Of late, fertility is a burgeoning health issue with a growing number of couples. Egg donation is a form of Assistive Reproductive Technology (ART) wherein a fertile woman donates her healthy eggs or ovum to another woman whose body is unable to produce healthy eggs. The process of egg donation and transfer is fraught with medicolegal and ethical issues that require both parties to understand their roles and responsibilities.
Here are five frequently asked questions about egg donation that will help you decide if you are the right candidate for egg donation:
1. How Long is the Egg Donation Process?
A donor is on injectable medications for 10 to 12 days. The visit for the retrieval procedure takes about one hour.
It takes anywhere from a few weeks to a year to be matched with a recipient couple. The time from when being matched to the start of medications is two to three months. During that time the donor will undergo a psychological evaluation and a medical screening. She will be on birth control pills for a few weeks before beginning injectable medications.
2. What Are the Qualifications to Be an Egg Donor?
Young women must have a healthy individual and family medical history. The donor and her close relatives must be free of genetic diseases and diseases that have a strong familial tendency. She must be a non-smoker and refrain from use of alcohol or marijuana during the cycle. The agency will screen with a written questionnaire and the fertility clinic will do a more extensive screening that consists of blood work and a physical exam.
If for any reason an individual does not qualify to be a donor, she will find out important information about her reproductive health that will be valuable for her to know.
Donors should be aged 20 to 28. Some clinics will work with donors that are as young as 18, but most clinics require donors to be at least 20. A repeat donor who has a history of successful donations can usually donate up to age 32. But first-time donors are usually required to be 28 or younger.
Couples are usually looking for a donor who is similar to the intended parent in terms of ethnicity, physical characteristics and personality. Some ethnicities are harder to find in donors and so sometimes couples will choose a donor who is similar in appearance even if she is not of the exact same ethnicity.
There is also a demand for donors of mixed ethnic backgrounds as many recipients are also of mixed ethnic backgrounds. If someone is an unusual combination of ethnicities that should not be a deterrent to signing up to donate. There will be fewer couples for whom she would be a match, but for some couples she could be the perfect match!
3. Will Egg Donation Affect My Ability to Have Children?
No. Women are born with about 250,000 eggs so you are not using up your eggs by being a donor. Many donors have gone on to start their own families after donating. All of the potential side effects of the medications and potential complications will be reviewed in detail by the fertility clinic before she begins the process.
4. What Are the Risks of Donating?
The main complication that can occur is OHSS-Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome. OHSS consists of retention of fluid in the abdomen after the retrieval procedure. The symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes shortness of breath.
The main treatment is the passage of time. The excess fluid will eventually be reabsorbed into the bloodstream and eliminated. Medications can be given for the nausea and discomfort, but the main treatment is the passage of time.
These days OHSS is very rare. It occurs about 1 to 2% of the time. Egg donation has been in use for over 35 years and in that time the procedure has been continuously improved. As with many medical procedures the risks have greatly diminished over time.
If a donor shows any of the warning signs that she might develop OHSS, her medication dosages will be reduced and that is usually sufficient to avoid it. During the retrieval procedure if the donor shows signs of being likely to develop OHSS, there are additional measures that can be taken to reduce her chances of developing OHSS. Although OHSS is rare, it is something that donors need to be aware of in their decision to become a donor. Most donors have no side effects or complications and choose to donate multiple times.
5. How Much are Egg Donors Compensated?
The donor fee ranges from $5000 to $15,000 with most agencies paying $8000 to $10,000 per cycle. The ASRM (American Society for Reproductive Medicine) recommends that an individual donate not more than 6 times. Many donors choose to donate 6 times and thus can earn $60,000 or more.
Clinics and couples often prefer to work with repeat donors. They know that she will pass the medical screening, that she is familiar with and comfortable with the procedure, and they can see the results of her prior successful cycles. In addition to the monetary compensation many donors report that egg donation is one of the most meaningful and rewarding things that they have done in their lives.