedure, we often seek donors that are age 31 or younger so that they have the opportunity to potentially go through more than one treatment cycle before they reach the age limit of less than 32 years old. The lower end of the age limit is to ensure that the woman is mature enough to make such a decision. The upper range is because a woman’s egg quality tends to begin declining slowly between age 32-35, and then more rapidly after age 35. The restriction on older donors is to make sure the donated eggs will have the greatest chance for producing a successful pregnancy.
Why does being overweight matter in the egg donation process?
We do recommend that our egg donors are fairly close to a healthy body weight. The most important reason for this is the safety of the donor going through the stimulation. The second reason is that the recipients of the eggs are typically seeking donors that have a healthy weight, because being overweight can sometimes indicate a genetic predisposition for the resulting child from a donated egg to have the same struggles with weight and the health risks that arise from increased body weight. Finally, donors that are heavier than their ideal body weight also require higher doses of medications, and given that the medications cost thousands of dollars, this can significantly increase the cost of the treatment.
How many times can I donate my eggs?
Generally, a woman should only donate a few times. TRM likes to limit separate donations to about six total donations. Even though ASRM hasn’t found any evidence that multiple donations have a negative health effect on the donor, we want to be cautious for our donors’ sake. It is a somewhat involved process, and we think limiting the number of donations is a sound practice. Incidentally, some egg donor agencies will ask that a donor commit to multiple donations. We advise that a woman not do this, as it is difficult to know how she will react, both physically and emotionally, to egg donation.
What questions should I ask TRM or any egg donor program before committing?
Primarily, you want to ask questions about the program’s background and procedures. Here’s a list of questions to ask us, and others.
- How long has the program or clinic been in operation?
- What screening tests are performed, and will they be conducted all at once or will some be done after my eggs have been selected by a recipient?
- What medications and procedures will be involved, and what are the potential risks and side effects of each?
- What information about me will you give to the recipient?
- What information can I know about the recipient and the resulting child?
- Can I be sure my eggs will only be used for a pregnancy?
- If I have complications, who will pay the medical costs for subsequent treatment?
- At what point can I change my mind about participation?
- Can you refer me to someone who can help me with legal and psychological issues?
- When will I receive compensation, and are there conditions to that?