As artificial reproductive technologies have become more advanced and widespread, more women also started considering egg donation as a possibility. There are two basic reasons to become an egg donor — the wish to help someone else conceive a child, and the prospect of earning a considerable amount of money. These are some questions to consider before becoming an egg donor.
I already blogged about sperm donation and the things all parties should consider before going ahead multiple times. Sperm donation and egg donation have many obvious things in common. Both egg and sperm donors contribute to creating a child that will be biologically related to them, but who they will not raise. Both can either receive payment or “compensation” for their time. Egg donation is much more invasive than sperm donation, however, and comes with health risks that sperm donors would never come across. We’ll divide this blog post into two sections than — emotional and health risks of egg donation.
The emotional impact of egg donation
Egg donors have two possible motivations: earning money, and helping someone (known or unknown to them) to have a child. No matter what a woman’s primary motivation is, egg donation has the same result, if IVF treatment is successful — egg donors will have a biological child, or more, but will not raise that child and will not get to know that child in most cases.
Since egg donation is still a pretty new phenomenon, there isn’t all that much information available about the long-term impact of donating eggs. Women who are considering becoming egg donors benefit from looking at some of the emotional impact sperm donation has had on men, and on their families. They also benefit from reading studies into the emotional well-being of donor-conceived children (Check “My daddy’s name is donor”), and reading blogs written by adults who were conceived with donor sperm.
Though there is no evidence that egg donation leaves a different emotional scar than sperm donation, I suspect this is the case. In many instances, egg donors are required to already have had biological children, to “prove” they can conceive or to lessen the emotional impact. This is probably helpful, since women who are already mothers may have more of an idea of what it will feel like to have biological children somewhere in the world, without seeing them. But nothing can quite prepare someone for this situation, and I believe women could be more shaken by gamete donation than men.
You already know you are not merely donating blood, and that donating may impact you. Have therapy before you go ahead. Donating eggs may help you overcome huge financial obstacles now, but will you pay the price later?
How egg donation impacts a woman’s health
Egg donors go through cycles that have a lot in common with traditional IVF cycles. They take fertility drugs to hyper-stimulate their ovaries, and then have as many eggs as possible harvested. The eggs are then fertilized with sperm, usually the sperm of the intended father, and placed into the uterus of the intended mother or a surrogate mother. Egg donors clearly have the same health risks that women who go through IVF to have children for themselves do. Ovarian hypertstimulation syndrome (OHSS) is one such risk, while ovarian cancer is another.
There are no studies that have looked into the long-term risks for egg donors specifically, but it is worth taking a look at such studies for women who had IVF. There are articles about egg donors who became infertile out there, including a very interesting Time article about an identical twin who donated eggs that I link below.
The only reliable thing that can be said about egg donation is that there are health risks, but that the extent of them is not known. This is something to acknowledge with open eyes if you are considering becoming an egg donor. Any look at egg donation sites will let you know that “proven donors” — women who already donated eggs before — fetch much higher fees. It is quite possible that donating multiple times will greatly increase the risk to a woman’s health. It is up to individual egg donors to decide whether the benefits of donating outweigh the possible risks, risks that are mostly completely unclear.
You may well be interested in reading Study: online egg donor agencies unethical.