Fertility problems are more common than you might think. About 10 percent of American women ages 15-44 will experience fertility problems. For women who don’t have their own viable eggs, donor eggs are often the only option for a natural pregnancy. Fertility specialists rely on healthy donors to supply these eggs.
What do you need to know before becoming an egg donor?
1. The screening process is intense
A lot of women choose to donate their eggs because of the excellent compensation that is offered. But, the screening process to become an egg donor is intense. You will be required to complete both physical and psychological screenings to be eligible to donate.
The physical screening is relatively straightforward. You’ll have an ultrasound to inspect the health of your ovaries and determine if you’re a good candidate for donation. The doctor will also draw blood and go over your medical history.
Any inheritable genetic disorders will automatically disqualify you from donating. You also need to be within a healthy BMI range to qualify. The exact BMI requirements will vary from clinic to clinic.
The psychological screening helps the doctor determine your state of mind, which is essential before you’re allowed to donate. You’ll also go over your personal history with any mental illnesses, abuse or drug problems. You may even be asked to take a personality test to help match you with potential recipients.
The screening process is so intense because it’s designed to weed out anyone who wouldn’t be a good fit for an egg donation. This includes anyone with a physical or mental illness that could be inherited by the child. It also often excludes anyone who’s just in it for the money.
2. The process takes a couple of weeks
Donating eggs for women is nothing like donating sperm for men. For a man, all they need to do is walk in, do their thing and walk out again. For women, the process is quite like the IVF procedure but ends with egg retrieval.
Egg donation starts with a series of nightly injections. These hormone injections trigger your ovaries to start producing a lot of eggs — anywhere from 10 to 30 or more per cycle. Once the doses are complete, a process that usually takes two to three weeks, you will receive a trigger shot that tells your ovaries to release the eggs. They will be aspirated and provided to the recipients.
During the cycle, you will probably feel bloated and uncomfortable, but for most donors, the discomfort fades quickly after the process is completed.
3. It’s about more than money
Egg donors are well compensated for their donations. The compensation depends on a few things:
- What type of donation you want to make
- The state in which you live
- The clinic you’re using
You could be paid anywhere from $6,000 to $50,000 just for donating your eggs. For many people, receiving that amount of money is life-changing.
But donating eggs should not be just about the money. In fact, many donation clinics will turn you away if your sole reason for donating is to cash in on those eggs that you’re not using anyway.
If you do donate, keep in mind that the money you make from your donation is considered taxable income. It will be taxed as miscellaneous income — the same category as lottery winnings — which varies depending on the rest of your income and the state you live in.
Depending on how much you make annually, you may need to put away as much as 40 percent if the compensation you receive to pay your taxes at the end of the year.
Related Article: Why Infertility Treatment Should be a Covered Benefit
4. There are risks
As with any medical procedure, there are risks to consider before you sign on the dotted line. You will be jump-starting your body’s egg production, meaning you’re incredibly fertile after a donation cycle and have a higher chance of becoming pregnant. The aspiration procedure is done under conscious sedation, which has its own set of risks.
Donating your eggs also carries the risk of developing ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). The ovaries are overstimulated by the hormone shots you take before the eggs are aspirated. They can become swollen and painful.
In extreme cases, the fluid produced in the ovaries can leak into surrounding tissue. While this is rare, affecting between 3 and 6 percent of women who take fertility drugs through intramuscular injection, it is a risk you should keep in mind.
There have also been some cases where women have experienced adverse side effects months or years after their donation. Be sure you discuss all the risks with your doctor before you agree to donate your eggs.
5. It can be life changing
Donating your eggs can be a life-changing experience. You’re certainly going to change the life of the couple that receives your eggs. You are giving them a chance to have children they wouldn’t have had otherwise.
When it comes to you as the donor, the jury is still out as to whether the experience is a good one or a bad one.
Some women are happy to donate their eggs. They feel a sort of empathy that leads them to connect with others. Others, including women who donated their eggs for the money, have regretted it later.
Issues range from health complications like OHSS to the idea of there being a biologically related child they have no contact with.
If you’re considering donating your eggs, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Discuss all the risks and concerns with your doctor ahead of time.
It is true that egg donation can be a life-changing experience, but it isn’t the right choice for everyone.
The bottom line
Make sure you understand all the ins and outs of egg donation. This will keep you from making a decision you could later regret.
The fertility industry wouldn’t work as well without egg donors. What donors do is noble. But not everyone is cut out for it.
It’s not about the money. It is about making a selfless decision to change someone’s life for the better and give them a family they might not have otherwise.
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Jennifer Landis, writer and founder of Mindfulness Mama, has been writing for the last decade and holds a BA in journalism. She is an avid goal setter and achiever.
Jennifer’s proudest accomplishments include two all-natural births, running a marathon, successfully making a croquembouche, and running two half marathons.
In addition to The Doctor Weighs In, her writing has appeared in VeryWell Family, Fortune, Scary Mommy, The Huffington Post, and Women’s Running. Tweet her your favorite health tips @JenniferELandis.