Andrea Markowitz, Ph.D.
April 8, 2010
Egg donation programs offer hope to women who want to have babies, but whose ovaries don't produce enough healthy eggs to make conception possible, or whose biological offspring would risk being born with an inherited disease.
Since donating eggs is not federally regulated, donor eligibility criteria can vary widely between programs. Donors are commonly required to be between 21 and 35 years old-so they're old enough to legally enter a contract and young enough to increase their chances of having normal eggs and responding to fertility drugs.
Generally, donors must pass physical and gynecological exams, psychological tests, and be screened for inherited and infectious diseases, including sexually transmitted diseases. Genetic testing may be required. Some programs prefer donors who have previously given birth or successfully donated eggs.
The donation procedure is complicated and carries risks. The donor and recipient take hormone medication for approximately three months until their menstrual cycles synchronize. Then, the donor takes fertility drugs that stimulate her ovaries to produce abundant eggs. The eggs are removed during a minor surgical procedure and mixed in a laboratory with sperm from the intended father. Resulting embryos are grown in a lab dish before being transferred into the recipient's uterus. After the child is born, the recipient is considered its birth and legal mother.
According to a 2007 article in the "Michigan Journal of Public Affairs," donors risk short and long-term health consequences, such as medication side effects like mood swings, breast tenderness, headaches, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, fatigue, sleep problems, and body aches; and, in rare cases, ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, in which the ovaries swell and fluid builds up in the abdominal cavity. This condition may range from mild to fatal. Cancer and other possible health risks are being studied.
Personal and Financial Considerations
Egg donors relinquish much of their privacy, including their psychological profile, their medical history and their family's medical history. They also assume potential health and financial risks. So before signing a donor contract, protect yourself by requiring:
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