An Egg Donor Tells Her Story

Rachel S. Shares Her Thoughts Before, During, and After Egg Donation

photo of an egg with a pink heart, a pink gem stone nearby, and pink feathers, symbol of the love and gift in egg donation
Egg donation is a beautiful, special gift a woman can give to another. But be sure to completely research what's involved before you get started. imagenavi / Getty Images

Rachel S. has agreed to share her egg donor story with readers. She talks about why she decided to donate her eggs and what it's like to be an egg donor.

If you're considering becoming an egg donor, you probably have a lot of questions.

How does the screening process work? Is it very difficult physically? Emotionally?

Answers to these questions and more below.

Deciding to Become an Egg Donor and Signing Up

Why did you decide to become an egg donor?

I was doing research on sperm storage since my husband was deploying to Afghanistan (we didn't end up storing sperm), and I saw a link on one of the fertility clinic's sites about egg donation.

I spent quite a bit of time, maybe several weeks, researching the process and looking at forums of women who had done it, and then, I decided I liked the idea and knew I would be a good candidate.

I signed up with a few different agencies at that time. I donated anonymously.

What was the egg donor sign-up process like?

I first signed up with a few agencies who match donors and recipients.

I completed an in-depth profile, including my physical characteristics, detailed medical history for my immediate and extended family, personality traits, my feelings on the donation, and more.

It took about two weeks to complete profiles with three different agencies because I thought hard about each response.

I included pictures of me throughout my childhood -- infancy through the present.

For one agency, I was required to attend an informational session in Boston to make sure I fully understood the process.

Then I waited for someone to choose me as a donor, which took about four months.

Getting Chosen to Be Someone's Egg Donor

How were you chosen to be an egg donor?

The first time I was chosen, the agency contacted me to see if I was willing to donate and sent me some biographical info on the intended parents (IPs).

After saying yes, I was referred to the intended parent's fertility clinic, who had their own medical history form for me to fill out.

After filling it in and returning it to the nurse working with the intended parents, she called me to go through my responses. In this case, since my sister has ulcerative colitis, this particular clinic would not let me donate since they believe it is a genetic disease (though there is not yet proof that this is the case).

So the process stopped there and I re-activated my profile with the agency, with the caveat that I could not work with this particular clinic, effectively eliminating about half of parents seeking donors in my area.

Surprisingly, I was chosen again just a month or two later by parents working with a different clinic. Again they had their own medical history form that I was required to fill in and return before proceeding with any further medical testing.

Normally at this time, a donor would also meet with an attorney to work out an agreement with the parents.

These parents had opted not to use an attorney, so my only personal requirement was that they sign and notarize a document stating that they would either use all embryos to try to conceive or donate unused embryos to an embryo adoption bank, and that they would not donate them for stem-cell research or destroy them.

Once you were chosen, what was the egg donor process like?

Once the coordinator at the clinic had reviewed my history and pre-approved me for donation, I had to stop taking my birth control pills for a few weeks. (At this time, I was not allowed to have vaginal intercourse with my husband, but he happened to be away for several weeks for Army training.)

Then I was to go to one of their laboratories for a full workup of my blood and an internal ultrasound of my ovaries.

I passed both of those hurdles, so they started me on birth control at the same time as the intended mother (IM) to synchronize our cycles.

My husband also had to go in to have his blood tested at this time.

I was also sent to a psychologist at this time to make sure I was mentally prepared for the donation process and that I was psychologically fit to donate.

Injections Begin

After three weeks on birth control (about 3-4 months after the agency first contacted me), I started giving myself shots under the skin of my belly once per day of a chemical that lowered my hormones to a baseline level.

I went in once or twice a week really early in the morning for blood tests to check my hormone levels.

At this time, I experienced a roller coaster of hormones since they first increase before significantly dropping off.

First, I was PMSing, then I was having hot flashes like a menopausal woman!

When the hormone levels were appropriate about a week later, I started giving myself a second shot (very painful and itchy because of the volume of liquid I was injecting into the skin of my belly) of hormones to cause the eggs on my ovaries to mature.

I did two shots a day for about another week, going in every two days to the lab to have blood drawn and an internal ultrasound of my ovaries to check how large each egg follicle was and how many were growing. My arms were all bruised like a heroin junkie's from the frequent blood tests.

Towards the end of the week, I was very bloated and my ovaries were extremely swollen and sensitive to touch.

When I reached a certain number of egg follicles over a certain size, they told me to stop the daily shots and give myself two shots of a certain hormone at a precise time (exactly 36 hours before the harvesting procedure was to take place) to cause the eggs to be ready to retrieved.

