What's Involved in Becoming an Egg Donor

What Will Be Required - Physically and Emotionally - If You Become an Egg Donor

Woman Holding Gift Box, metaphor for the gift of egg donation
Being an egg donor for an infertile couple is a very special role. But before you agree, it's important you understand what's involved in the process.. Sappington Todd / Getty Images

If you're considering becoming an egg donor, you should first make sure you understand what is involved. Egg donation is a wonderful gift to a couple who cannot have a baby without your help. It's an opportunity not only to help bring a new life into this world but also to help create a new family. The financial compensation is nice, too.

Still, this is not for everyone. It takes weeks of commitment.

You will need to feel comfortable submitting to many medical procedures. Just getting through the approval process can be emotionally taxing and involved. 

This list is by no means comprehensive, but it'll help you understand what being an egg donor takes.

You Must Have a Full Physical Exam, Including a Pelvic Examination

This will be similar to your annual gynecological exam, plus your yearly physical. Perhaps even a bit more involved.

The pelvic exam will include testing for gonorrhea and chlamydia.

To be an egg donor, you need to be in good overall health. That's what most of the pre-egg donation testing is about.

You Must Have Transvaginal Ultrasounds

During the screening process, ultrasound is used to evaluate your fertility potential and the health of your ovaries.

During the donation cycle itself, ultrasound is used to monitor the stimulation of your ovaries.

You may have never had a transvaginal ultrasound before.

Generally, it involves a slender transducer wand and an ultrasound machine. The wand is inserted vaginally. Then, the technician uses the wand to get ultrasound images of your uterus, ovaries, and other pelvic organs. 

It's not painful, but it can be uncomfortable. 

You will need a transvaginal ultrasound before you're approved as an egg donor.

During the donor cycle, you will have several of these exams.

You Must Have Blood Work 

During the screening process, blood work is required to check for a variety of diseases and do genetic testing.

During the donation cycle, you'll need to have blood drawn almost daily for up to 10 days. This is to monitor the egg stimulation.

If you don't like needles or get squeamish having your blood taken, egg donation is not for you.

You May Have Genetic Testing 

The purpose of genetic testing is to screen for genetic disorders like cystic fibrosis or Tay Sachs.

Egg donors also need to provide a detailed family history, to help detect inherited diseases.

It is extremely important you're honest about your family history. 

You Must Get Tested for STDs and AIDS

You'll also need testing for other communicable diseases, including...

  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • Syphilis

You Will Need to Have a Psychological Screening

The purpose is mainly to make sure you understand the donor process and the risks involved. It's also to help you think through the emotional and ethical aspects of donation.

Psychological testing may be done to make sure the donation would not be harmful to you psychologically and to help prevent passing on certain inheritable mental illness.

Some agencies also ask for IQ and personality testing.

You Must Agree to Testing and Psychological Screening for Your Partner 

Donating your eggs involves not only you but also your partner.

If you're married, testing and screening is required. If not, it may or may not be required of your partner, but it is highly recommended.

Your partner will be tested for STDs and AIDS.

The psychological screening is to ensure that he understands the egg donation process and accepts your participation.

You May Have an Unannounced Drug Screening 

Drug use puts you at high risk for sexually transmitted diseases and may affect your fertility health.

Also, if you say you've never done drugs, but drug testing is positive, it suggests that you may not have been honest with other parts of the screening process.

You Must Have Access to Detailed Family and Personal Health Histories 

This includes sharing physical and mental health information of your biological parents, grandparents, and siblings.

This may be a problem if you were adopted or if you're not in touch with your biological family.

You also will need to be honest about any former drug use or risky sexual behavior (like prostitution.)

You Must Be Able to Give Yourself Frequent Self-Injections 

The fertility medications you'll be taking are injectable medications. You will have to give them to yourself, usually into the fatty tissue of your stomach.

The daily injections last about two weeks. You may be giving yourself a few injections of different medications a day.

You Must Be Available for Frequent Appointments

You'll be either at the doctor's office or at a lab for blood work and ultrasounds frequently. These appointments will usually be early in the morning.

Egg stimulation is time sensitive, so your schedule needs to be flexible enough to account for the testing and procedures. You will likely need to miss work. 

You Must Be Willing to Go Through the Egg Retrieval

Egg retrieval is a minor surgical procedure where an ultrasound guided needle is placed through your vaginal wall towards your ovaries. The needle is used to aspirate the developed eggs from the ovaries.

