With the growing number of women facing fertility problems, reproductive medicine has grown increasingly common. One of the more frequent causes of infertility is due to a woman's inability to produce eggs. This problem is usually caused by early menopause or damage to the ovaries. Fortunately, the process of in vitro fertilization and egg donation provides an opportunity for these women to become pregnant and have a biological child.
Before a woman can undergo in vitro fertilization, she must have a willing egg donor. Although the donor may be personally selected by the egg recipient, it is more commonly done anonymously. In most cases, egg donor agencies will recruit healthy women between the ages of 21 and 35, using advertising methods such as newspaper ads and radio spots.
When a potential donor shows interest in the donation process, the agency will first check her weight and verify that she is not a smoker. Assuming she is a healthy weight and a non-smoker, the donor must then provide her complete medical history, undergo extensive screenings for various physical and mental illnesses and meet with a psychologist for counseling. Once she is deemed eligible, she will then be matched up with a recipient. When matching a donor with a recipient, the agency will check for similar characteristics and features like eye and hair color and skin tone.
Contrary to popular opinion, an egg donor is not actually selling her eggs. In fact, she legally cannot be paid for her eggs. However, the donor can be compensated for the time and inconvenience that the egg donation process entails, which is rather extensive. In fact, due to the number of screenings, exams and medical treatment required, the egg donation process may take up to 3 months of the donor's time, during which she must be available anytime for appointments and checkups. It is due to the amount of time required that agencies provide monetary compensation.
Many women incorrectly believe that, because they only have a certain number of eggs, donating them will result in fertility problems of their own. This belief, however, is false. In fact, the egg donation process does not take any of the donor's actual eggs. Rather, the donor is given hormones to stimulate the production of eggs--so, in other words, entirely new eggs are produced. These new eggs are removed in an outpatient surgical procedure called egg retrieval and then are transferred to the recipient or frozen for later use.
There are two basic reasons women usually consider donating their eggs: helping another woman and receiving monetary compensation. Although the amount of compensation provided to donors varies with each agency, the average amount is usually between $4,000 and $6,000 per cycle (most clinics allow donors to donate a total of four to six times). It is important to note, however, that compensation is not provided per egg, but per cycle. Twenty or more eggs can be removed during one egg retrieval procedure.
As with any type of surgery, the egg donation process does have risks, the most common (although still very rare) being hyper stimulation of the ovaries. In simple terms, this means that the medicines given to the donor causes her ovaries to produce too many eggs, which can then form ovarian cysts. Ovarian hyper stimulation occurs in less than 2 percent of all egg donors and, when it does occur, is easily treated. The physical risks of egg donation, however, are not the only concern prospective donors face. Many donors often regret their decision later in life. But for many others, the pros of egg donation--giving an infertile woman an opportunity to have a child as well as monetary compensation--far outweigh the risks.