Ever wondered about being an egg donor? Or wondered who exactly are the people being egg donors? Resident contributor to Baby Hints & Tips, Michelle Duncan shares the beginning of her journey as an egg donor as well as some practical considerations if you think egg donation could be for you…
I consider myself very lucky to have my children. I have a 3 year old daughter, and 2 year old triplets (conceived spontaneously, just to make it a little luckier). I know that I’m blessed. I only have to look around me to see just how blessed – too many of my beautiful friends are experiencing the heartache that is infertility. Multiple rounds of IVF, donor eggs, and donor sperm, some with success, some sadly without. It left me feeling so frustrated at the universe, and frustrated that there was nothing I could do to help.
Or so I thought… after a conversation with a friend who was using donor eggs, I started to wonder whether that was something I could do. I did a bit of online research and my interest increased. I called an IVF clinic and spoke to a nurse who was incredibly helpful. I learned about a forum called Egg Donation Australia (EDA), where donors and recipients could meet, advertise for eggs, make offers of eggs, and provide support to each other.
After a couple of months on the EDA forum, which I spent getting to know people and learning more about the process, I found myself connecting with one person in particular, Jane*. After exchanging emails for a few weeks, we met in person: Jane and her husband Bill*, and my husband, Cameron, and our children. The connection I’d felt through email was there in person and I made the offer to donate my eggs to them. Jane accepted, we hugged, and shed a couple of tears. To be able to give somebody hope when they’ve lost it is a very overwhelming feeling.
We quickly made an appointment to meet Jane’s fertility specialist, Dr Smith*. He was enthusiastic and confident. It was incredibly straightforward. He asked questions about my medical history and that was that – a plan was put forward for Jane and I to synch our menstrual cycles, for me to undertake a hormone regimen, for my eggs to be retrieved, and for a fresh egg transfer (FET) to be done on day 5. Already I had begun learning a new shorthand, specific to the area of infertility.
A week after our appointment with Dr Smith, the four of us, Jane and Bill, Cameron and I, attended counselling. Counselling is mandatory prior to an egg donation to ensure that both couples are comfortable with all aspects of it. We discussed things like how much contact we would have afterwards, should the transfer be successful and they have a child as a result of the donation. We discuss ways we might tell our families, my children, Jane’s future child. And all legal aspects are covered – any child resulting from my donation is the child of the egg recipient and her partner. Counselling is a great way to talk through any questions you have, discuss any lingering doubts, and, as in my case, confirm that there are no doubts and that this is something I really feel good about doing.
The next step in the process is an information session with Dr Smith and the clinic nurses. At this session, I will be picking up my IVF drugs, learning how and when to inject myself with hormones, and beginning the process of ovary scans. To monitor me properly and make a precise schedule for egg pick up, I will likely have multiple scans. Timing is everything.
I am at the beginning of this journey, but already it means a lot to me. Already I have become so protective of Jane and Bill, and the thought of them without a child simply does not make sense. I will do whatever I can to help them. I have discussed this process with my family and some close friends, but I plan to discuss this more openly. I hope that by making this journey public, others will consider donating their eggs. There are so many other fantastic, deserving people out there, longing for a child.
Next month: Michelle will update us again on her egg donation journey. Stay tuned and cross your fingers for Jane and Bill…
Things to consider when you’re considering donating your eggs:
– Known v anonymous donations
A great place to begin is figuring out which way you’ll proceed. Do you want to know the family you’re donating to? Is it important to know the outcome and meet the baby that comes from your donation? Some people find it easier to donate anonymously, and skip some of the emotional rollercoaster that goes with known donations.
– Family support – both emotional and practical
It’s entirely up to you who you tell and how many people you tell. It is important to have some form of support around you though, even if it’s just to help out with the kids in the days after egg pick up. The mandatory counselling session will go over telling family, so if you’re in doubt over how to proceed, that’s a great way to clear your head.
– Medical history
Your donor and the fertility specialist will need to ask some very personal questions regarding your medical history, and that of your family. The reason why is quite obvious: if there is a genetic predisposition to something, they need to consider that. If you are unsure about whether your own health and/or medical history will exclude you from being a donor, contact the donor team at an IVF clinic.
– Age & family status
IVF Australia states that, ideally, donors will be between the age of 25 and 38, and that they will have completed their family. In reality, there are many younger and older donors out there, and those who have not yet completed their family. Being a younger or older donor can make it a bit harder to do an unknown donation, but the chances are, a recipient seeking an egg donor is unlikely to turn down a healthy 21 year old with good supply, purely on the basis that she is younger than recommended. The chances of donating eggs causing issues with conceiving your own children is slim, but it is a good idea to discuss that with a donor nurse at an IVF clinic so that they can give you all the information needed to make a decision.
– Undergoing an IVF cycle
As an egg donor, you will be going through an IVF cycle. Included in that is invasive scans, hormones, injections and going under sedation to have your eggs collected. Throughout all of this, you will have the support of the fertility team at the IVF clinic. You will be closely monitored to ensure that you are coping okay throughout the cycle.
More information? If you have any questions about the process or would like to find out how to become a donor, you can join the Egg Donation Australia Forum. The forum is full of both donors and recipients. There is a wealth of knowledge and support available. There is no pressure to donate once you join the forum – it can simply be a place to get some information to help you make a decision.
You can also contact your local IVF clinic and ask to speak to somebody about donations. They will be happy to answer any questions you have.
About the author: Michelle Duncan is mother to a 3 year old girl and 2 year old girl-boy-boy triplets. Currently living just outside of Brisbane, she is a RAAF wife who has lived in many different towns and states over the last seven years. She studies, works part time and in her free time (what’s free time?) loves cooking up a storm and singing loudly (badly) to 90’s pop music.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy