Curious About Egg Donation? This Is What You Need to Know

One of the greatest things about modern medical technology is being able to witness all the beautiful ways families can form. Parenthood is an immense gift, and no longer is that gift reserved for just a few. Love is love, as they say, and the love that comes from parenthood is accessible to more people than ever before.

The process of egg donation is one of those lifechanging advancements–one that brings the magic of parenthood to families who would otherwise not be able to experience it–and Circle Surrogacy has been at the forefront of this for years. In 1995, Circle Surrogacy became one of the first surrogacy agencies established to help create families through surrogacy and egg donation. That early experience has allowed them to continually perfect the program in order to provide more options and services to surrogates, as well as intended parents and egg donors.

Circle Surrogacy is led by a team of people who have had their own firsthand experiences with surrogacy, egg donation, and infertility. Many of Circle’s staff members are parents through surrogacy and/or egg donation, experienced gestational carriers, and egg donors. These are people who have experienced the darkest emotions, challenges, and hesitations right alongside us as we try to grow our families. They have felt what we feel; they have cried the way we cry; they have fallen and struggled to stand back up, just like us.


One of the greatest things about modern medical technology is being able to witness all the beautiful ways families can form. Parenthood is an immense gift, and no longer is that gift reserved for just a few. Love is love, as they say, and the love that comes from parenthood is accessible to more people than ever before.


There is value in this because empathy counteracts the one feeling we all have when struggling to conceive: shame. Circle Surrogacy diligently works towards removing the shame involved in infertility, surrogacy, egg donation, and gestational carriers.

To get a better idea of what the egg donation process is like from all sides, we spoke with two members of the egg donation team at Circle Surrogacy. Danielle Adwell, the Egg Donor Intake and Matching Coordinator, is an experienced egg donor with Circle Egg Donation and is committed to continuing helping families grow. Rachel Campbell, LCSW presently manages the Egg Donation Department at Circle Surrogacy and oversees egg donor intake, prescreening, screening, and matching between egg donors and IPs. She works closely with all of the donors and intended parents and that provides her with intimate insight on how the process wears emotionally on both sides.

We asked them all the questions you might have regarding egg donation–from both a donor perspective and from the perspective of intended parents. Read on to hear what they had to say about the donation process, side effects, emotional hesitations, and why egg donation is such an incredible gift.


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If you are considering becoming an egg donor…


How much time is involved in the overall process from start to finish?


Danielle: Typically, once a donor is matched with intended parents the retrieval occurs within 3-4 months. During these months, you’ll need to set aside time for interviews, medical screenings, local medical monitoring appointments, and the retrieval itself.


What is the egg retrieval process like? Does it hurt?


Danielle: The egg retrieval is generally a 15-20 minute procedure that involves the use of an ultrasound-guided needle which aspirates the follicles in the ovaries, retrieving the eggs. General anesthesia is used during this procedure, so donors will not experience pain during the retrieval process.

When I woke up from anesthesia from my egg donation, I had mild pain similar to period cramps which was treatable with over-the-counter pain medication and a heating pad. I only had pain for a day or two after my retrieval, but I definitely had some uncomfortable bloating for about a week. Some donors might experience more pain depending on tolerance, but you are given contact information for nurses on call in case you are in any intolerable pain. 


What was the entire donation process like? How did you feel through all of it?


Danielle: The entire process was relatively simple. I had a great team of coordinators and nurses that guided me through everything and were there for me if I had any questions or complications. After I was medically cleared to donate, I received the cycle calendar that told me when to start medications, when I was going to have appointments and when I was supposed to fly out for my retrieval. Once I started medications, I had local monitoring appointments every other morning to check my hormones and the size of the follicles in my ovaries.


The entire process was relatively simple. I had a great team of coordinators and nurses that guided me through everything and were there for me if I had any questions or complications.


While on medications, I felt a little fatigued and bloated as my retrieval got closer, but other than that, I felt pretty normal. At its worst, it is similar to PMSing, but not at all terrible! After a couple of weeks on medications, I flew out to the clinic my intended parents were working with and had my retrieval a few days later. Despite the fatigue and bloating, I stayed motivated and excited throughout both of my experiences. 


Did you have to take medications to prepare your body for donation?


Danielle: Yes! There are several medications that you are required to inject yourself with daily leading up to a donation. At first, I was a little nervous to inject myself with medications, but my nursing team had taught me everything I needed to know and sent me home with a great deal of literature to reference. The needles used for these medications are small and easy to stick; after my first shot, I felt like a pro. The medications are the same that are used for IVF.  



What sort of lifestyle changes did you have to make during the donation process?


Danielle: I personally didn’t have to make many lifestyle changes during the donation process. The only major change I had to make was my workout routine. I usually work out almost every day, but it is not recommended to workout intensely during injections or after the procedure. I compensated for this by eating well, doing very light yoga/exercising, and walking while on injections. After the procedure, I let my body rest and heal until I was comfortable to begin working out again. 


How did you decide to be a donor?


Danielle: I had heard about egg donation a couple of years before I decided to apply to be a donor. I knew a few family friends that struggled with conceiving or who weren’t physically able to do so and who had to seek other means of reproduction. I immediately felt compelled to donate my eggs, but I spent a long time researching more about the procedure and risks before ultimately applying. I love helping others and contributing to someone else’s happiness. 


How many times can you donate?


Danielle: It is recommended by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine to not donate more than six times. 


I love helping others and contributing to someone else’s happiness.


Do you get compensated for donating your eggs? Does it cost anything to become a donor?


Danielle: Yes, donors are compensated following a successful retrieval. While it doesn’t cost any money to become a donor, it is time-consuming and takes some sacrifice. For example, I had to take off work for my medical screening, local appointments, and retrieval. Luckily, my supervisor was very supportive of my decision to donate and was willing to be flexible with my work schedule. 


