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.
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.
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.