Should I donate my eggs to my cousin?
May 5, 2016 10:34 PM   Subscribe

My cousin has been trying to conceive for three years. Recently she and her husband underwent IVF treatment, which didn't pan out. They then ran a panel of genetic tests to see what could be causing the issue. It turns out that she is a Fragile X carrier.

I am now looking into taking the blood test for Fragile X to see if I am a carrier. If not, I would like to offer my eggs to my cousin. I know the process is painful and unpleasant. My fiancee has mixed feelings about it. We are going to talk about it more tonight. I feel that it is similar to donating a kidney or bone marrow. I do not feel that the resulting children would be mine in any way. They would be my cousin's children. She would carry, name, feed, educate, and raise them.
Has anyone donated their eggs to a family member? What should I do beforehand? Should I get my own doctor or use my cousin's?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You should get a councelor who specialises in such things before offering up any genetic material. I would not promise anything that you might change your mind on once fully informed, before finding out exactly what's involved on both a physical and emotional level. It would be cruel for your cousin to do anything less. You need to know what's involved. And your fiance needs to be completely on board. Councelor.
posted by Jubey at 10:52 PM on May 5, 2016 [13 favorites]

First of all, this is a commendable, life-changing and very generous thing your're contemplating doing for your cousin. But you're asking this question like there is a yes or no answer. There is not. It is a very personal decision, and one complicated by the fact that with a family donation, you will be looking your genetic offspring for years to come. How any single donor is going to feel about that is very, very individual. Speaking personally, I would be very challenged by that situation but that's just me.

As to whether your partner needs to be on board with your choice, as you can see already, a number of people will tell you this needs to be a joint decision. I however will tell you it does not; all of your reproductive choices are your own, including donating or not donating. (Obviously, of course, making a decision your fiancee doesn't agree with may also have consequences.)

I would urge you however to make absolutely sure you are fully informed about the ethical, medical and legal implications of doing this.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:30 PM on May 5, 2016 [12 favorites]

Consider-- if they have a child but for whatever reason, you end up not doing so, will that change how you feel?
posted by salvia at 11:31 PM on May 5, 2016 [6 favorites]

I donated eggs to a close friend a few years back. Happy to talk by memail if you have questions. Based on my experiences, I would be reluctant to recommend it, especially if your fiance is not 100% on board. I also recommend seeing a counsellor: alone, together with your fiance, and together with your cousin, before you make up your mind.
posted by lollusc at 12:01 AM on May 6, 2016 [14 favorites]

I also recommend seeing a counsellor. Your cousin's clinic will probably have one but I would find an independent one if I were you. A friend in a similar situation as you found the counsellor very biased in favour of donating. She was basically given a sales pitch because of course they wanted both women to go through with the procedures. There were lots of things that counsellor did not discuss with my friend. I deal with related issues for my job so she called me and we were both surprised by all the things she hadn't considered/didn't know to think about.

I would also check the relevant laws in your state. I know you say it would be your cousins child but I have seen first hand two instances where the donor bonds with the child and huge consequences ensue. She is also family so other family members will be affected. Think about stuff like who is grandma? At least know what could happen if any of the ifs happen.

Your partner doesn't need to be on board but its a very big thing to do without their full agreement & support.
posted by stellathon at 12:53 AM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Depending on where you and your cousin are geographically located, it may very well also be an option for your cousin to accept donor eggs from a totally unrelated person. If so, these things can be routinely organized through their fertility clinic. This may be emotionally easier for your cousin and their partner, both now and later on. They may be extremely grateful for your offer, but still choose to go down a different path.
posted by CompanionCube at 1:28 AM on May 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

I agree that this can be more fraught than people realize. Your cousin and her partner may prefer a non relative. But if you have reason to think that's not true, then I think it's worth exploring deeper.

Based on my reading and some experience as a family law lawyer dealing with non traditional family formation, people have VERY different relationships with their genetic material, and I don't think any are more or less valid.

Some good questions for up to think about:
- What if this cousin and her partner split up, or she dies, or they both die, or he or she or both turn out to be terrible parents, would you be ok with sitting back and letting that play out and potentially losing all contact with this child?
- How much will you see them? Would you feel comfortable letting your cousin and her partner lead in deciding what and how much and when to share with the child about your role?
- What if they have serious financial difficulties, possibly relating to medical needs of the child, would you feel more compelled to step in?

I think it's worth trying to stay in sync with your partner on this. If you are close (emotionally or physically) to your cousin, his unhappiness about the outcome could cast a long and complicated pall over important relationships. If you're not emotionally closer, then why prioritize this over your partner's feelings? And finally, if these conversations with him reveal deep differences of feelings, values, judgment, character that concern you, it's much better to know and work through or break up over those things now.

