From needle to baby
March 13, 2009 4:56 AM   Subscribe

Pros and cons of egg donation?

I'm in my mid-20's, young, well-educated, and about to be broke. I'm thinking about doing egg donation as a way to put aside a little money while I'm looking for a job in the new economy. I'm not remotely bothered by the "selling your body" part of it, but I have a few questions -- would appreciate any feedback from people who have done this before, or who have experience in this area.

Logistical questions: (on procedures)
1. The process for donation lasts about a month? What can I expect on a day to day basis?
2. How long does the screening process take? (How early should I start applying?)
2. I'm looking at going through an infertility program, not a private broker (so medical costs will be covered). How does insurance work for this? Will my medical insurance cover if something goes wrong, or do I sign some sort of temporary policy with them?

Selection questions: (on eugenics?)
1. For selection purposes, do they care about things like employment history? SAT scores? GRE's? I'm a standard humanities type - which means I can't do math, thank you very much. Is this going to be a problem?
2. Family history: Like I said - I'M OK with this, but my family isn't, and I'd rather not discuss it with them. Are they going to need family history / medical records on paper, or is this something that can be covered in the interview process?
2. Awhile back, I was going through a rough patch in school, diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, and put on a very low dose of Prozac. I'm now off the medication and doing much better, but am not sure how this affects my selection for something like this. Should I even bother applying, or is this going to put me out of the running?

Thanks in advance for all your help!
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Although it came out some years ago, you might be interested in this 2002 article about a Yale senior's experience with a private egg donation.
posted by Johnny Assay at 5:39 AM on March 13, 2009

I'm sorry I can't answer any of your specific questions, but you may be interested in this:

The long-term risks of fertility drugs are unknown. A few studies suggest that fertility drugs might increase a woman's risk for developing ovarian cancer later in life. Others do not show this link. At this time, no one knows for sure.

There are also other medical risks to the donor that you should be aware of before you decide. Good luck.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:16 AM on March 13, 2009

My friend's roommate has done this about 4 times now. Each time she does, she gets about 8-12K but is out of commission (in pain, mostly in bed, not leaving the house much) for about 2 months. This seems to be worth it for her, and she works in a coffeeshop where she can kind of come and go, but I think for most people it would seriously put a damper on their lives and other jobs.
Just consider that this is a real surgery with real pain and real recovery time before you jump in.

As far as the selection stuff, they seem to want to focus on your selling points whatever those are. They ask you a lot of questions and then show potential parents your best features. If you have high SATs, IQ, or GPA, they'll put that on there. If you went/go to a good school, that goes on there. If you are blonde or have great skin or whatever that is highlighted. Sometimes they care about your ethnic background, too. A couple with French heritage is more likely to pick a donor with some French stock in her, etc.
I wouldn't mention your brief Prozac thing, since it was brief. If you have a history of depression in your family or other mental illness, that might put you lower in the rankings, but someone would probably still want your eggs based on your other features.
I'm not sure if they need records or just ask you in an interview about your family history, but those kinds of things are very important for parents to know, so if you can disclose in an interview, I would.
posted by rmless at 8:15 AM on March 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Good answers above but I just have to say, the process will be much more than a month. And the drugs and hormones necessary can really do a number on you. I'm not saying don't do it, you could be one of those that goes through the hormone treatments easily, just be sure you know exactly what they are giving you and what the effects can be. Ovarian hyper stimulation can be very dangerous.
posted by pearlybob at 8:37 AM on March 13, 2009

Out of commission for two MONTHS? Is this really a totally different procedure than the one used with women on fertility treatments to harvest their eggs for IVF? Because I know tons of women who have done that and nobody has been in pain, at home, for two months. Just to throw a different perspective out there.

As far as the risks, they're not negligible. But it seems to be worth it for tons of people, especially if only one once or twice in a lifetime.
posted by barnone at 8:44 AM on March 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have no idea if this can happen without your immediate family finding out (I don't know what kinds of records the clinic would need) but I do know one woman who got really far into the process but was ultimately turned down because she didn't know who her biological father was.
posted by Neofelis at 9:07 AM on March 13, 2009

I am the spouse, sibling, cousin and sister-in-law of adopted children. Though egg donation is of course a bit different from the circumstances that led my family members to be given up for adoption, I do urge you to think about the emotional implications for you and your family if you are ever contacted sometime in the future by a biological child of yours.
posted by gudrun at 9:13 AM on March 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

I donated 4 times in my 20s/v early 30s.

the initial application process is long, altho I am sure it varies from agency to agency. I did a 20 page app, a phone interview, a face interview, a psychological evaluation and a medical exam.

then you have to wait for a match, mine came pretty quickly (I am tall, which is apparently a very sought after attribute)

once you start the actually process it is about one month. I was never bed-ridden, nor in constant pain, altho I definitely experienced discomfort, mood-swings etc. especially towared the end. it was sort of like very amplified PMS.

I personally found the process really fascinating, which I think mitigated some of the discomfort for me. It didnt bother me to inject myself with the hormones.

I had a long talk with the fertility doc re risks and consequences, after which I signed a contract for the process, which included release of indemnity for the clinic/doc etc., for risks delineated. I also contractually had all related expenses covered during the procedure, up to and including travel exp to doc, even food if I had a long day of appointments/travel.

after the extraction you might feel a bit crappy for a few days, I highly recommend going on the pill right away, if they suggest that and you have no reason not to. it really helps to re-adjust your hormone levels and get things "back to normal" without you feeling quite as wacky.

I think, in general, that prospective parents are looking for healthy, generally intelligent, normally attractive donors.

