Egg donation is a complex process with lots of moving parts, and many people considering egg donation come in with blind spots. From egg donor requirements, diverse egg donors, egg donor agency red flags, egg donor compensation, egg donation statistics and more, we’re sharing the information you should know about egg donation.
1. Egg donation is regulated just like other organ and tissue donations
Women don’t “sell” their eggs. Egg donation is a form of tissue donation, and as of 1984, it is illegal to sell organs or tissues in the U.S. Egg donation operates under FDA guidelines and is subject to strict protocols for donation. So when you hear or see people talking about “making money by selling eggs,” just remember that they are speaking about a highly regulated donation process!
2. There are several ways to donate eggs
Egg donation is often shown one way in the media: a woman donates eggs to a sibling or friend who is struggling with fertility. The reality is often different! There are several different places you may find your perfect egg donor. Women donate eggs through egg donor agencies, fertility clinics, or frozen egg banks. The donation process is standardized, but each entity functions differently.
Fertility clinics typically run in-house donor programs and have a pool of donor candidates available for their patients. Agencies screen donor applicants and help hopeful parents who sign up to find a match in their database in exchange for a fee, then the donor and parents will cycle. Frozen egg banks will screen donors, complete the donation cycle, freeze their eggs, then allow them to be purchased by intended parents to use in a cycle. Agencies, clinics and egg banks all act as a third-party coordinator between the donor and intended parents.
3. There are hundreds of fertility clinics and egg donor agencies in the U.S.
There are over 480 U.S. fertility clinics, and there are hundreds of egg donor agencies in the United States. That number is overwhelming, which is why we created Tulip – to unite disparate agencies, clinics and egg banks on one platform and give intended parents unprecedented access. We know it’s a lot, but so many clinics and agencies means you have more fertility options than ever before.
4. Beware of scammers and red flags
Egg donation is regulated, but there are still some bad actors out there that you need to be aware of. Tulip only works with responsible, reputable fertility partners. However, there are those outside of our platform who take advantage of the hopeful parents who desperately want to have a child.
Before you sign contracts, pay fees, or officially commit to a clinic or agency, make sure you have done your research. Read reviews on third party sites, and don’t be afraid to ask for references. It also helps to have a list of questions ready to go about their refund policy and more – and get the answers in writing!
5. Known donation isn’t always easier
Many people initially seek a “known” donor – someone in their family or a close friend to donate eggs. We don’t want to discourage you from going this route, but make sure you go in prepared. What will future contact with a child look like? Will you compensate your donor? Talk through the realities of the egg donation process with your egg donor, set up firm boundaries and agree on guidelines. You will definitely want to use an attorney and create legal contracts outlining what you agree upon so that each party is protected. No matter how strong your relationship is, it is important to still follow the legal processes involved in egg donation.
Our team has worked with people whose known donor changed their mind due to health conditions, personal concerns, or general anxiety about egg donation. If you are using a known donor, communicate openly and set boundaries early to ensure there is no future strain on your relationship.
6. Egg donors must pass strict physical and psychological screenings
As we mentioned before, egg donors are strictly screened before they are eligible to donate. Many people ask questions about this – What are the egg donation requirements? What are the qualifications to donate eggs? There is a lot to this topic, so we have devoted specific blogs to discussing the egg donation process and egg donor requirements. Check ‘em out!
What disqualifies you from donating eggs? There are any number of factors that can disqualify a woman from donating her eggs, including mental health issues, health issues, BMI, drug use, prior fertility issues, genetic conditions and more.
7. Women can only donate their eggs a limited number of times
Women are limited to six egg donation cycles. Most egg donors don’t ever reach this number, and will complete one to two egg donor cycles, but this restriction is in place to protect the health of everyone involved in egg donation.
ASRM’s guidance regarding gamete and embryo donation, states that institutions should “maintain sufficient records to allow a limit to be set for the number of pregnancies for which a given donor is responsible.” This limit is currently set that a donor should be responsible for no more than 25 births out of a population of 800,000.
