There are many reasons why a couple may be unable to conceive a child on their own. When one of the issues involves a woman, who is unable to produce viable eggs, one of the ways for a couple to have a child is through the process of egg donation.
Women who are donating eggs must meet specific criteria for the donation process to be approved. Genetic testing, fertility screening, and psychological evaluations are all part of the process. Then the woman who is donating her eggs must coordinate her menstrual cycle with the recipient to have the best chance of producing an eventual child.
Infertility affects 10% of the women in the United States. More than 6 million women between the ages of 15-44 find it difficult to become pregnant or to maintain a pregnancy.
If you are affected by infertility, or you wish to help someone have a child of their own, then the pros and cons of donating eggs must be carefully considered. Here are the key points to look at.
List of the Pros of Donating Eggs
1. It gives you information about your own fertility.
Because the evaluation process is so extensive, women who are considering egg donation will learn a lot about their own fertility potential. That may help in the future family planning process. It can also help some women decide to freeze their eggs for when they want to become a parent, especially if their plan is to delay having children for several years.
2. It makes you feel good to help.
There is a certain satisfaction which comes when you can help someone who is struggling. The process of donating eggs, when successful, makes it possible for a couple who could not conceive on their own to have a child. The stresses which come with infertility are often comparable to the stress someone experiences when they are first diagnosed with a serious illness, such as cancer.
3. It provides free testing for common health concerns.
Women who are donating eggs will be tested, for free, for several common genetic disorders. These genetic conditions are not predictable outside of the testing process. They develop when two people with the same mutation conceive and include common inherited conditions, such as cystic fibrosis. That information can then be used for future family planning outside of the donation process.
4. It offers free STD testing.
Women who donate their eggs are also tested for common infectious sexually-transmitted diseases. Tests include those which detect HIV/AIDS, chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, and Hepatitis B and C. Although these tests can also be requested from a primary care provider, they are usually covered without cost when undergoing the evaluation process for egg donation.
5. It offers good compensation rates.
Women who agree to become egg donors are often compensated for their donation. In the United States, most women will receive at least $4,000 for their time, travel, and the medical procedures which are required to harvest the eggs. Women who have an excellent genetic profile may be able to receive $10,000 or more for the egg donation process. Women with a successful history of donating eggs and viable embryos may be paid upwards of $30,000 per donation.
6. It permits most women to help one another if they wish.
Most programs have age requirements in place for women who want to start donating their eggs. In the United States, the most common accepted age bracket is between 21 years of age and 31 years of age. Some programs will only accept egg donations from women who are under the age of 30. As long as a woman is still of childbearing age, has a BMI below 29, above 19, and is not using contraceptive implants or certain birth control injections, there may be a program which permits a donation.
7. It gives older women an opportunity to experience motherhood.
Delaying parenthood until the 40s or 50s is become more common in Europe, the United States, and other parts of the western world. At that age, being able to conceive a child on one’s own may no longer be possible. Because other women can donate eggs to them, there is always the opportunity for a woman to experience motherhood if they wish. They can even do so at a time which feels like it is right.
8. It is a short collection process.
The amount of time a woman must take to prepare for donating her eggs can be extensive. The actual procedure to collect the eggs, however, is not time intensive. Although it is a surgical procedure to collect the eggs, it is usually completed in 30 minutes or less. Then a day of rest is recommended for the woman who completed the donation. Many of these procedures are completed on an outpatient basis and can be scheduled at a time that is convenient.
9. It is a process which can be directed to specific couples.
Direct egg donations are possible with some programs. If a woman knows of a couple who is struggling to conceive and wishes to donate eggs to help them, it is possible to do so with the consent of both parties. This allows the woman who donates to have an opportunity to be involved in the life of a child that may be born from this process. It also eliminates the questions that couples may have regarding the origin of the donation when the process is kept private.
List of the Cons of Donating Eggs
1. It is not a process that is free from physical side effects.
Side effects are classified as “rare” for women who undergo the testing and procedure for donating eggs. They are, however, still possible. Reported side effects include swollen ovaries, unexpected bleeding, infection, blood clots, and severe abdominal pain after the eggs have been collected. The fertility drugs a woman takes may produce their own side effects as well. Many women report fluid retention up to, and sometimes beyond, their next menstrual cycle after donating their eggs too.
2. It can cause women to become pregnant with multiples.
Because women who decide to become donors are typically given fertility medication to increase the chances of a successful egg collection procedure, there is an increased chance of experiencing a personal pregnancy. There are a variety of reasons why a multiples pregnancy is considered somewhat common after donating eggs. Some eggs may not be collected during the procedure. More eggs than normal may be produced during the regular menstrual cycle. Some eggs are even created prematurely, which can trigger a pregnancy before the egg donation process occurs.
3. It can cause permanent physical changes.
One of the biggest risks that women face when donating eggs is a permanent change to their ovulation cycle. Although also classified as a “rare” side effect, the fertility medication given will overly stimulate the ovaries to produce more mature, viable eggs for collection. The added stimulation for some women becomes permanent, even after they stop taking the fertility medication. Should this occur, the added discomfort from swollen ovaries occurs monthly. It may also lead to early onset menopause for some women.
4. It may still create non-viable eggs.
Even after several rounds of testing, check-ups, and various other medical procedures, the eggs produced through the donation process may not be viable for a number of reasons. One issue that effects donating eggs is the process of spontaneous mutation. Just about everyone is believed to have new mutations of some type as part of their genetic makeup. Studies have placed the total number, per individual, as high as 400. That amount of genetic variation can make it difficult for the egg donation process to be completed at times.
5. It can be a stressful experience.
There is no guarantee that a donated egg will become an embryo or an eventual child. There is also the possibility that every egg could become a child. Some women take delight in being able to provide children for couples struggling to conceive on their own. Other women struggle with the experience, feeling a sense of responsibility for the child since it is their biological relative. For this reason, an extensive psychological exam is often part of the egg donating process to ensure all parties can come away from the experience feeling happy on some level.
6. It is often an anonymous process.
When donating eggs, most programs keep the process anonymous for all parties involved. The couple wanting a child would pay the program, who would then pay the woman donating her eggs. This offers an enhanced level of privacy for everyone. It also creates questions that require both parties to trust in the program itself.
The pros and cons of donating eggs must be evaluated on a personal level. It may be the best way forward for some couples and women who wish to help. It may also not be the right choice for some couples when trying to start a family of their own. By evaluating each key point carefully, steps toward the correct personal decision can be made.