Egg donors provide an invaluable gift to recipients who might otherwise be unable to have a child. Donating eggs is a serious decision that requires careful thought and commitment, and, as such, donors are financially compensated. While financial compensation is often a significant incentive for egg donors, it’s not necessarily the only reason women donate their eggs—which brings us the topic of common egg donor myths.
There are plenty of myths and misconceptions swirling around egg donation. Let’s look at some of the most common.
MYTH: DONATING EGGS DEPLETES A WOMAN’S EGG SUPPLY
Egg donation does not significantly reduce a woman’s egg supply. Approximately 10-15 eggs are removed during each donation cycle. Keep in mind that a woman is born with one to two million eggs inside her ovaries and loses only a few hundred eggs through ovulation in her lifetime.
MYTH: DONATING EGGS CAN CAUSE INFERTILITY IN THE DONOR
There is no evidence that the egg donation process negatively impacts a woman’s ability to have children. As with any medical procedure, there are risks involved—a very small number of women will develop ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) or ovarian torsion; infection, bleeding, and damage to internal organs are also possible, but rare.
There are no studies showing that infertility is a significant risk for women who donate their eggs.
MYTH: ANY WOMAN CAN BECOME AN EGG DONOR
Unfortunately, not all women are eligible to become egg donors. Eligibility is limited to women of a certain age (typically women between the ages of 21 and 30) who score high on fertility tests and who meet additional criteria, which may include:
- General good health, with both ovaries intact
- Body mass index (BMI) below a certain threshold
- No family history of inheritable genetic diseases, such as cystic fibrosis
- U.S. citizenship (some donor agencies)
- Certain education requirements (e.g. some college, or college graduate)
- No psychiatric disorders or family history of such disorders
- Non-smoker, and social drinking only
- No current or previous substance abuse
- No contraceptive implants or hormonal IUDs
- Desire to help someone create a family
MYTH: THERE ARE NO LIMITS TO THE NUMBER OF EGGS A WOMAN CAN DONATE
For the safety of donors (egg donation is a medical procedure, which has inherent risks), the American Society of Reproductive Medicine has established guidelines limiting the number of times a woman can donate her eggs to six (6) times. How long a donor must wait between egg retrieval cycles will depend on the overseeing doctor’s recommendations and the policies of the particular IVF clinic.
MYTH: WOMEN WHO BECOME EGG DONORS ONLY DO IT FOR THE MONEY
Many people assume that financial compensation is the only reason a woman would donate her eggs, but in reality, egg donors are often strongly motivated to help families—at a minimum, they know they are helping someone in need.
Donors receive compensation for their time and any expenses they incur, including commuting and time missed from work or school. The egg donation process requires commitment and physical investment. It’s not something to be taken lightly. That’s why reputable egg donor clinics like The Donor Solution carefully screen potential egg donors.
MYTH: EGG DONORS MUST TAKE EXTENSIVE TIME OFF FROM WORK OR SCHOOL
While egg donation requires a commitment of 6-10 weeks, appointments can often be done early in the morning, before school or work, and most doctor’s visits take place within a few weeks of the actual egg retrieval.
Depending on the location of the clinic, you may need to spend several nights away from home. The actual egg retrieval process takes just 20-30 minutes, after which you’ll need a full day to recover. In all, most women are able to easily arrange their schedules around the egg donation process.
MYTH: DONATING EGGS IS A PAINFUL PROCESS
Prior to egg retrieval, donors must self-administer a series of hormone shots over the course of about two weeks. Shots are always a bit painful, and some women tolerate needles better than others. Women who normally brave through shots without a problem should do fine—those who panic or even faint when given shots may not be suitable candidates for egg donation.
Some women experience bloating, cramping, headaches, nausea, and breast tenderness as a result of the hormone medication, while others experience none of these symptoms at all. It’s important to keep in mind that any possible side effects are temporary. The egg retrieval procedure itself is painless; donors are sedated for the procedure and will have no memory of it.
MYTH: WOMEN WHO DONATE EGGS HAVE LEGAL RESPONSIBILITIES TO ANY CHILD BORN
Becoming an egg donor requires relinquishing all rights and responsibilities associated with both the donated eggs and any children born as a result of them. Egg donors must typically sign legal contracts, parental rights waivers, informed consent releases, confidentiality agreements, and other forms, which may vary somewhat from agency to agency.
Egg donor arrangements are often anonymous, which means the egg donor won’t know
who receives her eggs, and recipients won’t know the donor. In anonymous situations, any information about the egg donor is presented in a non-identifying manner. This means a donor’s last name, address, phone number, email address, and other identifying information will not be given to recipients.
MYTH: WOMEN WHO USE DONOR EGGS PASS NONE OF THEIR OWN GENES ON TO THEIR OFFSPRING
Advancements in scientific understanding have revealed that mothers can in fact pass on some of their genes to their offspring, even when they use donor eggs from another woman.4 This is significant, since the idea of having no genetic relation to their baby is sometimes a concern for women considering using donor eggs.
Molecules called microRNAs, which pass genetic information from the mother to the fetus, are secreted in the mother’s womb, making their way into the developing fetus through the endometrial fluid. MicroRNAs can be thought of as “packets” of information that regulate the expression of genes. They can influence everything from the baby’s physical characteristics to the onset of diseases later in life. The discovery of microRNA transfer in the womb helps explain why some babies conceived from donor eggs bear a resemblance to someone on the birth mother’s side, including mom herself!
The Donor Solution invites prospective egg donors and recipients (intended parents) to learn more about the egg donation process.