Research Opportunities for Egg Donors

If you are a researcher who would like to have your study featured in this blog post, please introduce yourself here. 

The internet has been buzzing this week about the ethically questionable research Facebook conducted on users without consent, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to feature some awesome researchers who are inviting egg donors to participate in their studies.

Egg donors often ask us how they can help fill the void in research on egg donation. Incredibly, there have been no studies on health outcomes among egg donors in the 30-year history of egg donation. By taking five minutes to contact one of the academic researchers below, you can make an impact in the growing understanding of who egg donors are, and what we go through.

Unfortunately, no one is doing the longitudinal research on health outcomes that we are all waiting for. There are still some great opportunities for donors to contribute to the knowledge base on egg donation.

1. Medical anthropology study by Dr. Diane Tober at University of California San Francisco [Recommended!] 

For more than one year now, We Are Egg Donors is engaged in a collaborative research project with University of California-San Francisco medical anthropologist Diane Tober that explores the decisions and experiences of egg donors. This qualitative research might answer how paid/unpaid egg donation influences egg donor experiences, as well as begin to address the benefits and risks of egg donation.

Donors interested in participating can email Dr. Tober at diane.tober@ucsf.edu. Study subjects are interviewed by phone, Skype, or in person, and their contributions remain anonymous. We hope the findings will help inform and empower prospective egg donors. 

2. Donors, Donor Siblings and the Making of Families

Researchers at Wellesley College and Middlebury College are doing research that explores how egg and sperm donors understand their role in the creation of other people’s families and considers the ways in which donors may maintain (or choose to avoid) having a role in these families.

It also explores the ways in which families who used donor eggs and their donor-conceived children understand their connection to the donor who made their families possible.

Any egg donor can complete this surveyhere (and be entered to win a gift certificate!). It should take about 35 minutes. The survey asks about one’s experiences as a donor and one’s relationship, if any, to the recipients and genetic offspring. If you are willing to participate in a more in-depth interview in person or via Skype, you can email Professor Rosanna Hertz at rhertz@wellesley.edu.

The researchers intend to share their findings in scholarly journals, policy papers, and an academic book. They will also share their findings with interested clinics. They hope their research will help the fertility industry serve parents, children, and donors better in the future.

3. Women’s Egg Donation in Canada

Doctoral student Katie Hammond at the University of Cambridge is doing her sociology dissertation on the experiences of women donating eggs in Canada. Katie is specifically interested in whether, and if so how, Canada’s Assisted Human Reproduction Act of 2004 affects the experiences of egg donors. (WAED interviewed one such donor here:  Canada Almost Arrested Me for Allegedly Selling My Eggs.)

Katie is looking for Canadian egg donors and non-Canadian women who donated eggs to Canadian recipients. Donors will participate in a one-on-one telephone interview or, if they prefer, respond to written questions. If you are interested in participating, send Katie an email:kah72@cam.ac.uk. If you’d like to learn more about Katie’s research, you can watch an interview with her here.

The Assisted Human Reproduction Act was supposed to prohibit the payment of egg donors in Canada, although it arguably created a “grey market.” Katie’s research may help to give egg donors a voice in the regulation of assisted reproduction around the world.

4. Egg Donors & the Transnational Making of Families

Egg donors can travel to some pretty far-flung places to provide their eggs. Intended parents might be trying to use a donor with specific traits, access more advanced technology, avoid regulatory restrictions, or cut costs. Researchers at the University of Southern Denmark are interested in the diverse and complex issue of “reproductive mobility.”

Anyone who has or is planning to travel for a donor cycle could make a valuable contribution to this research.Donors will be asked to share 5-10 photos from their trips, along with brief write-ups that answer the following questions: Why did you choose this/these photos? And how does this/these photos represent part of your oocyte donation experience? If you are willing to participate, reach out to Dr. Charlotte Kroløkke at charlottekro@sdu.dk.

Participation is anonymous, and findings will be shared in an academic peer-reviewed journal.

5. Egg Donation in South Africa – The Social and Cultural Impacts of its Professionalization

Egg donor experiences can vary widely from country to country. Doctoral student Verena Namberger at Humboldt University in Berlin is studying the social and cultural dynamics, interpersonal relationships, and (changing) norms of kinship at play with egg donation in South Africa. She is searching for South African donors or women who have donated in South Africa. 

Verena tells us that the study is led by the following questions: How is egg donation organized and regulated in South Africa? What role do egg donation agencies play in the process and for the experience of being a donor? What are the relations between the different actors involved? And how could the communication and cooperation between them be improved?

Participants will participate in an approximately 1-hour interview, either face-to-face or via telephone or Skype. The study is funded by a grant from the German Ministry of Education and Research. You can contact Verena Namberger at verena.namberger@googlemail.com to learn more and sign up.

6. Any egg donor can sign up for the Infertility Family Research Registry

The Infertility Family Research Registry (IFRR) is not a study, but rather a registry of individuals who have participated in Assisted Reproductive Technology – whether as egg donors, sperm donors, infertility patients, or gestational surrogates. Egg donors fill out a 15-20 minute survey with demographic information; general health; number of donor cycles; whether your donations were known or anonymous; health problems that arose after your involvement; and, last but not least, your overall satisfaction with the process.

Once you sign up, the IFRR will contact you in the future if there are studies you might be eligible to participate in. Volunteers can go here to sign up.

This project was founded with the support of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, and also receives funding from the National Institutes of Health and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.