My reasons

Be aware that some people have very strong feelings either in support of or against egg donation, but there is no right or wrong reason to donate your eggs. It is important that when making this decision, you make the decision that is best for your wants, needs, and lifestyle, while keeping in mind that this choice may also have long-term impacts on your life.

Questions to ask:

Why am I pursuing egg donation?

There are many reasons why women consider donating their eggs. The most frequently reported reasons are to help others and/or to make money. Making money and/or wanting to help others are the most frequently reported reasons. Sometimes a woman will donate eggs to help a close friend or family member, or to support research that requires human eggs, such as stem cell research.

Controversy: General overview

There are a number of controversies surrounding egg donation, with many different perspectives informing the debates. There are differing opinions about whether the procedure is safe, whether and how much women should be paid for their eggs, and concerns about the process being exploitative of women. It is important to learn about the different sides of these controversies so that you are fully informed about the procedure and can make the best decision for yourself. An examination of the debates may be useful in helping you make your own decision.

How long is the time commitment?

Egg donation can take anywhere from 3 months to 2 years, depending on how quickly you are matched with the intended parent(s).

For some prospective donors, the process might never go past an initial application or telephone interview. Some women who are interested in donating their eggs may not be selected by an agency, clinic, or recipient; sometimes egg donors decide, for whatever reason, not to donate.

Consideration: Donating eggs for research versus for reproduction

If you are donating eggs for research, be aware that the process differs from the process of donating eggs for reproduction. The timeline of the donation process is very different when donating for research. Women donating for research do not have to wait to be matched with intended parent(s). Depending on where you live, there are different regulations pertaining to payment for eggs for research.

While the medical procedure for extracting the eggs is the same, the context, motivations and considerations involved in the decision-making process can differ. In the context of donating for reproduction, intended parents seek donors with desirable genetic traits and are usually hoping that the donation process will result in pregnancy. Doctors may be motivated to increase dosages in order to obtain a higher number of viable eggs for the intended parent(s). In the research context, the genetic material in the eggs can be entirely irrelevant or may be the deciding factor in selecting a donor. Researchers often search for donors with family histories of the disease they are studying. Some argue that women should be compensated differently for donating to research - some argue for more and some argue for less.

It is important to keep in mind that it takes time to find cures and treatments for diseases. It often takes years, even decades. Therefore, donating your eggs may not lead directly to a cure, and often times it is difficult to determine how, where, or when your eggs will be used in the research process.

  Donating for Reproduction Donating for Research
Timeline Varies depending on how long it takes to be matched. Much faster and depends on clinic scheduling.
Procedure Standard procedure.
Compensation High variability. In the United States, compensation varies on different factors: agency/clinic policies (some abide by the ASRM recommended limit of no more than $10,000). Other agencies disregard the limit and pay more according to desirable traits of the donor (e.g. test scores, Ivy League education, attractiveness, athleticism, or in-demand ethnicities, such as Asian or Jewish heritage). Nationwide agencies also compensate donors based on the cost of living in her state. Varies depending on state laws and regulations.
Purpose To conceive children. For scientific development such as stem cell research.
Eligibility Because egg donation is not regulated in the United States, practices vary. Eligibility varies depending on the agency and clinic. Some agencies require college education, transcripts to certify good grades, proof of high SAT/GRE test scores, etc. Other agencies may be looking for donors of a certain height, body mass index, and family medical history.
Donors are typically between the ages of 18 and 30, have no history of mental illness, and have no genetic predisposition to certain medical problems. In some countries, it is preferred that a donor has already completed her family prior to donating (Australia). Donors are typically between the ages of 18 and 30. Specific research programs may be looking for donors with specific genetic markers or abnormalities, so eligibility differs from study to study.

What is the best route to egg donation for me?

In looking at egg donor ads and vetting egg donor programs, consider whether the ad is placed by an agency, egg bank, a clinic, or an individual interested party. There is an important difference in their function and the services they will provide, both to the donor and the intended parent(s).

