There’s a lot of misinformation going around our great country at the moment about egg donation.
Women with fertility problems are apprehensive, and would-be donors are worried about their rights and what it really means to donate your eggs.
We want to clear up some of that misinformation today by talking about the process of egg donation, the experience of being a donor, and just how much of a difference a donor can make to someone’s life.
So, What Is Egg Donation?
Egg donation, put simply, is the process where a woman donates her eggs as a form of assistive reproductive treatment. This treatment is used by couples suffering from female infertility, where for one of many reasons a woman cannot fall pregnant with her own eggs.
Is It Legal In Australia?
For some reason, there is a widely-held conception that egg donation is illegal in Australia. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Egg donation is absolutely legal, but the only thing is that donors cannot be paid to have their eggs harvested. While all of the costs associated with the egg donation, such as travel and medical expenses, will be covered, no additional money can change hands.
Why Become A Donor?
In order to get an inside perspective on egg donation in Australia, we spoke to NSW woman Cass Lake, an egg donation advocate and donor working to spread the word about donation. Cass, a mother of three, said that she felt “very proud to become a donor” and had decided to go down the path of egg donation after suffering a miscarriage in July of 2015.
“It got me thinking how I am so lucky to have my children and how there are so many people in this world that don’t have that gift,” she said.
She did some research into what she could do to assist other couples, and came across egg donation as an option. Cass is passionate about helping other couples become families, and hopes that as more awareness is raised about the issue of egg donation, more women will choose to become donors. Cass also spoke of the connection between a donor and the recipient:
“The bond between a donor and a recipient is one that can not be measured,” she said.
“The joy I received helping the amazing couple I did will never fade. It is an amazing journey to go through and every hormone injection and blood test was well worth seeing the smile on their face.”
Who Can Be A Donor?
Women from all kinds of backgrounds are welcomed and encouraged to explore become an egg donor. At most fertility clinics, donors are generally aged between 21-32. Accepted ages can be as high as 35-38, but this is at the discretion of the clinic. Donors also need to have a permanent address for follow-up screening.
Other than that, an egg donor is just someone who is fit and healthy, with no family history of illnesses, be they mental, physical or physiological, that might be inherited. There are other conditions that must be met, and you can find a full list of the ones from Egg Donors Australia here.
It’s important to remember that while donations can be done anonymously through a fertility clinic, there’s a legal requirement that when a child resulting from a donor’s egg turns 18, they must be able to access information about who that donor is. Some women might not be comfortable with this, but Cass Lake said it best in a recent Facebook post on the issue:
“I am very proud to say I am an egg donor. No I do not see it as I gave up my child. Yes it may have part of my DNA, but no it is not nor will it ever be my child,” she said.
What Is The Process Like?
The process of donating your eggs isn’t without its complexities, but there are a wealth of support systems through fertility organisations to help donors through.
It starts by registering with a fertility organisation such as Egg Donors Australia. Once registered, potential donors are asked to fill out some paperwork outlining more information about them, particularly surrounding their medical and family history. These potential donors then have a meeting with a specialist who will review that information, explain more about the process, and perhaps do some initial testing.
After that testing, donors undergo a routine screening process for various blood disorders and diseases. Potential donors then meet with a fertility specialist to talk about the cycle treatment, medications, day-to-day activities and what donors need to do. Counselling is also a necessary part of the process towards becoming an egg donor, allowing donors to discuss the treatment on a more emotive level, away from the medical jargon.
Once donors have gone through this process and have been accepted as donors, it’s time to get the eggs. In order to get the eggs, donors undergo an IVF cycle with regular injections to help stimulate follicle growth. The procedure is done under general anaesthetic, takes about 20-30 minutes, with an hour of recovery afterwards. Generally, most activities can be resumed just 24 hours after a hospital discharge.
There are some risks and side effects involved, so make sure you discuss these with your doctor if egg donation is something you’re thinking about.
Finding Out More
If you’re curious about being an egg donor, and you feel you’re likely to be eligible and that the process is something you’re willing to dedicate yourself to, we encourage you to have a look at fertility centres in your area offering the service, and get in touch with them about egg donation.
Is egg donation something you’d ever consider?