There are ways intended parents can look out for their donors. Here are a few.
Years ago, I had the chance to accompany an egg donor to her retrieval. I drove with her to the early morning appointment, I waited with her as the sedation kicked in, I watched as the eggs were plucked out and counted, and I handed her the crackers and juice when it was all over.
In so many ways it had been textbook. A warm and friendly doctor. Thirteen eggs retrieved. A well-informed donor. But there's one thing I'll never forget: although we entered through the clinic's front door, we had to leave through the back. Something about that did not feel right.
Egg donors are too often the silent, hidden partners in modern reproductive care.
Today I want to share with you a project called, "What egg donors want intended parents to know." It is the result of a collaboration between Surrogacy 360, an online resource that examines international surrogacy arrangements, and We Are Egg Donors, a support forum for women around the world who have given or sold their eggs to other people. In six short videos, egg donors share their thoughts about what recipients should know, keep in mind or do differently.
Watch it: "What egg donors want intended parents to know."
I summarize some of their key messages below.
Egg donors are young. They are likely the youngest people involved in the process. Don't lose sight of that.
The same lawyer should never represent both sides, but it's common in the donor world. Many donors have never seen a contract before. Make sure your egg donor has her own lawyer to help negotiate a contract that genuinely represents her interests.
Money is not the only reason an egg donor donates.
Let your donor know if you've managed to conceive.
Sometimes when a donor produces more eggs than is safe, a doctor will actually congratulate her! It's increasingly common for women to be hyperstimulated to produce 60, 70 or even 80 eggs during a single cycle. Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) happens more often than donors are told. Egg donors want you to understand just how serious the effects can be. As an intended parent, you can be a great advocate for your egg donor: "Check in with her. Find out how many eggs she is on track to produce. If it's more than, say, 30, talk to the doctor and find out why. And find out what can be done to alleviate this potentially really dangerous situation."
For the same reason, do not agree to split a cycle with another family. Yes, it brings down the cost for you, but it raises the risk for your donor. "The clinic is then highly financially incentivized to hyperstimulate her in order to produce a greater number of eggs for a larger number of people."
For many donors, their care pretty much ends when the cycle ends. Egg donors want you to know that.
In the US, a donor may not have health care coverage. Make sure the contract with your donor includes insurance that covers any ill effects from the donation. "You don't want her to be in a situation where she has to go to the hospital afterwards and either receives a financially crippling bill, or worse, doesn't seek medical care at all because she's afraid of receiving that bill."
Egg donors notice when they're being treated differently from the paying patient. It matters to them that they are treated with respect.
There are still no studies on the long-term health effects of donating eggs. There are no studies on the effects of multiple donations. There are no studies on the effects of high egg retrieval rates.
"I've been called everything from an 'angel' to a 'clucking hen' by medical professionals while donating. I've done compensated cycles and uncompensated cycles, open and closed, but the one factor that most influences how I feel about the cycle, during and years after, is whether or not I was treated with respect as one of the patients involved in the process. I found that IPs' advocacy is most consistently what makes that difference."
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