Mountains of student loans against the backdrop of a bleak job market have many young women looking for quick money. While the prospect of getting $5,000 for donating eggs may be appealing, it’s important that anyone considering this understand the commitment and time involved in donation.
Most clinics require donors be between the ages of 21 and 33, have a body mass index of less than 27, be non-smokers, have a high school diploma or college degree, and be able to pass a physical and psychological screening. If an applicant meets those requirements, she can usually apply online with a local fertility clinic. Some clinics may disqualify applicants who have a family history of diseases or those who were adopted and cannot provide a family medical history.
If the online application is accepted, donors will be put through a series of medical and psychological screenings to ensure that they are healthy and capable of making an informed decision to donate.
“We get 2,500 online applicants a year. Only 5% make it to the point where they have passed the prescreening,” says Michele Purcell, supervisor for the donor egg and gestational carrier program at Shady Grove Fertility Center in Maryland.
Once a couple and donor have been matched, the donor will be asked to begin taking birth control pills to regulate her cycle to match the recipient mother's. Once the cycles have been synced and a donation date has been set, the donor will begin giving herself a series of injections with fertility medication.
During this time, the donor will need to make frequent visits to the clinic for monitoring. Typically, an ovary produces one developed egg per month. The medication will allow multiple eggs to develop each month.
“Usually most donors have very few side effects, maybe localized side effects,” Purcell says. “They take daily injections for about a week, then twice daily injections until retrieval.”
Throughout this period, clinics may ask donors to abstain from sex completely or use specific methods of birth control to make sure the donor does not become pregnant.
The process takes approximately two months from donor selection to egg transplant. Once the eggs are deemed ready for retrieval, the donor will undergo a two- to three-hour procedure in which the doctor will vaginally remove the eggs while the donor is sedated.
The process can cause cramping and discomfort that will last for a few days.
Finding a Clinic
Although there are no specific statutes governing the practice of egg donation, the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology has a set of practical and ethical guidelines that its members agree to abide by, including a general $5,000 compensation cap and a high standard of informed consent.
“Anybody who’s interested in donating needs to get in touch with a reputable clinic who’s looking for donors,” says SART spokesperson Sean Tipton. “They need to make sure they are fully informed and fully comfortable with the decision.”
The best way, he says, to find a reputable clinic is to make sure that they are members of SART and adhere to their standards. Also, he says the $5,000 cap can be flexible in special circumstances. However, those circumstances should never involve compensation based on donor characteristics like height or education.
“Our guidelines are very explicit that the compensation is for the time and commitment,” he says. “One of the reasons that we put a cap on the compensation is that you don’t want to give people too much of an incentive to be less than honest about the medical histories.”
Tipton says the notion that egg donations have increased with the recession is untrue. While the interest may have increased, donors must still decide it is something they want to do, meet the guidelines and be chosen by a couple in need in order to donate.