WE ARE EGG DONORS: Tell me about yourself and how you came to be an egg donor.
JENNIFER: I’m 22 and I live in North Carolina. I go to school for Accounting and Business Administration and I am a 2-time egg donor. When I was 18 and starting college, I didn’t know how I would pay for my tuition, so I looked up websites on egg donation. I never thought about how someone gets into donating or even what the process was like.
I found several egg donor agencies that seemed legitimate and applied to as many as I could.
The only clinic that got in contact me was “Global Egg Corporation” (name changed). Their coordinator got in contact with me and sent me a HUGE packet to fill out, send pictures of me as a child and get the forms inside notarized. I didn’t hear anything back from them for 3 1/2 years.
WAED: How did you become an “international” egg donor?
JENNIFER: In August of 2013, I received an email from them asking if I wanted to be added to their very short list of donors who were willing to donate to Australia and the UK, where paid egg donation is capped. One month later, the coordinator got back to me and told me that a couple in Australia wanted to use me as their donor.
WAED: How did they discuss your payment with you? Did they mention the laws?
JENNIFER: Payment was never discussed. I read on their website that they paid between 3000-4000/cycle but the site didn’t ever mention international donors. I was completely okay with doing the donation for free as long as the trip there was paid for. It was a huge surprise, after the cycle was over and the egg retrieval took place, and the nurse said “Global Egg Corporation has told me they sent your check to your house.” So that was a nice surprise.
Skyping with the Australian clinic felt contradictory. I felt extremely confused during the interview because my interviewer kept referring to my egg donation as “altruistic.” To me, “altruism” means giving a gift, in this case it would be my eggs, but I wasn’t exactly altruistic because I would be getting paid.
At least, I thought I was. I wasn’t sure. I found out from the Australian agency that in Australia, it is illegal to sell your eggs which led me to believe that I wasn’t being compensated for that retrieval, even though I was.
WAED: What did they the agency say about the Australian egg donation laws?
JENNIFER:The Australian agency told me that my donation was altruistic and all about how donors in Australia could not be compensated which is why there is a lack of donors.
I am quite certain that Global Egg Corporation may have wanted me to not tell the Australian agency that I was being paid so that there wasn’t a conflict and no laws were broken. (Oops!)
But the coordinator for the Australian agency, Andrea (name changed), asked me why I wanted to do an altruistic donation and why exactly I wanted to donate. She was also very helpful in telling me that Australia has a center which contains information for all offspring of IVF’s. She said that when the child turned 18 they have access to the records about me on file and can contact me if they wish.
WAED: What were you told about the egg donation process?
JENNIFER: Communication wasn’t the best throughout my first donation. I was never told whether or not I would actually be flying to Australia or what was going to happen next. It was also possible that they would ship my frozen eggs abroad.
I really wasn’t told what the game plan was, honestly.
I even did a Skype interview with the coordinator of the agency in Australia who worked with the couple, which was nerve wracking. I felt very anxious when I Skyped with the Australian agency and was worried about what they would ask me. I didn’t want to seem too eager and wanted to answer the questions without hesitation. She asked me why I was donating, what made me want to donate altruistically, and ran me through the process that the couple had gone through. The recipients had tried several times with donors and Rita told me I was their last try. I asked why she hadn’t considered surrogates to which she replied that being pregnant was important to the mother and that she wanted to have that experience.
A month later, Global Egg Corporation got back in touch with me saying they were sending me to Phoenix for a day but they never explained the purpose of the appointment.
I got to Arizona and I had no idea what to expect. I was supposed to go straight to the clinic from the airport, but I didn’t know what was going to happen or was going to get done to me. As it turns out, the clinic wasn’t even open. After many frantic phone calls to the egg donor agency, they finally answered my calls and told me to go to a different clinic (the clinic was Boston IVF where the surgery took place). There was a lady working on the day the clinic is closed, i was confused because I kept calling the clinic and no one would answer the phones.
At the clinic, I got blood work and an ultrasound done. The whole thing took 30 minutes. I flew back home the next morning. When I flew back home, I was told that the clinic was supposed to teach me how to do the injections.
WAED: No one taught you how to do the injections? It’s hard to imagine that the clinic just sent you the medication without teaching you how to use it. When I donated my eggs, the head nurse had me practice injecting water into a foam doll for 20 minutes, until I felt comfortable with the syringe.