You'll receive IV sedation for the procedure. You will probably want to take the day off from work. Many women feel fine the next day, while others need to rest longer.

You May Experience Drug and Medical Procedure Side Effects

The fertility drugs and egg retrieval may cause side effects. Most side effects are merely uncomfortable. They may include things like headaches and bloating. But there are rare side effects that can lead to hospitalization.

In very rare cases of severe side effects (less than 1%), failure to treat complications can be life threatening and may lead to the loss of your future fertility.

You Need to Make a Several Month Commitment

From the time you answer the ad, get through the screening process, get chosen by intended parents, and go through the donor cycle, several months may pass by.

During the actual donation, you will be involved with the injections, blood tests, doctor appointments, and transvaginal ultrasounds on an almost daily basis for two to three weeks.

Egg donation isn't a one-day or even one-week affair. 

You May Need to Abstain for Sex During the Donor Cycle

During donation, you are extremely fertile.

While the eggs should not release on their own, they may. The doctor may also miss a few eggs during the retrieval. If you're having sex, this can lead to a multiple pregnancy of twins, triplets or even more.

You may also need to refrain from sex due to discomfort from the fertility drugs or when healing from the egg retrieval.

You Must Take on High Responsibility to Carry Out the Medical Instructions

Your responsibilities include not just taking medications, but doing them at the precise time instructed.

If the doctor asked you to give yourself an injection of a particular drug at 8 PM on a particular night, you must do just that. If you don't, it could jeopardize the entire donation.

You Need to Understand That This Child Is Not Yours

As an egg donor, you are relinquishing any parental rights to the child born from the donated eggs.

This also means that if you have children in the future, you understand that your children may have half-siblings in the world. Your children may never meet or know these half-siblings.

(It is possible to have a partial open donation if the intended parents are interested. This is where you can maintain some contact between the intended parents and yourself. But this isn't common.)

You Need to Understand You Have No Say in What Happens to the Eggs

Once the eggs are fertilized and become embryos, they may not all be used right away to make a baby.

Some may be left over, and whether they remain frozen for the future, donated to another couple, donated for research, or destroyed is up to the intended parents.

Sometimes, intended parents will make a prior agreement on what they will do with leftover embryos with a donor.

However, legally, it's probably not enforceable. (You can't make the couple have another child, in other words.)

You Need to Understand a Baby Is Not Guaranteed

IVF is not a perfect technology. While the intended parents have a good chance of conceiving, it's also possible no baby will result.

You may or may not be given this information. It depends on your contract and agreements.

The Bottom Line on Egg Donation

As you can see, egg donors have high responsibilities.

If you think you can do this, then good for you! Your donation, if you pass through the screening phase, is the greatest gift you could ever give to another person.

But if after looking at this list, you feel egg donation is not for you, there's nothing wrong with that.

What's most important is that you seriously considered the idea and took into account your life and feelings.

Better to decide not to donate now, rather than going through the screening process only to let down a family who has their heart set on your donor file.


2008 Guidelines for Gamete and Embryo Donation: a Practice Committee Report. American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Accessed December 2, 2010. http://asrm.org/uploadedFiles/ASRM_Content/News_and_Publications/Practice_Guidelines/Guidelines_and_Minimum_Standards/2008_Guidelines_for_gamete%281%29.pdf

Becoming an Egg Donor. New York State Department of Health. Accessed December 2, 2010. http://www.health.state.ny.us/publications/1127/

Interests, obligations, and rights of the donor in gamete donation. Ethics Committee. American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Accessed December 2, 2010. http://asrm.org/uploadedFiles/ASRM_Content/News_and_Publications/Ethics_Committee_Reports_and_Statements/interests_obligations_rights_of_donor.pdf

Carol Fulwiler Jones, MA, LPC, LMFT. http://www.TheInfertilityCounselor.com Email Correspondence/Interview. November 8 and 10, 2010.

Lisa Greer of Beverly Hills Egg Donation, LLC. http://www.bhed.com Email Correspondence/Interview. November 6 and 28, 2010.

Theresa M. Erickson, Attorney & Counselor at Law. Email Correspondence/Interview. November 5, 8, and 19, 2010.

Wendie Wilson, President of Gifted Journeys. http://www.giftedjourneys.com Email Correspondence/Interview. November 8, 2010.

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