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The Hidden Risks of Egg Donation

Updated on August 10, 2012
Image of A Fetus
Image of A Fetus | Source

The risk of egg donation is both physical and emotional. Based on my own experience, the hidden risks of egg donation are more toward to emotional. When I was in college, one of my classmates, Linda, asked the female classmates if any of us had ever donated our eggs because her friends had asked her for help. Linda was young, beautiful, healthy and smart with a friendly personality. She was a perfect candidate for donating eggs. But she concerned about whether donating eggs would risk the chance for her to have her own baby in the future. I had never heard of egg donation before, nor did my other classmates. That was when I learned people who can't conceive their own babies can get pregnant with the help of egg donors.

An Egg Donor Story

Five years later, I was approached by a dear friend of mine, Sandy, for the same reason - be her egg donor. Sandy was in her late 30's and had been checking on many Asian egg donors for about two years but couldn't find the right one. My second baby was about 2 months old at that time. My husband and I were not planning to have another baby anytime soon. Since Sandy had been very kind and helpful to my family, we wanted to help her to fulfill her dream of motherhood. So I agreed to be her egg donor for free and began the standard process for an egg donor.

Physical Risk of Egg Donation

Needles, I am terrified of needles. Every time when my doctor handed me the lab paper for blood test during my two pregnancies, my stomach clenched. I would turn my head and shut my eyes tight when the lab worker held up the needle. The big needles for the anesthesia during labors horrified me. So I was almost freaked out when Sandy's doctor told me that I needed to take a needle each day for injecting the ovarian stimulating medications into my body for about a month. My eyes popped when I was given a pack of birth control pills which made me so dizzy throughout the day that I was hardly able to function properly. The presumably painless shots by the doctor turned out to be a big "ouch" the first week. I experienced the bloating and cramping that were worst than my normal menstrual cramps. My body felt like an 80-year-old. I didn't complain about any of these difficulties to Sandy and kept look forward to the end of this process. On the day of the egg retrieval, I ignored the pain and was happy to know that there were eight eggs and the egg donating process had finally come to an end. But the next few days, beside bleeding, bloating and feeling fragile, I felt the pain in the wound that I had after my C-section for my second baby. Luckily, I was nearly back to normal after about three weeks, not a couple days that Sandy's doctor had told me. I sometimes wonder if I was really a qualified egg donor as Sandy's doctor described at the beginning of the process. I was 32, two months after an emergency C-section for my baby and breastfeeding. Why did the doctor say that I was qualified to be an egg donor?

Emotional Risk of Egg Donation

To me, the emotional risk of being an egg donor is more than the physical risk. From the time Sandy told me the good news that she was pregnant I started to wonder how good a mother she would be. Would she use spanking which I strongly oppose as a way of discipline that most of Chinese employ? How would I feel or what should I do if Sandy mistreated the baby in front of me? I remember at the beginning of the egg donation process I had to answer a list of questions asked by a psychologist. I felt fine and believed that I wouldn't have any emotional attachment to the baby. It was just the eggs that I would donate and those eggs would eventually discharge from my body anyway. I really wanted to help Sandy out and I felt proud to be able to do so. I now started to feel more and more stressed and uncertain if I had done the right thing. I started avoiding the contact with Sandy and forced myself not to think about what might happen. But it was hard. Each time when my little toddler misbehaved or my baby cried and kept me up all night, I would think about how would Sandy handle these situations. I admitted that I was becoming paranoid. The pain from the egg donation process was long gone, but my emotional stress seemed to increase each day.

The End Result

Sandy called me about four months later and told me that she had a miscarriage and asked if I could help her again. I was shock and felt terribly sad for her. But I knew I couldn't do it again. I knew better than the doctor that although I might survive the physical risk, I might be forever be haunted by the emotional risk. It has been more than ten years now, Sandy has moved her focus on to running a business instead of having a family. Whenever she sees her friends frustrated over raising rebellious teenagers or worry about college fund, Sandy would smile and be glad that she doesn't have to deal with all those issues. As for me, I gave birth to my third baby after about three years of donating my eggs to Sandy and my overall health is fine so far.