JENNIFER: I arrived home and found a package waiting for me: it was jam packed with needles, medicines, syringes, etc. — and there were no instructions whatsoever. I called the coordinator and asked her what I what I was supposed to do with all this medication.
“Oh,” she told me, “You should have had a demo in the clinic in Arizona. Did they not go over that?”
No. They did not teach me how to inject myself with this box full of medication. At this point I was LIVID.
WAED: What did you do?
JENNIFER: So I called Global Egg Corporation and asked them to show me how to administer the medication, but they told me they weren’t certified to do so.
I asked them if they could pay for the North Carolina clinic to teach me since I had been going there every other day anyways. This is when I found out how dedicated the North Carolina clinic was to helping their patients — they told me they would happily teach me but Global Egg Corporation got back to me saying that the nurses at the North Carolina clinic didn’t have a special certification to teach that kind of thing.
WAED: So your local clinic was willing to teach you, but the egg broker was unwilling to pay for it?
JENNIFER: Luckily, my boyfriend’s mother is a nurse and showed me how to do the injections and the correct dosage.
WAED: Did you end up flying to Australia?
JENNIFER: No. I got sent to Arizona again — this time for 2 weeks. I felt very lonely and confused because the next steps were not being communicated to me. The clinic that was going to do egg retrieval had me come in every other day, but they never ever told me what the procedure was like. The day of the surgery I was scared, upset, and very confused. I would have brought my boyfriend with me but the agency said nobody could come with me.
WAED: I’m really sorry. That particular agency has an unorthodox policy against paying for a friend or family member to accompany egg donors for their surgery. Their website says they offer a staff companion instead. Did they offer you one?
JENNIFER: I was told that a companion was supposed to meet me at the airport and drive me to my appointments but that didn’t happen. I even had to set up for shuttles to drive me to and from the hotel to the clinic. The day of the surgery I did have a companion. She was delightful and waited for me the entire 3 hours I was having my retrieval done. After that, she took me back to the hotel.
WAED: How did the surgery go?
JENNIFER: It went well. I was under anesthesia throughout the entire procedure. They had flown in a doctor from Boston to perform the retrieval. After the surgery, they sent me back to the hotel where I was to leave the very next day.
When I got home, I received a check for the egg donation and when I asked what the money was for, they said it was for “reimbursable expenses,” which is funny because the check far exceeded my actual expenses.
I was so upset and frustrated by the whole process, that I left Global Egg Corporation and switched to the clinic in North Carolina — the ones that did my ultrasounds. They were much better!
WAED: I’m glad you found a better agency. While agencies and clinics have a responsibility towards donors, we hear of situations where donors feel put in a disadvantaged position and they have no one to turn to.
JENNIFER: My experience with the second clinic was so much better because they had helped me the first time and were so sincere. I feel like the North Carolina clinic is more of a place that genuinely wants to help create families and I feel like they are a better fit for me and the doctors explained the procedure to me so that I knew what was happening at all times.
The donor specialist, Veronica (name changed), at the North Carolina clinic was so helpful and the whole staff knew about the horrible experience that I had with Global Egg Corporation. The second egg donation came extremely fast after the first and the whole process was done in about a month.
WAED: How do you feel about your egg donation experiences?
JENNIFER: Aside from the horrific experience I had trying to basically teach myself how to do an egg donation, I really enjoyed the traveling part. I have no clue as to whether or not the Australian couple has conceived a child, nor the local couple. I was told several times by both agencies that I would be informed when a pregnancy occurs.
With Global Egg Corporation if you donate outside the country or get your eggs frozen, you go to Phoenix to donate, then they ship the eggs to the couple’s country of origin.
If you were to donate to a couple in the USA, then you would travel from your state to theirs with a companion who would stay with you throughout the trip. During my first egg donation for Australia, I was told that they collected 26 eggs and for the local one here in NC they got 16. I really would like to donate as many times possible and the Arizona clinic is currently working on getting me a 3rd cycle which I am so excited for.
WAED: Are you concerned about any potential impact donating numerous times could have on your health? Personally, I stopped donating — even though I like the idea of helping others — because I feel like there should be more research on the long term effects on egg donation.
JENNIFER: Well, I have been in a relationship with my boyfriend for about 7 years now and we have discussed having children in the future. We both feel like we may not want to have children in the long run. We both would love to adopt a child if it came down to it. I would rather help people create families then stop donating just because I may or may not have a child in the future. If I ever wind up having a child, then I will be happy and if not, we are both okay with that. If anything does happen to my body during a cycle, then I will know its time to stop.