Why The Egg Donation Process Is Far From Making ‘Quick Money’
- Egg donor ads tout life-changing paychecks of up to $275,000 on social media.
- But agencies and donors both agree that the process should not be confused with an easy way to earn money.
- From giving yourself hormone injections to rigorous testing, this is what it’s like to be an egg donor.
The complex nature of the egg donation business is built into the name. A careful balance between the monetary and the altruistic, the egg donors are not supposed to be overly motivated by their salary.
Of course, many are. After all, it’s not just a gift, it’s work.
Both physically and emotionally, egg donation is “in no way a process where you can make a quick buck,” four-time egg donor Gina-Marie Madow told Insider. “You work for every penny there.”
The role of money in the billion-dollar egg donation industry was decided in a class action lawsuit in 2016, when a group of egg donors sued the American Society for Reproductive Medicine for eliminate its compensation cap of $10,000 per donation.
As a result, donors today can earn well over $10,000 per cycle, as evidenced by a quick Google search or scrolling through social media, where posts advertise hundreds of thousands of dollars. Many women choose to use the money to pay off student loans or pursue higher education, including two donors interviewed by Insider.
“As an egg donor, you can receive up to $48,000 and help make a family’s dream come true,” reads a Fairfax Egg Bank Instagram ad.
The ad features a young blonde woman wearing a pink sweater and pearl hair clip. Smiling, she picks up the phone, immediately receives a bottle of orange pills which she shakes happily before grabbing her car keys and…voila, a paycheck arrives.
While such ads aren’t fake, they don’t show the full picture and can sometimes be misleading, said Madow, who is now director of legal services at ConceiveAbilities, an egg donation and surrogacy agency. . Often, the announced compensation is the payment of several donations, and not just one.
The Society for Ethics for Egg Donation and Surrogacy (SEEDS), a nonprofit organization working to define a set of ethical standards for egg donation and surrogacy programs, suggests that monetary agreements should not” dominate the ad or presentation format to draw undue attention to other elements of the ad.”
However, “it’s a delicate balance with finding the right way to attract women to their website,” according to Madow. “It’s up to the donor to ask really good questions and up to the agency to honestly educate her so she knows what she’s getting into.”
What donors provide is truly priceless. And they are very aware of their value for future parents.Gail Sexton Anderson, Founder of Donor Concierge
Advertisements offering $100,000 per cycle or more are usually from confidential private clients or individuals seeking donors with a very specific set of characteristics.
“I just think these ads aren’t meant to attract the most qualified donor,” Rachel Campbell, egg donation manager at Circle Surrogacy, told Insider. “They are meant to attract the giver who is there for the money.”
Ultimately, it is up to the donor herself to fully understand what she is getting into. On the agency side, personality tests and psychological assessments help agencies determine if the donor is emotionally ready to commit, according to Donor Concierge founder Gail Sexton Anderson.
But the long-term health effects of egg donation are still unknown due to the lack of research in the area, Anderson added.
Women have reported developing breast cancer, loss of fertility and colon cancer after donation. For years, scientists have called for a mandatory national egg donor registry and long-term data collection to better understand the risks, which have yet to materialize.
What it takes to become an egg donor
First of all, the donor application must be approved and pre-selected in order to start the process. This requires genetic and fertility testing, medical screening, blood work, ultrasounds, and mental health assessments.
Once approved, donors wait to be matched with a potential relative – a process that can take days or months depending on the “demand” of their characteristics. Agency clients can filter details such as number of degrees, hair and eye color, height, and even religion.
Most clients are “looking for someone who mirrors you as much as possible,” Anderson explained. “It’s something that helps the expectant parent feel a little more comfortable or in control of something they have no control over.”
The matching process can range from anonymous or semi-anonymous to known. While first-time egg donor Eleanor Houghtaling told Insider she preferred the anonymity of her donation, Madow said her favorite part of donating was getting to know the family she’s helping.
Once a donor is matched with a client, the cycle begins. A full donation cycle typically requires two to three weeks of daily self-administered hormone injections, followed by about a month of screenings and follow-up appointments.
Once the donor is medically and legally cleared to retrieve her eggs, the surgery is scheduled. During retrieval, the donor is placed under a light anesthetic and a needle is pushed through the vaginal wall and into the ovaries to collect an average of 15 to 20 eggs, Parents.com reported.
“The hardest part of the process is physically taxing,” Madow told Insider. “It’s not fun to inject yourself with hormonal drugs and have surgery under anesthesia.”
She continued, “It’s a commitment of a few months to get through the process, but it has a lifelong impact.”