Egg donation or donor exploitation?

Fertilization through egg donation began in the 1990’s and was successfully achieved in 1984. Ever since there has been debate surrounding the ethics of egg donation.  As the success rate of fertilization is almost doubled if a donor egg is used, the demand for donor eggs has increased steadily since first discovered.

And the market is competitive, Steinbock (2004) reports couples paying anything from $3,000-$80,000, depending on what positive attributes and talents the donor may have. From IV league education to musical ability couples are willing to pay high price for these precious eggs.

However Steinbock (2004) also reports that although some donors are compensated generously for their eggs they are not given adequate information to help them make an informed decision.  Egg donation takes time and can, in some cases, need follow up medical care. The recipient’s chances of pregnancy increase with the number of oocytes produced by the donor. Yet at the same time this increases the chances of the donor suffering from hyperstimulation syndrome. Often egg donors are not made aware of these complications.

One egg donor NYC reported to the advisory committee New York State Task Force on Life and the Law, that, she was not aware that her donor cycles had been stopped secondary to her developing hyperstimultion syndrome (Steinbock 2004).  As far as she was aware she thought so many eggs had been taken due to the fact that she was very fertile.

Society justifies paying for egg donations, so the women who are unfortunate enough to suffer infertility problems have a choice. However it must be duly noted that there is a growing need to protect the donors. Steinbock (2004) suggests one way to do this is to limit the financial rewards to a fair and reasonable price, as this protects against exploitation of donors as well as financial manipulation of vulnerable couples.

What are the Risks of Egg Donation?

Egg donation, either to an infertile woman, couple, or to an egg donation center, can be an emotionally and financially fulfilling process. However, it can be a difficult process and there are practical considerations that should be taken into account when considering donating eggs.

First of all, strict screening rules and requirements from the start mean that egg donation isn’t possible for every woman. If you pass the initial requirements for egg donation, it is best to be aware of the risks associated with the process before making the decision to donate or not.

Physical Risks: While certain parts during the egg donation cycle may be physically uncomfortable, it’s generally not harmful for the egg donor. However, with most medical procedures, there can be complications. If the donor over-stimulates in response to the fertility medication administered, she may run the risk of Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS). OHSS is rare condition that typically occurs in less than 5 percent of egg donors where the production of eggs causing swelling in the ovaries. Severe cases may result in damage to the ovaries, and less severe cases may lead to severe bloating and strong cramping. In addition, bruising, bleeding, or hemorrhaging of the ovary may occur caused by the needle used to retrieve the eggs.

Financial Risks: Although most egg donation programs will pay for the donor’s medical expenses in full, some programs may expect the donor to pay some of the costs herself, through her own insurance or through short-term insurance provided by the program. Before agreeing to anything, it is advised to know up front how much of the cost the program expects a donor to pay. Egg donors should also find out rules of payment, such as whether the program pays for costs if a fertility cycle has to be stopped before eggs are harvested.

Psychological Risks: A 2008 study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility found that approximately one in five egg donors reported lasting psychological effects as a result of egg donation. Some of the feelings were positive – feeling a sense of pride in helping another person or couple, and some were negative – developing concerns about the people who were raising their genetic offspring. Most women find that the process of egg donation is an emotional journey, and sometimes when the motive is entirely based on cash, the donor won’t take all the factors into account.

Time Risks: The egg donation cycle may disrupt a donor’s life more than they initially believed. In addition to self-injections of fertility drugs, egg donors have to visit the doctor for several blood tests and ultrasounds along the way. These appointments must be scheduled around, or interrupt, classes or work hours. Egg donors also have to stop drinking, smoking and having unprotected sex. They may also have to stop taking both nonprescription and prescription drugs. This disruption can lead to stress and emotional exhaustion – but after the process is complete, most egg donors return to their normal daily activities right away. From start to finish, the egg donation process can last up to a few months, depending on the program.

Long-Term Risks: Since egg donation and in vitro fertilization (IVF) have only been used within the past several decades, the long-term health effects of egg donation are unknown, and no long-term studies of egg donors have been performed. The majority of what is known about egg donation risks comes from studies of infertile women who use IVF treatments for assisted reproduction.

Egg donation is a great way to help infertile women and couples start a family. The benefits of egg donation can be rewarding, both financially (about $4,000 per donation) and emotionally, for donors who are healthy and willing to devote their time to the process. That being said, any women interested in becoming an egg donor should know all the facts before starting. It’s advised to look into several programs to learn about the specific procedures, criteria, and support for the donor provided.