Four Good Reasons to Donate Your Eggs & a Couple Dozen Reasons Not To
by Anonymous Donor
1) You’re not using them. A few people freaked out when I told them I was doing this and got really sad for me and said, “But why are you giving away all your eggs?!” It’s actually not quite that dire.
As I understand it, you’re born with all the eggs you’ll ever have hanging out in approximately one million immature follicles in your ovaries. During childhood, about half of these follicles are absorbed back into your body. It’s just what follicles do. When you start going through normal menstrual cycles, every month 10 to 20 follicles surface and start to think about getting going with their lives. But each month, only one or two receive the burst of estrogen it takes to mature their eggs into entering the cold empty jobless world of the uterus, where they’ll eventually give up on their careers, develop an unhealthy relationship with Mr. Tampon, and have a cold, damp honeymoon on the shores of the Toilet Sea. The rest of the follicles take the path of least resistance and get re-absorbed into the body. I’m not here to judge.
But when you stimulate your follicles with the hormones used in In Vitro Fertilization, ALL of those 10 to 20 follicles mature into eggs that month, which are then harvested or, in egg donor vernacular, “retrieved” (the language of egg donation doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny). Either way, that month the same number of follicles are available, and the same number of follicles will disappear into the body, never to return. You can pump them full of IVF hormones, or you can let them reabsorb, but either way it will not change the number of follicles you will have left in the months and years after that. So why not go on a magical hormone adventure this month? After all…
2) It pays pretty damn well. Well, “pays” isn’t what you’re supposed to call it. The term here is “compensated,” because legally, in America, humans are not allowed to pay other humans for body parts or fluids. But however you like your legalese, the point is, it’s not easy to donate your eggs, and you definitely earn that money. Here’s a brief rundown of the process:
a) Check that you’re under 33. You CAN donate privately up through age 35, but it’s less likely that you’ll pass screening.
b) Send in some pictures and apply at some agencies. Tell faceless strangers every darkest detail about yourself and your family’s health history. Risk getting rejected if you’ve ever been paid for sex, or injected illegal drugs, or taken anti-depressants, or had more than two male sex partners in the last six months.
c) Undergo a battery of tests involving your veins, vagina, genes, and brain. Are you acceptable for reproduction, or merely human? Are you sure you want to know?
d) Wait for a family to decide you’re a “good match.” This can take from a week to six months, so if you owe money to the mob, you might want to apply at Starbucks while you’re waiting. The family will sign a contract with you releasing you of legal responsibility for any child that’s conceived, guaranteeing anonymity, and outlining the terms of your payment. Be aware that the law could change in the future regarding your right to anonymity.
e) Kick your old birth control habits. Say goodbye to your friendly old hormonal IUD, if you have one.
f) When the process starts, you’ll switch to their birth control pills. You can ask for low-dose, by the way, and I wish I had because remember the fun of starting new birth control hormones? YOU DON’T?? HOW COULD YOU FORGET when YOU KNEW how important it was to me? You don’t love me and I don’t believe you ever did.
g) Prepare to stop bathing in sperm the way you like to do. For your sake, I hope your boyfriend (if you have one) doesn’t pick this moment to get all proprietary about your eggs, vagina, or the $$ looming on the horizon. Weird stuff.
h) Spend 10 (or so) days giving yourself one to three shots a day in your belly and thigh fat. They don’t hurt very much, but it can be nerve-wracking as hell.
i) Swell like Violet Beauregard. (Most people don’t actually retain any weight, though. It’s just bloat.)
j) Get big boobs/more attention from dudes you can’t/don’t want to touch.
k) Be home by injection time every night. Get up early for blood draws and ultrasounds at the hospital almost every morning.
l) Avoid imagining your normally olive-sized ovaries swelling up to the size of upsetting oranges.
m) Don’t exercise or dance or even walk very fast, because your upsetting oranges will begin to knock into other things in your abdomen and complain loudly. They can also end up twisting around in what’s called “ovarian torsion,” cutting themselves off in a way I’m told is similar to one long endless kick in the balls, and potentially resulting in infertility or death. It’s very rare, but when you start to feel your ovaries bouncing around inside you with every step (and you will), you’ll take it seriously.
n) Take no medications or supplements other than Tylenol. And as long as you’re not exercising, dancing, or having sex, might as well throw in: no drinking, either. Hope you have a good Netflix queue!
o) For the last day or two, experience the peculiar (possibly totally in-your-own-head) sensation of having an abdomen full of live goldfish.
p) Go under general sedation for a relatively easy surgery. You’ll go to sleep and walk out just fine afterwards — it’s not like anesthesia. You won’t even need more than a “light day” pad. But still, are you scared of/turned on by operating rooms?
q) Not feel like doing much but sleeping and holding still for the first two days after surgery.
r) Discover why you wanted to sleep and hold still when you try to get back to doing things. By the end of the day each day you’ll be swollen and sore from your huge ovaries knocking around inside you. You’ll be gassy and raising a bitchin’ campaign of PMS. You may find yourself eating a lot of junk food. (I think I ate my first Cinnabon since reaching the age of majority. I’m ashamed.) You still won’t want to walk very fast. You still can’t have sex until you get your next period, partly because you could still be excessively fertile, partly because you don’t want to introduce anything potentially infectious into your compromised reproductive system, and partly because you could still end up with ovarian torsion if things got particularly exciting.
s) Worry about the one inconclusive study that correlates fertility drugs with higher incidence of ovarian cancer.
t) Wait about 10 or 11 days to get your period, in which time your ovaries will stay huge and swollen. Watch your period explode out of you with the force of a thousand champagne corks. Hooray! You feel much better now. Go pay off your credit cards. Get laid.
3) All that said, it might not sound worth the $8–10K they offer in those oddly creepy ads sandwiched between “fantasy wrestling” and “topless body rub” on Craigslist. And it probably wouldn’t be, unless you understand what it’s like to be a woman trying for financial solvency AND a good partner in a very ambitious city. If you relate to that, you could be watching your fertile years fade away too. Maybe you’d want to adopt, maybe not. But if you could imagine wanting to use a donor egg, you can hopefully imagine wanting to use a donor egg from somebody like yourself.
My point here is a rough one, but sincere: Not everyone thinks the whole egg donation thing is a reasonable option. Some people think if you can adopt and choose to do IVF instead, you’re just self-indulgent and selfish. Some people think IVF is only for over-privileged, spoiled celebrities breaking the will of God and Nature and exploiting poor younger women’s bodies in pursuit of “designer babies.” Some of your friends think that. Your religious leader of choice might think that. You might find yourself thinking that. So if your only reason to do this is the money, you genuinely might be better off clicking back to the “fantasy wrestling” ad.
BUT, if you’ve ever known a woman who’s tried her best and failed again and again to get pregnant with her own eggs, you may know about the desperation, humiliation, and sense of loss. And if, in your own mind, a woman like that is worth helping in this way — by donating your eggs — then don’t let anyone talk you out of it.
It could be you.
4) In short, it’s a kindness. And you’ll be adequately but not unreasonably compensated for that kindness. And if you wanted to, you could use that money to freeze your own eggs in security against the situation we’re talking about. (However, since we’re talking about it, as of 2005 only 300 “ice-babies” had been delivered worldwide. Long term results are not clear. There’s only a 34% chance your eggs will produce viable embryos. And this guy with a mustache thinks freezing your eggs might be a bit of a con. Still.)
Just watch out for the Cinnabons.
Anonymous Donor is 28 and lives in New York.