The other reasons egg donors donate

Beyond the money

Egg donors go through a lot to provide eggs to others. Sure, they often get paid. But there are other motivations as well. Duty. Power. Adventure.

Many of us who cannot imagine donating our eggs, find ourselves wondering why other women do. Even after a woman resolves that it is a "good thing" to do, she has to commit to an onerous process. 

She will be medically screened. She will be psychologically evaluated. After she is accepted medically and selected personally, she will have to inject herself with medications on a daily basis, deal with the consequences of those medications -- bloating, discomfort, moodiness -- and then undergo a procedure that involves removing eggs from her ovaries with a long needle inserted through her vagina. Following that, she may experience cramping or pain -- or worse, develop ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), requiring fluid to be drained from her abdomen or even a stay in the hospital.

Some women, even after going through all of these things, do it again. Why? What drives an egg donor?

Through discussions with egg donors in Canada and the US over the past decade, I have learned the answer is complex. There is no question that many women simply want to help out others. It is also true that many are paid, even in Canada, and that money can be an important factor. But as several women have pointed out, there are easier ways to do good deeds or to earn money. Below, I explore three themes that emerged from my discussions with egg providers. 

Duty

"They were a gay married couple. A lot of people are so negative about gay people or gay couples -- 'They shouldn't have children' and 'It's not the way God intended it.' The way I look at it is they're human beings. They want to be parents. They physically can't have children together. Who's going to give them a chance? Everybody is so judgemental. I have to say my mother was one of them. I was shocked. And if my own mother can feel this way, what are other people thinking? So I wanted to help these guys, because I figured the odds were against them." —donated one time

"This family was stuck because they had a surrogate that was all getting primed and ready to have the eggs transferred and they're in a panic because the egg donor decided she didn't want to do it, it wasn't for her. Like, okay, yeah, I was plan B but I was still kind of needed. So I jumped to it and said yes... And I kind of got a thrill off that." —donated four times

"What made me decide to do it again was that [the agency] called me and they said that a family had seen my profile and they had requested me. And so I kind of felt bad saying no. They made it really hard to say no. It wasn't their fault, but when you find out a family wants, you know, your genetic code for their child, and they've seen my profile and they related to me, well, how could I say no to that?...On my blog I kept saying, 'That's the last one, I promise. Last one'... I wouldn't say that it was the last one because I hated my experience. It was just that I was worried about what I was doing to my body....It was really easy to talk myself into another one, especially when I'd hear a family was interested." —donated six times

"It's really quite simple, what is being asked of me. And because I'm so receptive to it, I just feel like -- it's almost like I feel a duty. I feel like I want to do this for them and that I'm a good candidate for it." —donated nine times

Power

"When I was carrying around all those eggs, I felt very powerful. I felt I could do anything... Nothing could get in my way." —donated one time, to her own spouse

"It's kind of a high. I'm not going to lie. It's really cool when you find out that the family had a child...[I feel] powerful as a woman. We can create life with modern technology..." —donated four times

"I love what I'm doing and I love the feeling I get. When I hear that they've conceived and that they've had a baby, I can't even explain the feeling I get. I feel so happy and proud. I don't want to say, in a stallion way, but, like 'Yes! Success!' You know?" —donated nine times

"It's a huge rush to know that someone wants you, that someone thinks you're attractive and smart and witty... Somebody had a kid because of me. I must be pretty great... Fertility doctors have a God complex. So do I... I was really made to feel so important and special. When that's over, what will I do? How will I fill myself up again?" —donated six times

Adventure

"This has made me. This has shaped my life. This has been an amazing adventure." —donated six times

"I was 19 and up for anything. I wanted to be different than my friends, and I wanted to try something new. It was my big secret, this big secret I had. And it was exciting... I got to go to Toronto. It was like a little vacation. " —donated four times

"I didn't really have any thought as to where I was going to donate. It's just where the agency was sending me, and when they said Toronto, I got excited, because I'd never been to Toronto... I absolutely loved it! Little Italy was a highlight. The owner of Vivoli was great to chat with. He gave me a list of things to see and do. I love travelling and experiencing other parts of the world." —donated six times, flying from the US to Canada each time

"[The agency] contacted me and asked if I wanted to go to India. Actually, donating in India was one of the most appealing parts when I started looking into all the options. Travel costs for myself and my partner were covered for the trip. We spent three weeks in India and did some extra travelling. It was fantastic." —donated four times 

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If you have something to share about any topic related to reproductive technology, please get in touch: alison.motluk@gmail.com or 416-465-0497.

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