I am tall, no really dire med history (altho my med history was not overly extensive and that was not a prob) the psych eval is ALL about screening for things like anti-social or psychotic/schizoid features. a history of mild depression or anxiety is not a relevant concern (in my experience and I do have a history of depression, including treatment, altho no meds at that time)

I'm generally smart and did well in school but I am no rhodes scholar and just have a BA from a State U. I have good but quite 'normal' SAT scores....

things that will matter more to the prospective parents (IMexperience):

do you share a common ethic heritage or physical characteristics with one or both parents?
similar blood type or other features like that?
do you share similar attitude re children, education, cultural upbringing etc.,

also, I never told my parents at the time I did this, nor for years later.

I did eventually tell my mom, who's shown an almost pathological lack of interest in the subject, which makes me think it wigs her out. but I'm fine with that. nor have I ever regretted doing it.

good luck, feel free to email me if you like!
posted by supermedusa at 9:40 AM on March 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

also, I would say if you are doing it for more than just the money, ie the desire to share your abundant fertility with someone who needs it, I think the difficulties balance out with the positives quite strongly.
posted by supermedusa at 9:44 AM on March 13, 2009

I'm surprised this only has 9 comments. The economy has made me consider this where before I was wigged out by the idea of having a biological child out there somewhere. I often think how I have many sought after attributes, but does an donor trade brief comfort for future pain (emotional, health condition-wise)? I'm just surprised more people haven't considered this in this economy.
posted by scazza at 10:13 AM on March 13, 2009

I haven't ever participated in egg donation, but there are some interesting blogs from people who have -- in particular is pretty fascinating. I read through all the archives when I first found it.
posted by mismatched at 10:30 AM on March 13, 2009

One thing to keep in mind is that women only get so many eggs (300-500*). Each egg you surrender could limit your own chances of conceiving in the future, if that matters to you at all.

Also, menopause starts when the last ovum is gone, so it could move that up. Current procedure is to remove 'as many eggs as possible', which is currently 'typically in the teens'.

*This is different from the number of oocytes which could produce eggs, which are in the thousands. Typically, a max of 500 develop into eggs, with ~400 being most usual.
posted by batmonkey at 10:50 AM on March 13, 2009

I have read that the hormones can be hell and make a normal healthy woman feel like she is losing her mind. If you have any kind of depression at all, or any other mental health issues, I would seriously reconsider.
posted by IndigoRain at 1:40 PM on March 13, 2009

Also, menopause starts when the last ovum is gone, so it could move that up.

No, menopause will not start earlier because you are "using up" your ova faster, any more than using hormonal birth control will cause it to start later by preventing ovulation, although I can see why someone would think so. Female humans are born with 1-3 million ova. A small percentage of these die off during normal menstrual cycles, but the vast majority of them just...die as you get older, no matter what you do. By the time you get your first period, you're down to about 400,000 eggs., and by the time you reach menopause, fewer than 10,000. Menopause is caused by declining hormone levels, not lack of ova.
posted by Violet Hour at 2:31 PM on March 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Violet Hour, I'm sorry, but science says you're wrong. You seem to be confusing oocytes with ova. I provided links to backup my cites, and I'd enjoy reading any sources you've available.

Ova/follicle health is directly related to menopause [pdf].

As an aside, my research in this was spurred by my own infertility, as I wanted to understand what I would be asking of someone if I considered this option. This is why I've got a folder of these types of resources.
posted by batmonkey at 5:07 PM on March 13, 2009

Ova/follicle health is directly related to menopause [pdf].

Yes, that's true, but it doesn't follow that you enter menopause because you "run out of eggs." You enter menopause because your hormones levels drop. I don't think we're really disagreeing, here. Your link states that "Menopause occurs when there is extensive deterioration of these follicular cells and the immature eggs (ova) within. Thus the necessary sex hormones can no longer be produced and fertilisible eggs can no longer develop." It goes on to say that when the rate at which the ova disappear is earlier, menopause occurs earlier--but that's still due to declining hormone levels: the eggs are dying earlier because the hormones are dropping earlier, not vice-versa. In fact, there may be a risk of early menopause for people who donate eggs, but it's not due to the lack of eggs but to the hormones used to hyperstimulate the ovaries.

(An oocyte is just an immature ovum. Most places seem to just use "ova" for the sake of simplicity.)
posted by Violet Hour at 11:11 PM on March 13, 2009

Respectfully, I didn't say anything about "run out of eggs", so I'm not sure where the quote is coming from. I did say "when the last ovum is gone", but that's shades different.

The hormone change occurs because of the degradation of the follicles and ova.

Acknowledged that we're basically talking about the same thing. I've found that being more specific about the effective stages & numbers helps with decision-making & independent research. In this case, hundreds of thousands versus 500 max is a pretty big difference, and I'd definitely want that called out for me if I were considering this course of action.

The other thing in this whole huge topic is that a lot of it is very new. The "limited number of eggs" concept is fairly recent, as is the developing understanding of the impact of the various procedures/treatments involved. The medical facts are not quite a rich pool of data for those concerned about possible complications or future developments, which is unfortunate. Especially since some donors have reported effects on their own fertility and damaged reproductive organs but the practice continues with few changes.

Anyway. In this case, it means we can be on the same page but have versions of the information different enough to require clarification, and I appreciate your investment in doing so.
posted by batmonkey at 12:28 AM on March 14, 2009

In fact, there may be a risk of early menopause for people who donate eggs, but it's not due to the lack of eggs but to the hormones used to hyperstimulate the ovaries.

This may be one of the reasons that advertisements for egg donors in New Zealand and Australia specify that the donor should have completed her own family before becoming a donor. Between the small risk of pelvic infection, and hyperstimulation of the ovaries, I would surmise there is a tiny but possible risk of messing up your own childbearing capabilities for later.
posted by slightlybewildered at 1:15 PM on March 14, 2009

« Older How to travel with someone you don't get along...   |   Philosophical Music Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.