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    • kittyjj profile image

      Ann Leung 5 years ago from San Jose, California

      Thank you visionandfocus for reading and commenting. By sharing my experience, I hope future egg donors understand that they need to be able to handle the emotional risk as well as physical risk.

    • visionandfocus profile image

      visionandfocus 5 years ago from North York, Canada

      Wow, what an amazing story! I applaud your courage in telling it and also in offering to help your friend. That was a very brave and selfless thing you did. Most people (and I include myself) would never have been able to do it. Your concerns are all extremely valid, and I wonder how many egg donors have suffered emotionally and physically even though they were only trying to help someone else.

      It is astounding to me that the doctor did not adequately explain the risks to you and that you received no counselling either before or during the process. Egg donation is a huge endeavour and should never be undertaken without truly informed consent, i.e. with full knowledge of risks, both obvious and hidden. Women are not egg-making machines, and for doctors to act that way is unconscionable.

    • kittyjj profile image

      Ann Leung 5 years ago from San Jose, California

      Thank you everyone for commenting.

    • kittyjj profile image

      Ann Leung 5 years ago from San Jose, California

      innershpin, it sure is a special experience for me. And I would be wondering "what if..." if I didn't.

    • innerspin profile image

      Kim Kennedy 5 years ago from uk

      Thank you for writing this piece. Going through the process must be tough for anyone, never mind someone with a new baby and soon after surgery. It sounds wrong to me that a doctor would agree the timing was right. Well done on supporting your friend. I guess if you'd said no, you'd have been left wondering " what if..."

    • adjkp25 profile image

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      I have heard about egg donating before but I had no idea the risks where so many, both mentally and physically.

      I'm glad to hear you are OK after going through the procedures.

      Voted up and useful/interesting.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      What a touching and revealing story! Thank you for sharing this with us; I can imagine the tender and conflicted feelings you had through this experience. I can also see that many of those feelings could not be anticipated. Voted up and up!

    • Mmargie1966 profile image

      Mmargie1966 5 years ago from Gainesville, GA

      Wow, kittyjj! That was a very interesting read. I know nothing about egg donating. Neither of my sisters had children, and I considered being a surrogate mother for one of them should she ask. But egg donation never crossed my mind.

      I also want to tell you what a great friend you are to go through all that for someone you care so much about. I don't know if I could have said yes.

      Voted up and shared!

    • kittyjj profile image

      Ann Leung 5 years ago from San Jose, California

      I didn't know I needed to take injections either. Sandy's doctor made it sound so simple and painless during our first meeting. I wonder why the doctor didn't freeze some of the eggs that I donated too. Thank you tillsontitan for the voted up and your compliment.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      This was extremely interesting. So much we don't know about the entire 'fertilization program' many women have to go through and as for donating eggs, who would ever think you need to take the injections too? I wonder why the doctor didn't freeze some of the eggs you donated?

      It sounds like this was an awful experience for you. The Lord works in strange ways and as a result both you and Sandy are happy now!

      Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • kittyjj profile image

      Ann Leung 5 years ago from San Jose, California

      Nettlemere, some websites make egg donation sound like a breeze. I wished it was that easy back then.

    • kittyjj profile image

      Ann Leung 5 years ago from San Jose, California

      Yes, kristyleann. The emotional pain was a lot greater than I thought. It was very difficult to bear.

    • Nettlemere profile image

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Very interesting to read about the process from someone who has gone through it. It's a lot more complicated then the phrase 'egg donation' makes it sound.

    • kristyleann profile image

      Kristy LeAnn 5 years ago from Princeton, WV

      I've often wondered what it is like to actually go through the process of egg donation. Thanks for sharing your experience. I'm sorry you went through so much emotional pain though, but maybe someone else will read this and realize they can't go through with it. Not that people shouldn't do it, but it doesn't sound like it's for everyone. I think I would be a lot like you...scared to death that the child wouldn't be treated well.