Was it hard to talk to your husband about wanting to become an egg donor?


Danielle: I have always had such an open-minded and supportive husband/family, so for me, it was not difficult to talk to them about becoming an egg donor. Everyone just asked a lot of questions, which I was prepared for.



What kind of relationship options are available between donors and intended parents? How did you decide which kind you wanted?


Danielle: There are a few types of relationships donors can have with their intended parents. The relationship can be anonymous, semi-known, or fully-known. I was open to having any type of relationship with the parents, but both of my donations were fully-known. Looking back, I’m happy that my donations were fully-known because I was able to develop a more personal connection with my intended parents, and I enjoy receiving updates from them. 


Were you worried about any long-term health issues from becoming an egg donor?


Danielle: I was not worried about any long-term health effects from donating because I had done extensive research on this process prior to applying and realized that I was not a risky candidate for this procedure.  


What do you think any woman considering becoming an egg donor should know?


Danielle: Anyone who is considering donating their eggs should take their time in researching what to expect from egg donation and the risks involved before applying. After applying to be a donor, things could move pretty quickly so it’s important to be prepared for what’s to come. Egg donation isn’t right for everyone, but I will admit that it was a much more rewarding experience than I could’ve ever imagined. I feel incredibly honored to have been selected by my intended parents to help them bring a child into this world and am delighted to have done so.


Egg donation isn’t right for everyone, but I will admit that it was a much more rewarding experience than I could’ve ever imagined. I feel incredibly honored to have been selected by my intended parents to help them bring a child into this world and am delighted to have done so.


If you are considering using a donor egg to grow your family…


What has your experience been like working with both egg donors and couples who choose to use donated eggs to have children?


Rachel: One of the best parts of being involved in the egg donation process with donors and Intended Parents is watching the excitement they have throughout the process. Intended Parents are often surprised by the willingness of donors to help them, and donors are often so flattered to be chosen to do so. What starts as hypothetical for both sides becomes an amazing reality once a donor match is made.    


What is the screening process for donors? What makes a good candidate?


Rachel: We’ve found that our successful donors are women who have done thorough research into the process prior to making the decision to apply to donate. They have a healthy personal and family medical and mental health history, as well as a strong support system. Successful donors are emotionally stable, flexible, reliable, and responsible. They are motivated by more than the financial incentive to donate. All donors undergo a full psychosocial evaluation with a social worker and must take and pass psychological testing in addition to medical screening.


What is the matching process like? Are either or both sides involved? How do intended parents come to the decision to choose a certain donor?


Rachel: Choosing the “right” donor an either be an easy choice or a difficult one for an Intended Parent (IP). IPs typically come to the process with an idea in their minds about what traits the perfect donor will have, whether physical traits or educational accomplishments. Often times, however, we find that when Intended Parents are searching our egg donor database, they are drawn to a donor based on her responses to questions on her profile. Most IPs spend considerable time reviewing profiles before selecting the donor they feel is the best fit. A unique aspect of Circle Surrogacy is our commitment to making sure that both donors and Intended Parents feel good about who they are matched with. Because of this, we give donors the choice to accept a match request or pass on a match. The majority of donor matches we make are known and most of our matches include a Skype conversation between donors and IPs to solidify that the match feels like a good fit.



What are the most common questions you get from prospective donors or couples considering donor eggs?


Rachel: Intended parents are often most concerned with knowing that donors are fully screened and committed to taking the process seriously. Donors tend to have more logistical questions around the medical process and risks of donation to their own health or future fertility. 


What are the emotional implications of the donation process on both sides?


Rachel: I think the biggest emotional implication of egg donation is the unknown for what the future might look like. Intended Parents are often unsure of how it will feel if a child wants or needs contact with their egg donor in the future. Donors are often unsure how they’ll feel if/when a child born from their donation does wish to have contact with them and what the nature of that contact might be.

We counsel IPs and donors alike to consider what the potential needs of a child born from donation may be and to be open to helping a child (be it as their parent or as the donor) to feel confident and secure with who they are and how they came to be.


What sorts of hesitations do you see most often from both sides?


Rachel: The biggest hesitations tend to be around what level of openness Intended Parents and donors are comfortable having, not just with each other, but between a future child and his/her donor. As donors are women in their 20s and early 30s, it’s often challenging for them to imagine what a future request for contact with a child born from their donation will entail or how it will feel at that time in their lives. At the same time, we encourage everyone to consider not just their own feelings around openness, but what the best interest will be for a child born from donation in the future.

These conversations often bring to light the fears from Intended Parents that a donor will view herself as a parent or that their child will view the donor as a parent figure. Ironically, donors typically have the fear that willingness to have contact with a child will be viewed as a desire to be a parent figure to a child when that is not their intention. Having these discussions early on in the process helps both sides to see that there is a possibility to keep the best interest of a child at heart while still maintaining healthy boundaries and relationships.


What advice do you give those who are on the fence about either donating eggs or using donor eggs to have children?


Rachel: For women considering donating their eggs and Intended Parents considering building their family through egg donation, we advise them to fully consider all of the implications of this process. Doing research and making sure you feel comfortable with what the process entails, as well as having a strong support system are important for donors and parents alike.  


What are some things you think every prospective egg donor should know? What do you think all couples considering egg donation should know?


Rachel: Egg donation takes time, commitment, responsibility, and compassion on the part of the donor. For IPs, egg donation takes hope, trust, and a willingness to believe that the future may look different than the past. Egg donation is a beautiful gift with unparalleled rewards for everyone involved in the process.


This post was in partnership with Circle Surrogacy, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everymom editorial board.


Read More: Everything You Need to Know About Surrogacy