02 Oct 2020 What Is It Like to Be An Egg Donor? 5 Things You May Not Know
After years of working in the fertility field, first as an agency employee and later as an assisted reproductive technology (ART) fertility lawyer, the first piece of advice I would offer a woman considering becoming an egg donor is to gather as much information as you can before you make a commitment, and certainly before you enter into an agreement to become an egg donor.
The first thing to note is that in the vast majority of assisted reproduction cases, the egg donor and intended parents are not previously acquainted. No more than one in every 20 or 30 egg donors I have worked with is personally known to the intended parents. In most cases, the egg donor is matched to intended parents through an egg donor agency.
Donors will receive lots of information about an egg donation program from the donor agency or IVF clinic with which they are working. An experienced fertility lawyer can also help inform and guide donors and intended parents through the process.
Once the egg donor is fully informed about all potential risks, consequences, and rewards, and if still motivated to participate, she can proceed in the knowledge that she is helping to fulfill someone’s dream of becoming a parent.
Here are five things you may not know about egg donation:
1. An egg donor must have her own legal representation
This is true even in cases when the egg donor is a relative or friend of the intended parents… in fact, especially if the egg donor is a relative or friend!
While egg donors and intended parents are not on different sides, and all parties generally want the same outcome—a healthy baby—it is still essential that the egg donor have her own attorney to ensure her safety and rights are protected and that all parties understand what is required of them.
As reported by the advocacy organization Path2Parenthood (now merged with Family Equality Council), cost-benefit analyses show that the benefits of legal representation and a written donor agreement far outweigh the costs.
Once the initial intake and screening are completed, the egg donor will be required to sign an egg donor agreement with the intended parents, which will spell out the rights, responsibilities, and obligations of each party. Ideally, by the time the parties are ready to sign the agreement, the egg donor will have a clear, comprehensive understanding of the egg donation process and what is involved.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the egg donation process
Do this even if they seem silly!
Make sure you fully understand the legal, psychological, and medical aspects of becoming an egg donor and that you are comfortable with them.
For egg donors working with an agency, many questions will be addressed during the intake and screening process, before donors are matched with an intended parent or parents. In particular, be sure you understand clearly the medical procedures involved and the medication protocols you will be asked to follow prior to the procedure.
One of the biggest pitfalls egg donors encounter is a failure to follow the often complex medication regimen, which usually includes self-injection with fertility medications. Failure to complete the regimen correctly can result in a failure to successfully harvest viable eggs. Egg donors should be certain they clearly understand the medical process and what is required of them to stay safe and ensure a successful cycle.
3. Make sure you understand your agency’s policies on expense reimbursement
This advice holds true for egg donors and intended parents alike. Your agreement as an egg donor will include details of who is responsible for specific types of expenses. It can be tempting for excited intended parents to skip over the details, only to be surprised later to learn that the donor agreement requires them to reimburse the donor for per diem or travel and other expenses incurred.
Understand up front what is reimbursable and how reimbursements will be handled; intended parents should factor these expenses into the overall cost of their family-building efforts. Donors should be equally clear on what will and will not be reimbursed and what is included in their compensation.
4. Think carefully about the “myth of anonymity” before making your decision to become an egg donor
When I began working in the ART field, egg donors (and sperm donors) could safely expect to remain anonymous—and they preferred it that way. Breach-of-privacy concerns were limited to accidental breaches, such as leaving a private paper out for prying eyes to see or an accidentally mailed document.
The world has changed since then. Facial recognition software and genealogical websites such as 23andMe and Ancestry.com have made it increasingly easy to locate genetic family members.
While your donor agreement will state the intentions or rights of each party to pursue future contact or maintain anonymity, keep in mind that the child who will be born is not a party to your agreement. It is nearly impossible to control the behavior of a person who is not even born yet.
Potential egg donors should take into consideration that anonymity is quickly becoming a thing of the past before making the commitment to become an egg donor.
5. Understand that egg donation means committing to a detailed, time-consuming process, but is ultimately a beautiful gift that will change someone’s life for the better
Being an egg donor is an incredible gift that you can give to someone who needs your help. Most intended parents understand that creating a family via assisted reproduction is neither quick nor easy. Likewise, egg donors should understand the steps needed for successful donation and the time that will be required to complete those steps.
Each egg donor will be required to undergo medical and psychological screenings to determine general health, presence of any genetic or communicable disease, viability of eggs and psychological suitability to undergo the medication and harvesting procedures. Once a donor successfully completes these essential screenings, it may still take weeks or months to be matched with an intended parent or parents.
In my experience, women decide to become egg donors for a variety of reasons. Those who are motivated solely by money typically are eliminated during the screening process.
Most donors, at the end of the day, have a sincere desire to help others; the fact they can make money and help someone else in the process is a double bonus. Many do not want to have children of their own but understand that their ability to procreate can help someone else realize the dream of parenthood. A remarkable number also express a desire to help members of the LGBTQ community specifically to have equal opportunities to become parents.
Regardless of the motivation, donating eggs so that another person can have a child is a beautiful gift that will change someone’s life.
If you are an intended parent considering using an egg donor, or if you are an egg donor seeking legal advice, please contact the experienced fertility lawyers at IFLG for more information.