Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Egg Donation Overview


Egg Donors
A fertility lab technician looks at an egg under a microscope.
A fertility lab technician looks at an egg under a microscope.
Mojgan B. Azimi/The Image Bank/Getty Images

While some women donate their eggs for financial reasons, most donors are driven by altruistic motivations and the satisfaction they get from helping create a family. Some women become donors to help a friend or family member who can't conceive naturally. In an American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) survey of 100 egg donors, 68 percent said that helping someone was the most important reason for why they chose to donate. Twenty nine percent cited financial compensation as their primary motivation, and 3 percent donated to help a family member or friend. One hundred percent of those surveyed reported they would donate again and 50 percent would even forgo compensation [source: ASRM].

Egg donors must conform to specific criteria and undergo psychological testing to be considered. Most programs require that donors are at least 21 years old and usually no older than their early thirties. By age 35, a woman's egg quality is diminished.

Donor candidates must also meet criteria for the program or clinic they intend to work with. Such criteria include but are not limited to:

  • Advanced education level
  • Normal body mass index
  • No substance use or smoking
  • Good family medical history
  • Ability to meet the time requirements of donation
  • Proximity to fertility center or clinic

Donors shouldn't be in an unstable relationship or marriage, use psychoactive medications, have a serious psychological disorder, have undergone treatment for physical or sexual abuse or be mentally unable to consent to the process [source: Department of Health, State of New York].

Once a candidate meets the initial criteria, selected donors undergo a physical exam, infectious disease testing, genetic screening and psychological evaluation [source: Genetics & IVF Institute]. Donors then complete personal and family medical histories, provide personal interests as well as photos of themselves as a baby and adult.

Donors are compensated for their time and effort, not for the eggs themselves -- which is illegal. Donor fees range from $5,000 upward, with some reports of women being paid many thousands of dollars for eggs. ASRM guidelines suggest $5,000 as the current, reasonable compensation rate [source: ASRM].

An egg donor contract should address donor compensation and each party's financial and legal responsibilities. Parental rights are established through this contract, as are confidentiality and privacy rights. Donors waive all parental rights to any resulting offspring and to any embryos remaining from the donation process.

While a small percentage of women donate to help a friend or relative, the majority of women donate anonymously. The identity of such donors remains anonymous to the recipient and to any children resulting from the donation. Anonymity should be guaranteed, but there are some instances in which an anonymous donor might lose her anonymity. Any of the parties involved, including the clinic, could breach confidentiality, though this is rare. Sometimes anonymity is broken willingly. The Donor Sibling Registry, a Web site created in 2000, helps individuals conceived from a sperm, egg or embryo donation find genetic half-siblings, mothers and fathers. Donors themselves are also welcome to seek their own genetic offspring through the registry. The registry currently has almost 12,000 matches and close to 20,000 registrants [source: The Donor Sibling Registry].

What's the egg donation process like? How are eggs actually removed from the ovaries? Go to the next section to find out.


More to Explore