(As people are recommended, good counseling could be invaluable for thinking through these issues).

I think it's a beautiful impulse but for everybody's sake, proceed with thoughtfulness and due caution and consideration.
posted by Salamandrous at 4:39 AM on May 6, 2016 [4 favorites]

No, it is not similar to donating a kidney or other organ, because if the donation works a living child will be the result. If you do go forward with this, the first thing you need to admit to yourself is that this is not like donating a kidney, it is making another human being who will have feelings and issues of his or her own, and since this is a relative, complex family issues that will be with all of you for a lifetime.

Your cousin and partner and you and partner will be dealing with issues of what to tell the child, when to tell, and if you stay close to this cousin and it remains a secret, you will be seeing this child who is genetically yours and not be able to say anything. If you go on to have other children, they will be genetically half-siblings to this child, not second cousins. If something goes wrong with the procedure and you are unable to have more children yourself, how will you feel?

There is so much to consider. Find an independent counselor who is not selling the procedure to you or working for the cousin, and look at all sides of this for the rest of your life before going forward with the donation. It is ok to say no. It is ok to research this and never make the offer to donate, if you have not yet done so.
posted by mermayd at 5:46 AM on May 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

A lot of people tend to focus on The Child, but there are a lot of things to think about before you get to that point. If you ever get to that point. Even if you do donate eggs, it is possible that none of them will result in a successful pregnancy.

A few friends of mine were trying to do surrogacy a couple years ago, and in that case there were two couples: Mother & Father (their genetic material and their child, but they could not carry the child due to cancer), and Surrogate & PartnerofSurrogate. The two couples had to have separate lawyers. The clinic would not accept them otherwise. All four needed to be assessed by a social worker and had to be on board for all of the possible outcomes, including: failed implantation, miscarriage, abortion, multiples, surrogate becoming ill, etc.

The implantations (multiple) were not successful. The egg harvesting medications gave Mother wild mood swings (e.g. rage). It was really straining their relationship and her mental health and after multiple disappointments they have stopped trying. Now, grief.

If you were to do this, it is difficult to predict how you would react to the medication. It is also difficult to predict how successful IVF would be with your eggs. How many times would you be willing to harvest? Who pays for it? Does it mean that your cousin has authority over what you eat, whether you have sex, what medication and vitamins you take? Do they compensate you for missed work days? If not, how many days are you willing to donate? If your fiancé doesn't get on board, how will it affect your relationship? Who will support you if he does not want to be involved?

People do give this gift, but it is a complex gift that comes at a cost and it is important to know what you are giving before you make the choice.
posted by sadmadglad at 5:54 AM on May 6, 2016 [7 favorites]

It should be noted too that there have been pretty much no studies into the side effects of egg donation. All health assumptions are based on using the fact that the same drugs being used for egg harvesting as fertility treatments. No one actually knows if it will effect the donors own fertility or not, it is mostly just educated assumptions.

Seek an independent counselor.
posted by wwax at 6:06 AM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nthing see a genetic counselor. But if you are concerned by stories above of counselors "pushing" toward donation, try to find a counselor who is NOT part of a prenatal practice.

The NSGC website is particularly helpful.
posted by kuanes at 8:21 AM on May 6, 2016

Also, are you planning to have children and when? I would be wary of donating my eggs and undergoing treatment I'd yet to have myou own children first and was unaware of possible complications and side effects.
posted by CosmicSeeker42 at 8:40 AM on May 6, 2016

I think you need to do more reading. Egg donation involves taking substantial amounts of drugs to try to get multiple eggs at one time. This is very hard on the body and there are no studies (that I know of) concerning long term side effects.

Living donor organ donation is plenty hard on the body, but they do not hop you up on hormones ahead of time. So, no, this is not the same as donating a kidney.

I have a close relative (close as in bloodline close) who went through lots of fertility treatment. She used to pass on articles to me to read and we did discuss me being a surrogate if she could not have a child on her own. When she did have a baby, I flew out to take care of the child at one point.

I did not remain emotionally and socially close to these relatives. The last time I saw the child, they did not remember me at all.

I say that to say this: a) you sound naive and not well informed. I think you need to get much more informed. b) I am wondering if you think this will be some loving, life giving gift from you and it will be appreciated in a way that brings that love back to you. If so, you may be sorely disappointed. Doing some big thing for your cousin in no way guarantees that she will be your BFF.

Do not give more than you can comfortably give freely, with no expectation of it coming back to you. If hearing that bothers you, you might want to explore your motives for doing this.
posted by Michele in California at 12:27 PM on May 6, 2016

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