8. All parties need to sign a legal contract
By now you know that egg donation is a regulated process. As such, there are contracts involved that all parties have to sign. These contracts are straightforward and outline the responsibilities that all parties agree to as part of this process.
What do egg donation contracts include? In the egg donor contract, the egg donor waives her right to any eggs, embryos or future children resulting from this egg donation cycle. The intended parents agree to comply with the contract and agree to compensate the donor for her time as she goes through stimulation and egg retrieval.
For more information on all things egg donor contracts, check out our blog post.
9. The donation process takes weeks to months
For egg donors, the screening and intake process typically takes several weeks, and they may wait months to years to be selected for donation by hopeful parents. For hopeful parents, the process may also be lengthy. The egg donor search may take a matter of days or months depending on your desired criteria and readiness to begin the process. Then, the contracts, screenings and egg donor cycle will typically take 1-2 months.
10. There are donors and parents of all backgrounds pursuing egg donation
Issues of diversity in fertility and unequal access to fertility treatments are being talked about more than ever. From studies on race and egg donation to a TikTok video about a user’s denied egg donor application, people on all sides of fertility are growing more aware of the way race and gamete donation connect.
Families often pursue donor conception with the goal of finding a donor with their ethnic background. For many families, finding a donor of their ethnic heritage eases concerns about connection and outside perception. But obstacles can arise when smaller clinic programs or egg donor agencies (or sperm banks) do not have a diverse egg donor candidate pool. It can feel impossible to find the right egg donor after searching one egg donor program after another and finding limited candidates of your ethnicity.
However, across the U.S. there are thousands of diverse egg donors. Egg donors represent a wide array of ethnicities, racial backgrounds, education levels, regions and more. We know how hard it can be to find a donor of your race and ethnic heritage, but they are out there, and that’s the power of being able to search through 90% of U.S. egg donors at once. We created Tulip to give you access to diverse donor options.
11. It’s not about the money
We hear it all the time: How much do you make selling eggs? How much are donors compensated? Are donors just doing it for the money? While egg donors certainly deserve to be compensated for their time and expenses, there is a lot more to egg donation than money. All egg donors are educated about the egg donation process and rigorously screened to ensure they are psychologically prepared for egg donation. Those who are not serious about donating their eggs don’t progress past this stage.
The women who are serious about egg donation have a variety of motivations. The most common reason we’ve seen for pursuing egg donation is witnessing a close friend or family member’s struggle with fertility. Many women who have seen this struggle firsthand gain a new empathy for those unable to conceive the traditional way. Another common reason women donate their eggs is because they don’t want children themselves and want to “give” their ability to have children to a family who truly wants it.
12. We need to listen to donor conceived people
When we speak about fertility, we tend to focus on the parents who are struggling with this incredibly difficult physical and emotional journey. Coming to terms with conceiving a child with donor gametes, grieving a genetic connection, and becoming truly prepared and excited for the family building journey are big steps for hopeful parents to take. But we also want to make sure to highlight voices of donor conceived people, because they experience this process in a way that their parents never will.
Listening to donor conceived people’s experiences, regrets, and opinions about donor conception is helpful for everyone else in this process. After all, our responsibility is to them just as much (if not more!) as it is to their parents. There are numerous resources for donor conceived people. If you are a parent via egg donation or sperm donation and you’re wondering how to approach these topics with your child, you can learn a lot from what DCP have to say!
13. More people use egg donors every year
With medical breakthroughs creating more advanced fertility treatments and successful outcomes, the use of fertility treatments to conceive is steadily rising worldwide. Egg donation is following the same trajectory – studies have shown that egg donor use is rising in the U.S. and other countries.
Fertility and egg donation used to be considered “shameful” topics, but we are glad to see the stigma that accompanies fertility struggles gradually fading away. We’ve seen incredible conversations about egg donation and fertility take place in the past few years, and we hope that this upward trend in fertility assistance will inspire more understanding, support and access for all.