With all the press coverage recently concerning the infertile couple, who have a genetic condition that prevents them from having their own child, sending leaflets to a Cambridge University, the question of egg donation has been forced into the public eye. Whilst the actions of the infertile couple may be questionable to some people, there is no doubt that some of the young women at the university may well have been tempted, by the offer of compensation, to take them up on their request.
But is egg donation a safe and reliable process, and even more so, should not the subsequent emotional ‘side effects’ of egg donation be addressed by the offer of free counselling? For many women, the thought of getting paid (anything upto $5000 in the US) for their eggs can be an overwhelming temptation and they may negate to realise the true emotional cost. So what exactly is involved when you decide that you want to donate your eggs?
It all depends on whether you are having a private donation, for example for the infertile couple, who would have paid all the necessary bills and would organise the procedure, or if you are going through a private clinic. All donations however would begin with a health screening in which you would have blood taken and a medical exam to determine your overall state of health. To be able to donate eggs you have to be between 18 to 30 years old, be in good health with a good family history, not smoke and have no weight issues.
You will also have to demonstrate a sense of maturity, be dependable and commit to a long-term process. If you are accepted to donate your eggs, you would have to attend the clinic or doctors surgery where you will be expected to have hormonal injections, including a number which will be self-administered. The injections are to produce a number of eggs at the same time. All in all you are looking at around 8 GP visits, about 10 hours of your time in all, before the retrieval of the eggs can begin. The eggs are retrieved before they are released into your body and this may require a general anesthesia or a local tranquilizer before the procedure begins.
To retrieve the eggs, a thin needle is inserted into the vagina and through the back of the vaginal wall to retrieve them. Then they are removed through the needle from the fine membrane follicle sacks that grow on the outside of the ovary. This takes around half an hour and is quite painless. You may experiences some minor discomfort which feel similar to menstrual cramps for a few days. In some rare cases (less than 1%) more serious complications might occur that require you to attend hospital.
This is the medical procedure part of donating your eggs, but what about your emotional state? Donating such an important part of your body, with all the implications that go with it, can be intensely emotional for both you and the recipient.
This is why it is important to realise exactly what you are doing when you agree to donate eggs. You are giving life for another couple and it means that you will have a living son or daughter that you may, or may not ever get to see or know. Or, they may want to meet you after a certain amount of time and find a way, and if you are in a family yourself with your own children, this can be very traumatic for all involved. So make sure you talk to as many people as you can, especially your own family, before you commit to such an act. Never do it for the money unless you are certain that you can handle the repercussions that may come later on in life.
And remember that some donors will never ever meet their recipients, and therefore have no emotional commitment to them at all. Others, such as the infertile couple, may want you to play an active role in the upbringing of the child. For this reason, you need to be sure what kind of relationship you want with the child of an egg that you have donated. At the end of the day, donating eggs should never be an easy decision or one made entirely for the money. You may feel that at your age you can handle the emotional effects in many years to come, but the truth is that you simply do not know.