Women become egg donors for several reasons—altruism, financial, or familial. Some egg donors are family members, perhaps a sister or a cousin, who satisfy the recipient’s desire to have a closer genetic link to the child. Some anonymous donors may simply enjoy helping other women achieve pregnancy or share their own joy of parenthood with women who can’t use their own eggs. Of course, the financial incentive is also a reason. Egg donors are paid in the range of $3,500 to $6,000, and the donor’s fees are covered by the intended family. Insurance does not include donor fees. Donor fees may vary from clinic to clinic and may also depend upon the past success of a given donor’s eggs.
Egg donors tend to be 21-29 years old, healthy, with good family histories, and free of genetic or familial disorders or diseases.
Egg donor candidates complete a thorough medical history. All egg donors, known or anonymous, must have a general physical exam and also be screened for:
Egg donors have rights and obligations as outlined in the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s Ethics Committee report “Interests, obligations, and rights of the donor in gamete donation.”
If selected for egg donation, egg donors undergo ovary stimulation using the same medications that a woman would use to stimulate her own egg development in planning for in vitro fertilization. Generally, ultrasound and blood tests monitor the development of eggs in the donor’s ovaries. The donor’s menstrual cycle must be synchronized with the recipient’s menstrual cycle, so the egg donor undergoes a series of hormone injections to line up her menstrual cycle with that of the woman who will receive the eggs. There may be several injections during this cycle, and there will be several ultrasound and blood tests during which doctors will monitor the production of the donor’s eggs. When the ultrasound and blood testing suggest mature eggs in the ovaries, the donor will receive a final hormone injection prior to egg retrieval.
Once the donor’s eggs are ready for recovery, one final medication is given which will bring the eggs to final maturity. The eggs are then recovered with the use of an ultrasound-guided needle to gently remove the eggs from the ovaries. It is a simple, painless procedure with the use of light sedation medication and takes about 30 minutes to complete. The eggs are then taken to the laboratory for IVF in which the donor eggs and sperm are placed together for fertilization.
After the retrieval procedure, the donor will need a responsible adult to drive her home and remain with her overnight. Normal activities may resume the following day.
Very rarely infection or bleeding may develop after the egg retrieval. In addition, egg donation carries the following same risks as in vitro fertilization (IVF) during the egg retrieval stage.