If you're considering becoming an egg donor, you should first make sure you understand what is involved. Egg donation is a wonderful gift to a couple who cannot have a baby without your help. It's an opportunity not only to help bring a new life into this world, but also to help create a new family. The financial compensation is nice, too.
Still, becoming an egg donor is not for everyone. It takes a lot of time and effort, and requires you to feel comfortable submitting to many medical procedures.
This list is by no means comprehensive, but it'll help you understand generally what's involved in becoming an egg donor.
All egg donors:
Must have a full physical exam, including a pelvic examination (similar to your annual gynecological exam.) The pelvic exam will include testing for gonorrhea and chlamydia.
Must have transvaginal ultrasounds. During the screening process, ultrasound is used to evaluate your fertility potential and the health of your ovaries. During the donation cycle itself, ultrasound is used to monitor the stimulation of your ovaries.
Must have blood work. During screening, blood work is required to check for a variety of diseases and do genetic testing. During the donation cycle, you'll need to have blood drawn almost daily for up to 10 days, to monitor the egg stimulation.
May have genetic testing. The purpose of genetic testing is to screen for genetic disorders like cystic fibrosis or Tay Sachs. Egg donors also need to provide a detailed family history, to help detect inherited diseases.
Must get tested for STDs and AIDS and other communicable disease testing, including hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and syphilis.
Go through psychological screening. The purpose is mainly to make sure you understand the donor process and the risks involved, and to help you think through the emotional and ethical aspects of donation. Psychological testing may be done to make sure the donation would not be harmful to you psychologically, and to help prevent passing on certain inheritable mental illness. Some agencies also ask for IQ and personality testing.
Must agree to testing and psychological screening for your partner. If you're married, it is required. If not, it may or may not be required of your partner, but it is highly recommended. Your partner will be tested for STDs and AIDS, and the psychological screening is to ensure that he understands the egg donation process and accepts your participation.
May have an unannounced drug screening. Drug use puts you at high risk for sexual transmitted diseases and may affect your fertility health. Also, if you say you've never done drugs, but drug testing is positive, it suggests that you may not have been honest with other parts of the screening process.
Must have access to detailed family and personal health histories. This includes sharing physical and mental health information of your biological parents, grandparents, and siblings. You also will need to be honest about any former drug use or risky sexual behavior (like prostitution.)
Be able to give yourself frequent self-injections. The fertility medications you'll be taking are injectable medications, which you will have to give to yourself, usually into the fatty tissue of your stomach. The daily injections last about two weeks, and you may be giving yourself a few injections of different medications a day.
Must be available for frequent appointments for blood work and for ultrasounds, usually very early in the morning. Egg stimulation is time sensitive, and your schedule needs to be flexible enough to account for the testing and procedures.
Go through egg retrieval, which is a minor surgical procedure where an ultrasound guided needle is placed through your vaginal wall, to aspirate the developed eggs from the ovaries. You'll receive IV sedation for the procedure, and you will probably want to take the day off from work. Many women feel fine the next day, while others need to rest longer.
May experience drug and medical procedure side effects. The fertility drugs and egg retrieval may cause side effects. Most side effects are merely uncomfortable, including things like headaches and bloating, while some of the rare side effects can lead to hospitalization.
In very rare cases of severe side effects (less than 1%), failure to treat complications can be life threatening and may lead to the loss of your future fertility.
Need to make a several month commitment. From the time you answer the ad, get through the screening process, get chosen by intended parents, and go through the donor cycle, several months may pass by. During actual donation, you will be involved with the injections, blood tests, doctor appointments, and transvaginal ultrasounds on an almost daily basis for two to three weeks.
May need to abstain from sex during the donor cycle. During donation, you are extremely fertile, and while the eggs should not release on their own, they may. The doctor may also miss a few eggs during the retrieval. If you're having sex, this may lead to a multiple pregnancy of twins, triplets or even more. You may also need to refrain from sex due to discomfort from the fertility drugs or when healing from the egg retrieval.
Have a high responsibility to carry out medical instructions exactly. Your responsibilities include not just taking medications, but doing them at the precise time instructed. If the doctor asked you to give yourself an injection of a particular drug at 8 PM on a particular night, you must do just that, or it could jeopardize the entire donation.
Need to understand that they are relinquishing any parental rights to the child born from the donated eggs. This also means that if you have children in the future, you understand that they may have half-siblings in the world that they may never meet or know. (It is possible to have a partial open donation if the intended parents are interested, where you can maintain some contact between the intended parents and yourself. But this isn't common.)
Need to understand that once you donate your eggs, you have no rights over them. Once the eggs are fertilized and become embryos, they may not all be used right away to make a baby. Some may be left over, and whether they remain frozen for the future, donated to another couple, donated for research, or destroyed is up to the intended parents. Sometimes, intended parents will make a prior agreement on what they will do with leftover embryos with a donor, but legally, it's probably not enforceable. (You can't make the couple have another child, in other words.)
Need to understand that a baby is not guaranteed. IVF is not a perfect technology, and while the intended parents have a good chance for conceiving, it's also possible no baby will result. You may or may not be given this information, depending on your contract and agreements.
As you can see, egg donors have high responsibilities. If you think you can do this, then good for you! Your donation, if you pass through the screening phase, is the greatest gift you could ever give to another person.
But if after looking at this list, you feel egg donation is not for you, there's nothing wrong with that. What's most important is that you seriously considered the idea and took into account your life and feelings.
Better to decide not to donate now, rather than going through the screening process only to let down a family who has their heart set on your donor file.
2008 Guidelines for Gamete and Embryo Donation: a Practice Committee Report. American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Accessed December 2, 2010. http://asrm.org/uploadedFiles/ASRM_Content/News_and_Publications/Practice_Guidelines/Guidelines_and_Minimum_Standards/2008_Guidelines_for_gamete%281%29.pdf
Becoming an Egg Donor. New York State Department of Health. Accessed December 2, 2010. http://www.health.state.ny.us/publications/1127/
Interests, obligations, and rights of the donor in gamete donation. Ethics Committee. American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Accessed December 2, 2010. http://asrm.org/uploadedFiles/ASRM_Content/News_and_Publications/Ethics_Committee_Reports_and_Statements/interests_obligations_rights_of_donor.pdf
Carol Fulwiler Jones, MA, LPC, LMFT. http://www.TheInfertilityCounselor.com Email Correspondence/Interview. November 8 and 10, 2010.
Lisa Greer of Beverly Hills Egg Donation, LLC. http://www.bhed.com Email Correspondence/Interview. November 6 and 28, 2010.
Theresa M. Erickson, Attorney & Counselor at Law. Email Correspondence/Interview. November 5, 8, and 19, 2010.
Wendie Wilson, President of Gifted Journeys. http://www.giftedjourneys.com Email Correspondence/Interview. November 8, 2010.