Sperm donation is talked about all the time – all it involves is a little cup and maybe a few magazines, and the donor will be walking away a few hours later with some pocket money. But we hear much less about egg donation — what is it about donating eggs that makes it a largely mysterious subject? Perhaps because in comparison with sperm donating, the risks involved are drastically higher: the process takes months of planning, the procedure is invasive, a woman’s egg count is drastically lower than a man’s sperm count, and the money involved is much more substantial. For an average sperm donation, a man typically receives around $100 in monetary compensation, whereas an egg donor can receive anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000.
Typically, potential parents who seek egg donation have problems with infertility. In comparison to adoption, egg donation allows the parent to experience pregnancy, have more control over the prenatal health and environment of the child, and allows the male to be the genetic father while having the female as the birth mother.
Just as these potential parents must go through a rigorous application process, the egg donor must go through an application process as well, providing information on everything from any history of drug abuse to your SAT scores. Not surprisingly, if you are attractive, smart, and in perfect health, you have a much higher chance of being selected for egg donation.
The “Perfect” Donor
Some egg donor databases can seem like flipping through the pages of Sports Illustrated, as beauty and physical fitness are highly desirable characteristics in candidates for donation. Unsurprisingly, many Ivy League campuses constantly see recruitment for egg donor programs, as prospective parents assume bright eggs make bright babies. For example, on an episode of “The Big Bang Theory”, two of the characters go to a “High IQ Sperm Bank” and debate the legitimacy of this assumption, as Sheldon (who is a certified genius) says his sister “has the same basic DNA mix as a hostess at Fuddrucker’s.”
An article in TIME Magazine discusses the merits of Ivy League egg hunting, as it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell if an Ivy League donor “carries genuine smart-kid genes or just pushy-parents genes.” Regardless of whether or not Ivy League smarts are genetic, it is clear why college-educated eggs are more desirable for potential parents than waitressing-at-Fuddrucker’s eggs.
If you are reading this article it is likely you are in active pursuit of a college degree, so if egg donation appeals to you, make sure you are completely knowledgeable of the time commitment, potential breaches in privacy, and the egg retrieval procedure.
- If selected to be an egg donor after applying, you will undergo a psychosocial and physical evaluation of your personal and familial health to make sure you do not have any genetic diseases or STDs. Being able to commit to the appointment times for all of the procedures and tests is extremely important, as being unreliable can revoke your acceptance.
- Depending on the company, you will usually have a specialized attorney explain all of the legal agreements and privacy conditions. Most donor matches are private, but you have the option of meeting the parents before the procedure or even agreeing on contact in the future after the child is born.
- Once chosen by an intended parent, the entire process will usually take at least 6-10 weeks and you will be prescribed hormonal birth control. Your next menstrual period will mark the beginning of the egg donor cycle, and around twenty-one days after the start of your period you will be given a series of fertility shots that stimulate the development of the egg. The maturation process will be monitored in a series of appointments, and the final injection will prepare the egg for retrieval by your physician.
- Have a friend come with you to the hospital on the day of the retrieval, as you will go under a light sedation and will be slightly weak after the surgery. Using a vaginal ultrasound and a small needle that is inserted through the vaginal wall, the mature eggs will be carefully removed. You should refrain from any demanding physical activity in the days following the procedure, and a few weeks later you will receive your check in the mail.
The Pros and Cons
Incentives for Egg Donation
Helping parents who are struggling to conceive is the immediately apparent reason for donating your bright young collegiette eggs. Having trouble conceiving is a difficult and psychologically stressful process for many hopeful singles and couples, and assisting those people in need can be extremely rewarding. But besides just simple altruism, there are many personal reasons for which young women choose to donate. Maybe you had an abortion and want to “give back,” or maybe you were born through a similar assisted-fertility process like in-vitro fertilization or a surrogate mother.
However, it is impossible to ignore the significant monetary compensation that comes with donating an egg. A student at Elon University admits she looked into donating eggs only because of the money involved, but then ultimately decided not to pursue going through the lengthy process. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine has deemed it simply unethical to pay a donor more than $10,000, but many companies and couples will overlook this guideline if it seems the donor is too good to be true and will sometimes pay tens of thousands. However, these seemingly overly determined groups should be viewed with skepticism.
Drawbacks of Egg Donation
While rare, every body is different and there can be adverse side effects from the fertility medication and hormone injections. Sometimes the procedure is painful and after the procedure you may experience uncomfortable cramping, bleeding, and bloating. In even rarer cases, a potentially fatal condition called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) can occur, which leads to enlarged ovaries that can rupture and cause difficulties for future pregnancies.
In addition to these medical complications, egg donation is a controversial topic for many parties. Since it is a relatively new scientific procedure, the long-term consequences and side effects are still ambiguous. An article on BBC News argues that “women from vulnerable socioeconomic backgrounds are being exploited by being offered financial compensation for their eggs,” and some argue the act of buying human parts is immoral. A junior at the University of Pennsylvania says, “It’s funny how it is called egg donating when you are paid thousands of dollars. More like egg selling.”
For many young women, these aspects seem insignificant in comparison to the psychological toll that donating an egg could possibly cause. Like giving up a child for adoption, knowing that a young boy or girl who is genetically yours is living somewhere in the world is an overwhelming idea that many college women are not ready to handle. A junior at Cornell University says, “It would just be too weird. One day I could be riding the subway and see a girl sitting across from me who looks exactly like me when I was twenty. It would drive me crazy wondering if she was my daughter.”
When the junior at the University of Pennsylvania was asked if she personally knew anyone who had donated her eggs, she jokingly responded, “I don’t associate with people who don’t value their eggs.” While she was being sarcastic, she does have a valid point: if you ever consider donating your eggs, make sure you make a completely informed decision and are aware of all the privacy, health, and psychological elements at stake.
Student at Elon University*
Junior at University of Pennsylvania*
Junior at Cornell University*