What's the deal with selling eggs and the Asian demand?
August 23, 2006 11:54 AM   Subscribe

Selling one's eggs: anyone have experience with it? Is it ethical? Why are Asian eggs in demand and what is Asian?

What I find weird about it: a couple can specific that they want a smart, musical, blonde, blue eyed child while there are millions of children out there needing families.

However, for a friend that has no money and needs it to get an education (not because of debt, but because of lack of citizenship and therefore restrictions on work), this may be a good way to make some money. I can't begin to express how badly she needs money.

Additionally, this friend is sort of Asian. I've read articles that Asian egg "donors" are in demand. There may be cultural reasons why an Asian couple cannot adopt which would ease my ethical objection. (Are there?)

Would a woman who is from Central Asia, looks Asian (Non-Asians frequently assume that she is Asian), but is technically Turkic, still be in demand as a "donor"? She looks vaguely like this.

If anyone has personal experience with the process and can share his/her story, I'd appreciate it and my e-mail is in the profile.
posted by k8t to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
For me, the ethical concerns have always been less of an issue than the health/body concerns. Harvesting eggs is a hugely involved, very invasive procedure. From Go Ask Alice:

No matter how factually informed and emotionally prepared potential egg donors are, the process itself is complicated, and can be frightening, uncomfortable, and even painful. Unlike sperm donation, which is relatively quick and easy, egg donation requires medications and an invasive procedure to retrieve the eggs. Once a woman has been selected as a donor, she is taught how to give herself daily injections of medications and fertility drugs (FSH and LH) for 3 - 5 weeks. The fertility drugs stimulate multiple eggs to develop, and their maturation is monitored by ultrasound examinations. A drug (such as Lupron) that temporarily prevents the ovaries from releasing a single egg each month (which is a typical menstrual cycle) is also administered by daily injection. Women resume menstrual activity shortly after stopping these injections.

Once the eggs are ready to be harvested, a fertility specialist identifies the eggs to be retrieved. A needle is passed through the top wall of the vagina and is inserted into the ovary to remove an egg. This process is repeated for each egg. This procedure usually takes 30 - 60 minutes total. After about 20 minutes of recovery, the donor can go home....

Potential risks for women egg donors include:

* bruising or hemorrhaging of the ovary from the needle used to retrieve the eggs
* ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome — nowadays a very rare occurrence, this is a series of negative side effects experienced over a two-week period following the release of a large number of eggs. This condition is caused by high hormone levels resulting from hyperstimulated and enlarged ovaries due to fertility drugs, particularly FSH, used for egg growth.
* long-term consequences that are not fully known
posted by occhiblu at 12:03 PM on August 23, 2006


"She looks vaguely like this."

That picture (which of course is not your friend) looks (Ex-) Soviet Asian to me: Kazakh, Turkmen, Azerbaijani. But not even really Mongol and not ethnic Chinese, or coastal, or South East Asian.

But that's just my take on it.
posted by orthogonality at 12:07 PM on August 23, 2006


More info here, too. You're basically putting your body under the control of massive amounts of hormones, and risk the depression, massive weight gain, huge mood swings, etc. that can go along with that, for as many months as it takes to get as many eggs as are needed.

Again, I don't think it's unethical (unless, obviously the woman is coerced), and I think it's great to help couple who want kids, but I do think it's a major major thing.
posted by occhiblu at 12:08 PM on August 23, 2006


re: your musical blonde comment: Interracial adoption is no joke. You must be prepared, for the rest of your life, to answer an unending stream of skeptical questions ("Is that your child? Prove it. Why are you kidnapping her?") that parents of children who "look like" them never have to answer. Think about that for a while and you'll see why people have a completely reasonable preference for kids that look like themselves.

Egg donation is the same procedure as IVF, only the fertilized egg gets put back in someone else rather than you. You can google up a zillion personal accounts of IVF. It involves a lot of hormone shots and a lot of blows to one's personal dignity, but is hardly unconquerable.

As the one article explains, there are cultural taboos against donating eggs in Asian cultures. As you may not know, there are also cultural taboos against adopting children from outside your own family tree. So Asians with fertility problems don't want to adopt, and don't have many egg donors available.

I have no idea if your friend would be in demand as an egg donor. Only way to know is to fill out a profile and see if would-be parents pick her.
posted by jellicle at 12:28 PM on August 23, 2006


There was a pretty good, if somewhat brief, article on the "Ivy League Egg Market" in the December 2002 Atlantic Monthly. I think it's subscribers-only now, but it might be worth finding in your local library's archives.
posted by Johnny Assay at 12:30 PM on August 23, 2006 [1 favorite]


Why are Asian eggs in demand

What is it about the Asians that fascinates Caucasians?

