Most people know what goes into sperm donation (if not, head back to high school health class), but what is it like to donate your eggs? The egg donation process involves a little more than a back room and a collection cup. Egg donation pays on average $5,000 to $10,000, and even college and graduate students are starting to use egg donation as a way to pay off student debt. As celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Nicole Kidman are more and more open about their fertility struggles, both even using surrogates to have children, it's not surprising that fertility procedures like egg donation are found more often in the media.
But it turns out that fat paycheck may not be worth it. Since the egg donation process involves injecting high amounts of hormones, some doctors, researchers, and donors believe that egg donation risks can involve cancer. There are other reasons to give pause before running off to donate your eggs: the hormone injections you have to take for weeks leading up to the donation, emotional ramifications, and other unwanted side effects all play a part in the process. While many agree that helping infertile couples have a baby is a noble cause, the possible risks involved with egg donation are weighty. Thankfully, though, they're starting to become more publicized, and hopefully will inform future fertility measures in a healthy and sustainable way.
Donating Eggs Has Been Linked To Cancer
Many reports of egg donation -- specifically the high doses of hormones administered over a long period of time leading up to egg harvest -- causing cancer lead back to one account. A young woman donated her eggs three times and ended up with stage 3 colon cancer at age 29, eventually passing away. Her mother, a doctor, had to wonder if her daughter--a healthy young woman--had developed cancer as a result of the hormone injections. Part of the problem is that there simply hasn't been enough long-term research following up egg donors. Thus, research is inconclusive about whether egg removal or hormone treatments may actually be very detrimental in the long run. Many critics decry such an invasive procedure that lacks so much definitive research, and a recent study (coauthored by Dr. Schneider, the young woman in question's mother) discussed five cases of breast cancer in young women who had been egg donors.
There isn't a lot of long-term research in place at all when it comes to egg donation: since it's only been around since the 1980s, only recently have early donors started reaching menopause. Scientific and medical studies need to be continued in order to further prove or disprove side effects and sustainability of egg donation.
Ovarian Stimulation or Torsion Are Potential Deadly Side Effects
The cost can potentially contain high, unseen costs for egg donors. Ovarian hyperstimulation involves the over-accumulation of fluid and enlargement of the ovaries which happens in the process of preparing a woman's body for egg donation. Left untreated, a patient can die from ovarian hyperstimulation. Torsion - when an ovary turns and cuts off blood supply to the organ - can be caused by the cysts (follicles) that form on the ovary during the donation cycle. Not only can torsion be extremely painful, it can kill the ovary.
Hormone Injections Are No Joke
Egg donors can expect to self-administer three different types of hormone injections in the weeks leading up the egg harvest. The first, a drug called Lupron, is designed to stimulate the ovaries to release more follicles. Typically, the female body releases one egg per month. Egg donation works because many eggs can be harvested at the same time. The second drug stimulates the follicle into developing the eggs. The third treatment - given only one time - is called HCG, which causes the eggs to mature and ready for retrieval. A calendar shows the typical cycle for donor injections, and it's not messing around. 17 injections of Lupron, eight injections of Follistim (the follicle-stimulating drug), and one injection of HCG. 26 injections over a 19-day process? Better hope you don't have a fear of needles.
To Donate Your Eggs, You Have To Go Under The Knife
Though egg donation is an outpatient procedure, wherein eggs are more or less sucked off the ovary, it's still a surgery where the donor is fully sedated. Though the risks associated with egg harvesting are still relatively unknown, they do exist: some women experience vaginal bleeding, damage to other organs, and other complications.