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Attempting to Dispel the Myths about Egg Donation

By on October 30, 2008

So I am reading blogs and Sharon LaMothe from Infertility Answers points me over to Katherine Benardo’s site and says “You know Marna, you probably want to see this.” I venture over and read again what’s been in the news over the past couple of weeks regarding the increase in egg donation. And while I agree there has been an upswing in egg donation, and yes I am sure it’s due to our economy in the United States – I think there’s a whole lot that’s still misunderstood about egg donation as a whole.

I think what’s bothersome to me is that there seems to be this world view that the women who donate their eggs to women like me (so we can achieve our dream of become mothers) is that these women come from poor backgrounds, aren’t educated, or perhaps even I might say impoverished selling parts of themselves to make money. That is just so off the mark it’s not even funny.

What the general public doesn’t know or understand I think that there are young women out there who donate their eggs for altruistic reasons. They really do want to help another couple become parents. The other part of this of course is the money part.

I won’t deny the fact that $5000.00 sweetens the pot for those who embark upon egg donation. However, I must say this isn’t like sperm donation where men are compensated $500+ do something they do every day that feels good. Egg donation is a surgical procedure that’s invasive, and a recipient parent is compensation the egg donor for her time and inconvenience. What most people don’t know is that egg donors aren’t paid for their eggs, or how many eggs are retrieved. Regardless of the number, at retrieval an egg donor receives compensation. The other part to this is that according to ASRM (Short for American Society of Reproductive Medicine) is that they recommend egg donors be compensated $5000.00 and for anything about $5000.00 the reason be documented with a cap being $10,000.00. Anything above $10k is not ethical regardless of how you pad it. When I see ads for egg donor compensation 20k I shake my head. And when agencies like this are questioned about it they say things like:

“Oh well, her fee is only for 10k, however, we are also compensating her for lost wages from her job.”
“We are compensating her for travel expenses.”
“We are compensating her for miscellaneous expenses.”

That’s how these agencies get around the 10k cap, and its highway robbery as well as being dishonest. What do these women do that their time is worth an additional 10k a month????
Please someone enlighten me?

I don’t think the general public understands that not everyone who applies to donate their eggs makes it. About ten percent of all applicants are accepted into egg donor programs across the United States. This isn’t just a walk in the park – aside from fitting the age limits of 19-32, these egg donors have to be in top notch physical health, which means having blood tests to examine their own reproductive health. They can’t be smokers, and they need to be free of infectious diseases (sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, etc…). Many clinics require their donors to undergo genetic testing as well. And some of these donors discover during the testing process they are carriers for genetic diseases. What a way to find out. Aside from all of this, then it’s another round of psychological testing, more medical testing (ultrasounds, blood work etc..) and then after all of that these egg donors go through a highly regimented drug protocol that required them to take several different kinds of medications, some of which are injected. Yet more office visits, and finally their egg retrieval. Then and only then are they paid for their time. Not any easy way to make $5000.00 in my book.

Many wonder how an egg donor selected. I can tell you the process is complicated and often overwhelming. Why is it so complicated you ask? It’s not just an act of accepting eggs from one person and putting them into another. There is a psychological component that goes with this. The recipient mother has received a diagnosis from her doctor that for whatever reason her own eggs and genetic material aren’t adequate to create life. She then comes face to face with the facts that if she ever wants to become pregnant, carry a pregnancy, and become a mother then she is going to have to resort to the use of donor eggs. Once all of that is worked through then there is the actual job of selecting the right egg donor for your family. And really how is that accomplished?

Egg donors are almost always selected by a recipient unless the recipient specifically asks the fertility center to select for them based on their criteria. Recipients come in all shapes and sizes. From various backgrounds, however, in my experience I have found over the years that college educated Caucasian, upper middle class, individuals lead the way with Asian-American following close behind in regards to looking for egg donors that might match their criteria. That criterion is often stringent for a lot of recipient couples. Many recipients want a donor who has high SAT or ACT scores, is pretty, artistic, athletic, or a college graduate.

I can’t say I have ever heard a recipient couple say they want a mediocre egg donor, who’s not attractive, and did poorly in school.

And so yes, there are more egg donors donating, but it’s not a quick 5k or even 10k. It’s hard work, and we the recipient parents are ever so grateful to our egg donors, without them we wouldn’t have the wonderful, amazing, and incredible children we have today.

How I wish ABC, NBC, or Oprah would invite me to sit down with them and have a real dialogue about egg donation, infertility, and what it’s like to be a parent via this process. I think it would take the stigma out of something of something that’s so incredibly beautiful.

  1. Reply

    Katherine B

    October 30, 2008

    Please also take a look at my ten part series about conceiving with donor eggs, targeted to prospective recipient parents. How to go about choosing an egg donor is explained in detail, among other aspects of the process.

  2. Reply


    November 12, 2008

    I couldn’t agree with you more! The characterization of egg donors as impoverished young women to whom donor fees represent an “undue inducement” is bothersome.

    I am just one egg donor and I by no means claim that all or even most egg donors are like me, but I would like to provide some information about myself to further your point. The year I donated my eggs, my gross income (excluding egg donor fee) was $80,000. Not a king’s ransom, but I was far from the poverty line. I had no student loans or consumer debt at the time of my donation. I began graduate school (a JD/MBA program) shortly after donating, but I didn’t donate to earn money for grad school tuition. I’m on a full scholarship and my donation fee still sits untouched in its own money market account. I am not sure what I will do with this money and am considering various ways I might invest this money and return it to the IPs with whatever returns it may earn when their children are ready for college.

    I am just one donor. We are not all alike. But we are free-thinking, accomplished young women and it is wrong, if not paternalistic, to paint us as impoverished and incapable of thinking for ourselves.

  3. Reply


    November 13, 2008

    Thank you, paragon2pieces for your voice. I am a 4x egg donor who is also well educated and living well above the poverty level. I donated my eggs to help my IPs achieve parenthood. I absolutely adore them and their resulting children… I would like to add that the donation process includes risk of Ovarian Hyperstimulation or OHSS, which is a very serious and painful. The compensation I received doesn’t even begin to make up for the agony I endured, the time I remained on doctor’s ordered bedrest, the time away from my children, etc. Imagine laying in bed paralyzed by the pain, unable to take pain medication because of the vomitting OHSS causes, unable to breathe because of the pressure from the fluid leaking from your organs… Egg donors make real sacrifices, take real risks, and recieve little acknowledgement or appreciation. The government and the public need to be aware of such risks, a registry needs to be put into affect, Fertility Centers need to be held accountable for the medication regimens they presrcibe and also need to report cases of hyperstimulation. Women deciding whether or not to donate their eggs deserve an accurate depiction of the risks, not the so-called 6% industry claim.



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