Agencies help recruit potential donors, but do not provide medical services. An ad placed by an agency will usually seek certain qualities or traits (e.g. high SAT scores, athletic ability, or above-average height) and often advertise large amounts of money to attract a greater number of potential candidates. Typically each agency has a specific contact person with the title of “egg donor coordinator” that will work with each donor throughout the process. Many agencies will also provide surrogacy recruiting services. Agencies will conduct the initial intake screening and place the information on their websites or in their databases to attract intended parent(s). The primary function is to connect donors and parents. After being accepted by the agency, the donor must wait to be matched with an intended parent(s). Some donors will be matched quickly, while others may never be matched. Going through a broker may or may not result in a phone call from an interested party and the payment offered will likely be lower than advertised. Donors will be referred to a fertility clinic for their genetic testing, monitoring appointments, and eventual retrieval. Egg agencies are paid by the intended parent(s) usually through fees associated with a successful match and successful retrieval. Often your compensation will be held in trust by the egg agency on behalf of the intended parent. Although many agencies still adhere to a strict policy of requiring anonymous donations, some agencies are flexible and allow for the parties to choose whether to have an open or semi-open donation.

Egg banks function similarly to agencies in that they recruit donors. The key difference is that donors are recruited to donate their eggs to be frozen and selected by intended parents at a later date. Egg banks also seek certain qualities. They tend to offer a lower amount of compensation. Because of the nature of an egg bank, the donor does not need to be matched with a specific interested party. Thus, the process from being approved and egg retrieval often takes less time. Unlike agencies, egg banks adhere to a strict anonymous donation policy. It is possible that a donor’s eggs may be split between two or more intended parent(s), depending on how many viable eggs are extracted.

Fertility clinics, on the other hand, recruit women interested in egg donation, connect donors to intended parent(s), provide medical services, and conduct the medical procedure for egg retrieval. In essence, they conduct the entire process “in-house.” Some clinics are stand alone fertility clinics, others are connected with a university or private hospital system. Often the payment offered will be lowered.

Individual interested parties, such as an intended parent, may also place ads or be active on discussion boards seeking an egg donor. It can be assumed that these individuals are not associated with a specific agency, perhaps because they want to avoid paying the agency fees for recruiting and facilitating in the process. A potential donor can contact the interested party directly to initiate a donation and discuss specifics, such as compensation, logistics, and type of donation (often open or semi-open donation). If both parties agree to the donation, the donor will then present to a fertility clinic for the genetic screening, monitoring appointments, and retrieval.

Regardless of whether a donor chooses to donate through an agency, egg bank, or fertility clinic, the donor should meet the the reproductive endocrinologist, have their questions answered, and feel comfortable with the clinic who will provide medical services and perform the egg retrieval. The appropriate contracts should be entered into between the donor and the intended parent(s) to set forth each party’s expectations, including parental rights and compensation.

For more information:

Warning: Egg donor ads

Do not rely on egg donor advertisements for details about the egg donation process including the amount of compensation and potential risks.  The purpose of an advertisement is to entice you to become an egg donor, so they might not be fully forthcoming with all the information you need to decide. Keep in mind that every route, be it an egg agency, egg bank, fertility clinic, or individual has an interest in you matching and completing an egg donation cycle. It may be in their interest to gloss over the potential risks.  Make sure you do enough research so that you are informed about the decision you are making.

Consideration: ASRM member agencies

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) compiles of list of member agencies that abide by professional industry guidelines. The ASRM is the only organization claiming to establish an ethical standard with which egg agencies, egg banks, and fertility clinics operate, but it is important to remember that it has no review, regulation, or law enforcement mechanism. Some egg donor agencies abide by ASRM guidelines and ethics, others do not. Any organization or business can join by paying a membership fee.

The ASRM states on its website that it is dedicated to the advancement of the art, science, and practice of reproductive medicine. The ASRM promotes advocacy on behalf of patients, physicians, and affiliated health care providers by providing guidelines on egg donation, fertility treatments, and ethics. It lobbies for the interests of the fertility industry.