Dear Dr. Kate,
There’s been an ad for egg donors in the paper for the last few weeks. This isn’t something that usually would have caught my eye at all, but the kicker? They’re offering $5,000 compensation for one bout of egg donation. For a struggling college student, this seems like it could definitely be worth it, however I’m slightly worried about the process and risks that could accompany egg donation. How many eggs do they take? Could it affect my fertility later? What sort of risks are associated with getting the eggs out? Any guidance you could give me would be fantastic, and thank you!
— Ms. Eggscavation
Dear Ms. E.,
Donating eggs to an infertile couple is a wonderfully selfless act, but is a lot more difficult than donating sperm (as evidenced by the much higher payment rates). Women who wish to be donors undergo a rigorous screening process to make sure that they’re in great health, with no family history of genetic problems.
Women who qualify for donation typically go on birth control pills for a month or two to regulate their periods, then begin a series of daily self-injections to make your ovaries produce as many eggs as possible. These are generally shots into your belly, and they do hurt a little. The risks of the hormones are low, but include incredible bitchiness.
Once your ovaries appear to have made enough eggs (determined by ultrasound), the doctors remove the eggs via a skinny needle that’s placed into your ovaries through your vaginal wall (don’t worry, you’ll be sedated during the process). The risks of egg retrieval are generally low as well, and include bleeding and infection. You won’t damage your own egg supply—you have plenty of eggs to be able to have your own children later—and the best evidence says that you’re not affecting your own fertility in any way.
Beyond the physical risks, though, you need to consider the possible psychological ones—can you live knowing that there might be a little boy or girl (or three) out there who is genetically half you? If you’re really interested in pursuing donation, make an appointment with the medical staff, and find out all of the information about it.
— Dr. Kate
Dr. Kate is an OB/GYN at one of the largest teaching hospitals in New York City. She also lectures nationally on women’s health issues and conducts research on reproductive health. Check out more of her advice and ask her a question at Gynotalk.com.