So You Want to Donate Your Eggs to a Gay Couple?
Here’s What You Need to Know

by Katharine Swan

Imagine how devastating it would be to want to have children – more than anything – and to not be able to, for whatever reason.

There are many individuals out there who are gay or lesbian or otherwise physically unable to have children without some form of assistance. One of the ways our society tries to remedy that is by providing egg banks, where couples and individuals can select donor eggs to compensate for their infertility, reclaiming their shot at the American dream: raising a family.

Of course, egg banks would not exists without egg donors. Many women feel compelled to donate eggs and help others in their quest for a family. However, if you are thinking about donating your eggs, there are a few things you should know about first, in order to make an informed decision.

Becoming a Donor

Donating your eggs isn’t like giving blood – you don’t just show up at the clinic, give up a few eggs, and be on your merry way. Egg donation involves multiple rounds of drugs and medical exams; the entire process lasts several weeks.

First, the program puts you through medical screening, which will be addressed as part of the application process. Once you are accepted as a donor, you are placed on drugs to stop your normal cycles, which make your next round of drugs – fertility drugs – more effective.

The fertility drugs cause your ovaries to produce multiple eggs, instead of the one egg that is usually produced with each cycle. Once the eggs are ready, they will be removed via transvaginal ovarian aspiration. During this minor surgical procedure, a probe is inserted through the vagina, and the eggs are sucked from the ovaries through a needle. The procedure lasts about 30 minutes, and will be accompanied by painkillers or anesthesia. The surgery will involve a few hours of recovery and observation at the hospital, a day or so of rest, and a few weeks’ worth of antibiotics to prevent infection afterward.

As with anyone who takes drugs or undergoes surgery, an egg donor faces certain medical risks, not the least of which is the potential to damage her ability to produce eggs. Any woman considering egg donation should familiarize herself with all of the risks involved, perhaps speaking with one of the program doctors before making the final decision.

Applying to Be an Egg Donor

Before you are accepted to be an egg donor, you will have to undergo extensive screening. This, of course, is to ensure that the eggs you donate will produce healthy children. You can be disqualified at any point in the screening process, and for any reason: genetic diseases that run in your family, less-than-optimum reproductive health, failed drug tests, even for a recent tattoo or multiple sex partners in recent years. Different programs have different standards, so just because one doesn’t accept you as a donor, doesn’t mean another won’t feel differently.

Egg donation programs require women interested in donating their eggs to fill out an application with some basic information. If the applicant is selected as a potential egg donor, she then faces much closer scrutiny. The screening process usually involves a thorough physical and gynecological exam, including tests for infectious diseases, STDs, and drug use; a detailed family and medical history; and a psychological evaluation to ensure that the donor is able to make a sound decision. The applicant’s recent sexual activity, drug history, and the presence of tattoos may also be inquired about during the screening process.

Of course, if you have made a private agreement with family members or friends who will be the recipients of your eggs, the application process may not apply.

Protect Yourself

Donating your eggs is giving an infertile individual or couple the gift of their dreams – but as such, it shouldn’t harm you in any way. Therefore, before becoming an egg donor, you need to take precautions to protect yourself.

Protect Your Health and Your Finances

Not every ad requesting egg donors is from a donation program. Private “egg brokers” are constantly in search of eggs to match up with their customers, but that doesn’t mean they have the means to cover the medical expenses involved. Reputable egg donor programs, on the other hand, will completely cover all of your medical costs: the exams, the drugs, the surgery, and treatment for any complications that arise.

Remember that as an egg donor, you could be putting yourself at risk for complications that require medical treatment. Protect yourself by making sure that any medical costs that occur because of the procedure will be taken care of. It’s not worth it to risk your own health or run up a bunch of medical bills, no matter how much the other party is willing to pay for your eggs.

Protect Your Information

Another problem with egg brokers is that, despite what the ad may say, they may not have a specific couple in mind for your eggs. In that case, your application – and all of the information it contains – will be used to advertise your eggs. To avoid your application being plastered all over the Internet, find out how your information will be used before applying. Make sure that you are comfortable with however they intend to use the personal information you supply on your application.

It’s a good idea to find out who will have access to your information, for another reason: if the results to your exams and genetic testing are accessible to companies that sell health and life insurance policies, you could find yourself facing a hike in rates – or you could even find yourself in a situation where you are refused coverage entirely. For this reason, it is important to ask – before submitting to the exams and tests – who will be able to access the results.

That being said, you should always have access to your own results. For example, if the tests reveal a condition that disqualifies you, you want to be sure the program will inform you, so that you may pursue any necessary treatment.

Protect Your Right to Make the Final Decision

Your legal rights are very important to consider before consenting to being an egg donor. Remember that “informed consent” implies that you understand what you are consenting to. Therefore, do not sign anything giving away your eggs until the entire process has been explained to you, and the screening has been completed.

Most importantly, be certain before consenting to donate your eggs. Once you have signed that consent form, the decision cannot be unmade.

Make an Informed Decision

When deciding whether to donate your eggs, the most important consideration is how you feel. You need to understand that donating your eggs is effectively giving up all of your rights over them, despite the fact that they are still your genetic material. You will have little or no say over what happens to them. If they produce children, the birth mother will be the legal parent; moreover, your eggs could be distributed among several different individuals or couples. Even though you are genetically related to these offspring, they would not be yours.

You should also consider the possibility that your eggs may not produce children at all. They may be miscarried, or they may never even be fertilized to begin with.

Some programs allow donors to place restrictions on how their eggs will be used. Some programs also allow donors to choose whether they remain anonymous, or even whether they want a relationship with the recipients of their eggs. Therefore, there are many choices that may make you feel more comfortable about donating your eggs.

If you have a private agreement with a family member or a friend, your situation may be quite different. However, it is important that you consider the impact this new dynamic will have on your relationship – now and in the future.

Ultimately, the decision to donate your eggs is yours and yours alone – and as such, you should listen to your feelings and instincts. Personal feelings, religion, and family can all impact your satisfaction with your decision later on, so it is vital to explore all of these avenues. Consider talking to a therapist, a religious advisor, and your family and friends before making this important decision.

Information published on The Rainbow Babies website is not a substitute for proper medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or care. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Disclaimer: The Rainbow Babies provides sample contracts and legal/social health articles for informational purposes only—please do not consider it as legally-binding advice of any kind.