The Egg Retrieval

Thirty-six hours later, I went to the clinic with my husband for the procedure. I was put in a hospital bed and had an IV of extra fluids for about 30 minutes.

Then, they rolled me into a small room with a baby delivery-like table. I was given anesthesia through my IV and fell totally asleep within 20 seconds. I woke up about 30 minutes later when they were rolling me out of the room back to the recovery area.

I had mild cramps and was very cold from the IV drip. They gave me a painkiller orally, and my husband was allowed to sit with me. I stayed there for about an hour recovering and had some painful cramps before they subsided. I walked out on my own about 1.5 hours after the procedure and went home.

I was completely recovered within two days.

The intended parents conceived a week later and were expecting a child in August 2010, my birth month.

Expenses and Payment

Were there any out-of-pocket expenses you had to pay?

No, unless I wanted to get an attorney, which I did not.

Often the intended parents pay for an attorney for themselves and a separate one for the donor.

How much did you receive to donate your eggs?


Thoughts After Egg Donation

Do you ever think about the baby you helped bring into the world?

I think about the child occasionally, probably once a month, but more right now since I am seven weeks pregnant with my first child.

I think I appreciate more, now that I have tried to conceive, the pain the intended parents must have gone through, getting to the point where they finally conceived. When I do think about the child, I wonder what personality traits he or she has and if they are genetic or learned through their environment.

My parents adopted a little boy they began fostering at the age of three months. He has many of my family's personality traits but he also has a few of his own that I know he didn't learn from our family. However, I also know his true parents are my parents since they are the ones who have raised him and cared for him.

I would like my genetic child to realize the same thing -- that his/her true parents are the ones who raised him/her, not me.

I am not opposed to meeting the child (or children, since the couple still has some frozen embryos they may use to try to conceive again) when he/she is old enough to have realized who his/her parents truly are, especially since I understand the curiosity they will probably have about who they are genetically related to.

Was the process easier or more difficult than you expected it to be?

The process was about as difficult as I expected it to be.

I first did it because of the money offered ($5,000-7,000 is about the reimbursement for first-time donors, getting higher once you've donated successfully), then because I felt I wanted more of my genetics out there in the world.

My family has always been very healthy and active, and we have several redheads in the family, so hopefully I can help red-heads stave off extinction!

Ultimately, after reading the intended parent’s bio and understanding their story, my reason for donating was to help them have the baby they had wanted for so long. This is the reason I would do it again.

I'm very thankful for all the testing they did on my reproductive system when going through the process.

When I was trying to conceive, I knew that my system was healthy and fertile, so I wasn't worried at all about conception. We planned the pregnancy for the two weeks of leave my husband had and it worked perfectly.

Right now, I'm having some issues with the pregnancy and might lose the baby, but I know for sure it's not because there is anything wrong with my uterus or eggs, which is such a relief.

I was contacted in April about donating again and started the process by going on birth control to sync my cycle with the intended mother's, but with my husband currently deployed, I wasn't emotionally or mentally ready and had to stop about a week into it because of some major depression.

I know I really let the intended parents down, but I also knew it wasn't going to be the right time for me. Now I will wait until after my first child to donate again.

Advice to Future Egg Donors

Would you recommend egg donation to a friend?

Yes, if they seemed like a good candidate. I've already recommended it to several friends, and one looked into it more seriously before she became pregnant herself and thus ineligible at that time.

What advice can you share with women who want to become egg donors?

  • The process is VERY long. It can take four to six months from start to finish, maybe even more.

  • You're not allowed to have intercourse for several stretches of time, which can be difficult for some people.

  • The recommended process is different with every clinic, so you might have to do three or four different shots of hormones. Or you might only have to do two.

  • Timing is EVERYTHING -- if you're not good at remembering to stick to a precise schedule, you could mess up the process or cause it to take much longer than necessary.

  • Don't do this if you can't stand having blood drawn. They must draw a few vials of your blood every other day for a week or two.

  • If you're not good at details, I would highly suggest making sure you have an attorney for this process, even if the intended parents don't pay for one.

  • Stick to your gut feelings and if something doesn't feel right, don't let the money draw you into something that you shouldn't do.

  • Be very honest on your profile, even if it means you can't donate! Do you really want to pass something dangerous onto a baby, or do something that might be too much for you mentally?

  • You're only allowed to donate up to five times, but be careful and consider the risks of multiple donations.

  • If the agency doesn't give it to you, ask for biographical info on the intended parents. Their story will reinforce and perhaps change your reasons to donate!

More about fertility treatment and IVF drugs:

Continue Reading