You mean I can donate some of my eggs, help a couple build a family, and get paid for it? I signed up for multiple agencies not too long after my research, and I received my first phone call just one week later. The woman on the line told me about the pay, which started at about $5,000 for my first donation of eggs (today, you can get anywhere from $10,000 - $20,000). But I was soon turned off by the idea when she told me the process. I was required to inject my lower abdomen with Follicle Stimulating Hormones (FSH) daily for about 10 days. The reason for this (necessary) process was so that my body would create more follicles, and in turn, I would release between 10 and 20 eggs each cycle. I had just stopped taking the birth control pill one year before due to the mood swings it gave me, and I knew I didn’t need another drug to mess with my body’s natural rhythm again. I said my thanks to the kind lady on the phone and hung up.
I decided that egg donation wasn’t for me after all, but I began to wonder about the other women who actually went through the process of donating their eggs. I’m sure some were successful and had an okay experience. But I also wouldn’t be surprised if there were women who had encountered the opposite – and as it turns out, I was right. Of course, there would be risks.
Back in 2010, a 17-year-old egg donor named Sushma Pandey died of complications from donating her ova at Rotunda Clinic in Mumbai. Reports say she died from shock due to the rising hormonal levels she underwent for the donation. A more recent medical journal investigated the “sudden death” of a 23-year-old egg donor during her oocyte retrieval. Past egg donors have reported having long-term effects from donating like breast cancer, loss of fertility, and fatal colon cancer.
With egg donation agencies now creating TikToks and influencing young women to donate eggs for money, the content on its benefits has begun to overshadow the media reports of its associated risks. It’s not safe to advertise the process as “risk-free” or “safe” when every person's reaction to the unnatural levels of hormones injected will be different. There is no guarantee every woman who decides to donate eggs will have a painless experience. I am indeed wary of donations because of this, but I felt it was only fair to interview a woman who did donate eggs so that I could truly understand the process without having to do it myself.
Q & A with an Anonymous Egg Donor
Q: Was the pay worth it?
A: I thought so at the time. I applied to a few agencies and went with the first one that accepted me. By the 3rd or 4th cycle with them, I heard back from another agency that paid 20% more, so I renegotiated with my original agency letting them know that I was being offered more elsewhere, and they matched the other agency’s rate. Now that I’m more in touch with my health and fertility, I wouldn’t repeat the experience only because I don’t actually know what the long-term effects and risks may be. The research I did at the time, including information provided by my agency, indicated that there weren’t any known long-term effects, but that doesn’t mean there actually aren’t any. Not to mention any procedure that requires you to be put under general anesthesia is risky in and of itself. Having learned more about the “birth industry” since then, I also now feel uncomfortable knowing that this agency probably still has some of my eggs and/or DNA, and I have no way of knowing what they’re really doing with them.
I feel uncomfortable knowing that this agency probably still has some of my eggs and or DNA.
Finally, I had no say in who received my eggs, so in retrospect, I feel it was irresponsible of me to bring life into this world with complete strangers who may or may not be parenting to the standards that I would wish for any child, let alone those conceived from me. I know they’re not “my children” anymore – I’m not speaking to the legal technicalities or political frameworks. I just mean on a spiritual level, beyond laws and politics, I still feel connected to them.
Q: Overall, did you have a good experience?
A: Yes. I was in a really difficult period of my life, financially and otherwise, and the money did help a lot. My agency was great and easy to work with. I had one experience with a male Ob/Gyn during one of my ultrasound appointments that made me uneasy – he was subtly creepy and overly touchy, but it didn’t escalate, and I was able to safely discuss that experience with one of the nurses afterward. I believe I wasn’t scheduled to see him again anyway. If I could’ve done anything differently I would’ve asked to have all women doctors and nurses for that reason.
The best part of the experience was getting to meet one of the recipient parents. She was in her 40s and single and afraid that she wouldn’t meet the ideal father for her children in time, so she decided to go for it solo. She picked me because we had a lot in common, everything from our physical appearance (we’re both half Asian, half white), to our talents and interests. We could’ve been sisters. She wanted an egg donor because she decided to use sperm from her brother so that she would have a blood connection to the child. She brought me flowers and was so grateful and sweet. And I gave her and her future child permission to contact me when the child turned 18 if they wanted to. I hope they do!
Q: Did you experience any side effects from the hormones you were given?
A: My health was not at its peak anyway in my 20s so it’s hard to say how I was affected long-term. My reproductive health is great now, but there were a few years after where my cycle was irregular and I dealt with PMS. I also experimented with my diet a lot in the years afterward and there were 2 months, about 6 months into my keto phase, where I stopped ovulating and experienced perimenopausal symptoms. But they resolved after I reincorporated carbs and now my cycle is like clockwork – shoutout to @learnbodylit on Instagram and Twitter for getting me back on track! It’s possible that egg donation was a contributing factor to my brief encounter with perimenopause. I really don’t know for sure.
The 2-3 days after each egg retrieval were terrible. I was bedridden in severe pain.
In the short term, the 2-3 days after each egg retrieval, especially for my first round, were terrible. It’s like very severe PMS. I was bedridden in severe pain. That was an expected side effect that they prepared me for. In terms of any changes I noticed during the years I was donating – I wish I’d kept notes on how many eggs they retrieved per session, but I vaguely remember by the last one that I had slightly fewer viable eggs than I did in the beginning. Nothing that the medical staff was concerned about though – they said I had an unusually high number of viable eggs every time.
Q: What advice would you give to women who are thinking about donating their eggs?
A: Apply to several agencies and ideally wait to hear back from a couple before you start so that you can negotiate the highest rate. Anecdotally I’ve heard that you get better compensation in Asia and Canada than in the U.S. Overall, I wouldn’t recommend it, though. The more I learn about the “birth industry,” the more wary of it I am. But that’s beyond the scope of this interview. There are better, less invasive ways to make money. The ability to conceive is a precious, priceless gift. There is nothing in the world now that I believe is worth risking my fertility for, not even a tiny bit!
There’s no doubt that egg donation has benefitted lives. With infertility rates rising, it’s no wonder couples are seeking options like in vitro fertilization (IVF). At the same time, it’s very important that we choose to stay wary of any procedure that requires us to interfere with our bodies. Besides that, IVF agencies are often questionable; many of them being created with the focus of bringing profit rather than focusing on fertility wellness. We must learn to be more aware of these agencies that have a tendency to prey on women and harm them for their own benefit.
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