I'm a 24-year-old woman who just graduated college. The job market is intimidating and I've got about $25,000 in student loans to start paying off. I live in a shoebox-sized studio in the Inner Sunset and make ends meet as a cocktail waitress while looking for a job in my field. A friend of mine just made $8,000 donating her eggs for infertile couples to use in IVF. She said it was a minor surgery and there wasn't much pain, and she's going to do it again and urged me to consider it. The fact that I could pay off nearly a third of my student loans with an outpatient surgery, while helping a couple conceive, is tempting, but I'm worried about the psychological effects afterward. My mom and boyfriend have urged caution, but my friend insists it was a great experience. Help.
She Said: I recommend you do some reading up on the egg donation process as a first step in making this decision. The overview and FAQs on this site are a good place to start. Locally, Pacific Fertility Center has a great reputation; their donor FAQs are here. In a nutshell, the application and selection process can take several months or more with the actual egg donation phase lasting about a month. During that month, you’ll have a total of about 10 early-morning doctor’s appointments and give yourself daily injections of two different drugs: first to stimulate production of multiple eggs, and then to stimulate ovulation. The egg retrieval process is a minor surgery that requires a day or two off work; its risks are similar to those of any surgery. The medications can cause PMS-like symptoms and they also carry a small risk (less than 5 percent) of something called ovarian hyperstimulation. You’ll need to either abstain from sex or be extremely careful with birth control during the process and for one month after, because your chances of getting pregnant are high. You’ll have to decide whether you want to be anonymous or meet the woman who buys your eggs, and finally, you’ll need to ask yourself how it will feel to know that there are one or more children in the world—possibly even in San Francisco—who carry your DNA.
Your friend’s positive experience and the opinions of your mom and boyfriend aren’t enough to go on. Do your homework. Connect with other women who’ve donated. Ask every question that comes to mind. If you do all this, you’ll know soon enough whether egg donation is right for you and worth the emotional and financial compensation.
He Said: It is indeed a brave new world when it comes to the reproduction of the species, and our emotional understanding of the situation has not caught up with our technological sophistication. I think She Said is correct: You'll have to think long and hard about the psychological ramifications. However, I think your concerns in that respect are perhaps a bit exaggerated. I'd focus on the good you can to do donating eggs to an infertile couple, a single woman who wants to raise a child, or even a male same-sex couple contemplating surrogacy. The technology has made it much less onerous to consciously plan parenthood, to create the families we choose. That is making the world a better place, not just for child-challenged couples and singles, but for the children who know that they are wanted, and not simply an accident of nature.
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