If we could answer that rationally the world would make a lot more sense.
posted by meehawl at 12:45 PM on August 23, 2006 [1 favorite]


You must be prepared, for the rest of your life, to answer an unending stream of skeptical questions ("Is that your child? Prove it. Why are you kidnapping her?") that parents of children who "look like" them never have to answer.

My mom is white. I am brown. Back in the eighties, when this was even less common than it is today, this never happened to her. No one questioned that we didn't look alike. These days I'd think it's even rarer. I'm sorry if you had some bad experiences, but scaremongering like this is really screwed up.

posted by dame at 12:57 PM on August 23, 2006 [2 favorites]


I don't think there's anything unusual going on with the demand for Asian eggs. The simplest answer is that there are significantly more infertile Asian couples out there than there are Asian egg donors. To better hide the fact that their child was conceived by both an outside donor and IVF, the couples want donors with similar features and complexion.

I can't generalize for all Asian races but I know among Chinese people, blood and bone marrow donation rates are microscopically low and I'd imagine the same scenario with egg donations. As jellicle mentioned, there are some cultural taboos and superstitions associated with tissue donation on top of a general lack of knowledge of the need for tissue.
posted by junesix at 1:40 PM on August 23, 2006


Your North Gate News article explains why Asian eggs are in demand pretty well. I do not think that the East Asian couples looking to have a baby that looks like themselves would pick your friend. But your friend's eggs could very likely be in demand from folks who are specifically interested in a multiethnic-looking baby.
posted by desuetude at 1:48 PM on August 23, 2006


Wow, did k8t NOT ask about whether or not we could debate interracial adoption, latent racism, or everyone's personal experiences with noticing race and to what degree.

Anyone out there ever donate their eggs? What's it like?
posted by desuetude at 7:16 PM on August 23, 2006


[a few "not to derail" comments removed - please take further derails to metatalk or email]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:13 PM on August 23, 2006


Your friend shoud be prepared to be denied for this. She has to have near perfect health with 'no's' in all the do you or anyone in your family have [cancer, heart disease, acne, bad teeth, liver problems...]. It's a big long process that seems like way more hassle than it's worth.
posted by nadawi at 8:31 PM on August 23, 2006


I did not donate any eggs, but I did an IVF cycle to conceive my now 3 year old son. Egg donation isn't quite like donating sperm.

In the first place, as nadawi said you have to be in perfect health, go through physical and psychological testing and have absolutely nothing that could be construed as a negative in your history ie: addiction history, learning disability, even being overweight slightly can eliminate you from consideration.

If the reproductive endocrinologist decides you would be a good candidate for egg donation, your information is then put in a book-basically it's a catalog for prospective patients to look through. Some have pictures, some don't but all will have every single bit of information about you, including your personal habits, idiosyncracies, family history and hobbies. If you're a concert pianist, parents want to know. If you aced your college boards, they want to know. If your father is a recovering alcoholic, they really want to know.

Once a donor is selected, the RE will contact them and begin to sync the donor's menstrual cycle with the mother's cycle. Usually you will start with a cycle of birth control pills to make sure you line up together, then the donor will start with (usually) Lupron injections every day to prevent premature ovulation while stimulating. That injection is nothing-insulin needle in your stomach or thigh, I did them in the car or wherever I was when it was time.
Once the RE is sure that you're "suppressed", the donor will begin a regimen of super ovulating drugs and often it's a cocktail of different ones. When I did my cycle I had mixtures of Follistim and Gonal F. I was seen every other morning for a vaginal ultrasound and opposite mornings I had blood drawn to check for levels of the hormones. When the RE determined that the follicles were mature enough, he prescribes the "trigger" shot of HCG-this does the final ripening of the follicles and 18 hours exactly after that shot, the eggs are harvested.

I was asleep when my eggs were harvested, my husband was down the hall with a couple Penthouse providing his share of the deal. After I was put to sleep, my legs were put up in stirrups and a vaginal ultrsound probe was inserted. Once the RE located the follicles he inserted a verrrrrrrrry long needle inside a sheath attached to the probe and punctured the roof of my vagina several times to suction the eggs out. When I woke up my husband was holding my hand and I had a sanitary pad inside my underwear for the bleeding. I had some cramping for a day or so.

If I had been a donor, I would have received a check for $3000 (the going rate for egg donation in my area) and ushered out the back door to avoid the parents.


I don't think that there's anything ethically wrong with it, but it's probably not the easy 15k people think it is.
posted by hollygoheavy at 3:55 PM on August 24, 2006


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