You’ve probably heard about sperm donation before, but you may not have heard of egg donation.
Across the nation, thousands of women each year choose to donate their eggs to others in need. These eggs go to others who are trying to start families themselves, including gay couples, older women who can’t conceive, cancer survivors, families with genetic disorders or couples who face infertility issues.
According to the Center for Disease Control, “Impaired fecundity (the inability to have a child) affects 6.7 million women in the U.S. — about 11% of the reproductive-age population.” This leaves thousands of people every year in need of healthy eggs, which women across the nation try to help by donating their own eggs.
Most egg donors are young women in their 20s through their early 30s, but exact age depends on the agency collecting the eggs. Before being selected, prospective donors are typically screened to ensure healthy bodies and no genetic disorders. For many women this is a rare chance to receive a thorough screening and learn more about themselves and their bodies in the process.
Afterwards, the donor undergoes the ovarian stimulation process, injecting herself with hormones that will help “stimulate the release of multiple mature eggs.” Once the eggs are ready for retrieval, eggs are collected using ultrasound-guided needle. In many cases, the process takes only 20 minutes, and the donor is ready to return to work or school the next day.
However, the process is not without its risk. Roughly there is a one percent chance of developing OHSS, ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome, or the swelling of the ovaries. Symptoms can range from nausea to vomiting and in extremely rare cases, shortness of breath and severe abdominal pain.
To ensure the lowest chance of dangerous symptoms, it’s important to look at and heavily research each agency before choosing one to donate with. Some agencies focus much more strongly on the health of the donor, and ensure the process is done with the least irritation possible. Certain agencies do this by limiting the number of eggs that can be harvested, restricting the age of the women who can donate, or increasing the number of health screenings to include a psychological evaluation — a way to ensure the donor is emotionally ready to undergo the process. Since there are fewer regulations on egg donor centers, it is often up to the donor to ensure the agency is reputable and focus on the donor’s health.
Egg donation can be a beautiful way to help someone else, whether it’s a stranger, a family member or a friend, have a child. Each woman’s experience is different, and while some find it one of the most rewarding things they’ve done, others have more stressful and all around worse experiences. To learn more about egg donation, check out this great HowStuffWorks article on the process. To read more about the experiences of women who have donated, find their stories at We Are Egg Donors, which post both positive and negative blog posts written by dozens of egg donors.