You’ve heard about egg donation: perhaps you’ve seen advertisements, or have a friend already considering a donation. Maybe a cousin used a donor to have a baby herself, and you’re wondering how you can help other families like hers. Whatever the reason, you’re interested.
But what’s it really like to be an egg donor? It’s one thing to do your research – a really important thing, actually – but it’s another to hear about the experience first hand from real egg donor stories. Why do real women decide to become donors? We’re sharing the stories of two women who made the decision to be part of something truly special – and on the other side, egg donor recipient stories that prove exactly why egg donation is such a gift.
First, an overview of the egg donation process. At ConceiveAbilities, we break it down into 4 basic steps. Keep in mind that each clinic, cycle, and match will be unique, but you can generally expect your egg donation to go as follows:
First, you’ll complete a secure online application to ensure you meet the egg donor requirements. If you’re selected, you’ll have an interview and learn more about the process in detail. This is also a great opportunity to ask questions about becoming an egg donor. You will complete enrollment paperwork and a psychosocial evaluation as well.
Once selected by an intended parent, you will be connected with a match manager to help guide you through the rest of the process, including medical and legal. You will complete medical screening and meet a physician for a physical exam and blood work, which will likely include testing for hormone levels, infectious diseases, genetic diseases as well as drugs and nicotine.
If you receive medical clearance to continue, you’ll receive more detailed instructions about how to take a series of injectable egg donor medications. You will also be assigned about 6 or 7 early morning appointments to monitor your ovaries’ response to the medication and to determine when retrieval will take place. Once you receive instructions from the clinic to take the final “trigger shot,” your eggs will be prepared for retrieval about 36 hours later.
While the retrieval itself only takes about 20 minutes, you will be under twilight sedation. The physician uses a vaginal ultrasound to guide a small needle through the vaginal wall to reach the ovaries and retrieve the eggs. Plan to have someone available to accompany you home from the clinic and to spend the rest of the day relaxing. You should feel comfortable returning to regular activities the next day, but you’ll still need to avoid anything strenuous until you receive clearance from the clinic.
The reasons for becoming an egg donor are entirely personal and will vary from individual to individual. The financial benefit is, of course, a major incentive. Women often use their egg donor compensation to help pay for school, to fund a business venture, to travel and more.
And while that is enticing, few can get through the process because of egg donor pay alone. The benefits go beyond the financial reward: it’s clear that for most donors, the desire to help another couple have a family plays a prominent role in their decision.
After her friend completed an egg donor application, Cara’s curiosity was peaked. She had also seen an aunt struggle with infertility, so there was a personal interest too.
After doing some research, she realized it could be a great fit. “My decision to become an egg donor was a mix between personal and informed, which I think is a great mix on how donors should view the egg donation process,” she explains.
Despite coming into it well prepared, the process wasn’t exactly what she expected. “I thought it would be long and strenuous, but was surprised by how easy everything was,” Cara says. “The support I received from my Match Manager was crucial in leading me through the donation process.”
She made a big realization, too. “During and after the first match is when it really hits you that the intended parents on the other end are depending on you so much,” she explains. “The feeling of responsibility and benevolence was compounded after having experienced one donation, making my decision to donate again an easy one.”
In fact, she had such positive experiences that she decided to make egg donation a full-time focus as an assistant to ConceiveAbilities’ donor team. “Working behind the scenes of the process has allowed me to learn the ins and outs of a variety of different donation cycles,” Cara explains. “By experiencing a multitude of different matches, my view as a donor has grown to realize just how complex this process is.
Another perk? “I get to interact first-hand with donors and intended parents. It’s always exciting to have the opportunity to help in achieving a family’s dream.” And her experience as a donor serves her well. “By speaking donor to donor, it gives others a reference point to what they can expect in their matches. It has easily become my favorite thing when donors ask me about my experiences and I feel more at ease after I tell them about my experience.”
Katie, who completed her first egg donor cycle last fall, first learned about egg donation while researching online. She had recently gotten out of the military and was ready to try something new. “I’ve always considered myself a very selfless person and love helping others when I can,” she explains. “It all sounded like a perfectly safe and rewarding experience, so I decided to apply.”
She was matched with a couple interested in a more “open” arrangement, which means it is not a completely anonymous match. Katie decided that would be a good fit for her too. “The closer I got to the retrieval, the more I realized that I would love the opportunity to remain in contact with the family I was donating to,” she says. “It’s one of those opportunities in life not everyone gets to do, and I knew that it would be amazing to hear about the family’s journey.”
It was a similar sentiment for Billy and John, the intended parents. While they initially planned to have an anonymous match, “I got to thinking, I need to create a story for my child,” Billy explains.
The hope is that their child will have a better understanding of how they came to be. “I want to be able to answer questions, like what kind of person she was,” he says of their donor. “And I hope to let them know how they were truly wanted, how much they were loved by all parties. They came from sacrifice and devotion.”
To Billy, there is no question that an open donor match was the right decision for their family. “It feels more natural this way.”
If you’d like to become an egg donor or are interested in the benefits of egg donation, contact us. The team at ConceiveAbilities is here to educate, support and advocate for you every step of the way.
All Things Conceivable is a blog dedicated to sharing the knowledge and expert opinions of the dedicated team at ConceiveAbilities, a Chicago-based egg donation and surrogacy agency.