Like most of my fellow college students, the debt I will have accrued by the time I graduate is not an insubstantial amount. There are a vast array of strategies designed to vanquish student loans, from dabbling in adult entertainment to drug distribution to selling one’s soul and going to work for The Man. Though these choices have their benefits, might I remind you that – tongue firmly in-cheek – all will lead you straight to the fiery pits of hell?
If only there was a way to make large sums of money that would let me enter the paradisiacal kingdom of heaven with a clearer conscience, you say. Walking the halls of Olin-Rice, you may have seen the conveniently placed advertisements for sperm donation, but what of the other necessary ingredient for embryonic creation? Behold, my ovary-possessing children, the oft-ignored lucrative business of egg donation. People without ovaries, on testosterone or otherwise ineligible to donate their eggs, unfortunately the column this week will be of no practical use to you. Read it anyway though, because it’s interesting and you can spread the word to all your friends.
I first stumbled upon the concept of egg donation sometime in mid-high school under unclear circumstances. As soon as I found out I could get paid thousands of dollars to help someone become a parent with eggs that I was never going to use, I added it to my future to-do list. The idea sat in the back of my mind for years until just recently, when I realized with surprise that I had finally made it to an eligible age for donation (21 years old, in most cases). After a quick Google search to ensure I hadn’t invented the “thousands of dollars” component, I reaffirmed my future plans. What better way to pay off student loans then to help someone become a parent? Without further introduction, here are the details of the process for anyone whose interest has been piqued.
Before anything else, the egg donor needs to pick an agency, clinic or hospital with which to go through the donation process. Depending on the priorities of the donor, a local or national organization may be more attractive; local organizations or hospitals often require less travel which equals less time commitment, but generally pay less than large national organizations. No matter where the donor chooses to donate, the process begins with an application. The application asks detailed questions about the donor’s medical history as well as that of their grandparents, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins. Some applications also have a qualitative/essay section to describe oneself, hobbies, interests, personality, etc. After submitting the initial application, the agency will contact the donor with an email of acceptance or rejection. If rejected, the donor can atry a different agency or organization, as there are no centralized criteria for donation and the process is quite subjective.
If the initial application is accepted, the donor then continues with in-person and/or over-the-phone interviews and a series of basic medical tests. Blood hormone levels will be tested to measure base fertility and an ultrasound may be performed depending on the preferences of the organization. The donor often completes IQ tests, personality inventories like the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory), emotional stability surveys, in-depth genetic testing and more. If the donor passes the second round of testing, they will finally be entered into the pool from which prospective parents can choose their desired donor. Because the priorities of the prospective parents are completely based on individual values, the selection process can vary widely in duration. Some donors may be chosen to donate in a few days, while others may wait a few months or even a year.
Once chosen to work with a prospective parent or parents, the process goes quite quickly. Before the medical interventions begin, the agency will often assign the donor a lawyer with whom they work to sign a legal contract with the prospective parents. This ensures that all parties receive everything they were expecting with no surprise legal hiccups along the way. The first step in the medical process is to begin standard birth control pills to sync the donor’s menstrual cycle with the cycle of the prospective pregnant person. After the syncing process, the donor will self-administer daily injections in the following order: Lupron (a manufactured hormone to suppress estrogen production) for the first two weeks to shut down ovulation; gonadotropin hormones, to stimulate follicle production in the ovaries, starting after the first week of Lupron; and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), to trigger ovulation about 36 hours before egg retrieval, only once. For the duration of the hormone injections, the donor will work closely with a doctor to ensure blood hormone levels are progressing as expected.
After two to three weeks of injections, the egg retrieval process takes place. The donor is placed under IV sedation for the procedure, which usually takes under half an hour. An ultrasound guided needle will enter transvaginally to retrieve the eggs and transfer them to the prospective pregnant person. After one to two hours of recovery time, the donor will be free to leave the clinic, though they will need to remain near the clinic for the next week until they pass the post-retrieval medical check-up.
After retrieval, most agencies allow the donor to donate eggs six more times, with the compensation package often increasing after the first donation. Depending on the agency, the donor may be compensated anywhere between $3,000 and $10,000, with the most common sum somewhere around $5,000. This figure does not include travel and medical expenses, which are covered in addition to the compensation lump-sum. The donor will often receive $500 to $1,000 at the start of the process, earning the rest of the money after retrieval (regardless of the success of the subsequent fertilization of the pregnant person).
Of course, I only discussed the best-case scenario aspects of egg donation, and didn’t discuss possible serious side effects from the huge dose of hormones required during the process. There are plenty of anecdotes online from both people who have loved and who have regretted donating their eggs. Nevertheless, it is an option that many people haven’t considered for one reason or another, and I’m happy to have provided you with information that least allows you to keep the possibility in mind, especially when those student loan repayments appear overwhelmingly daunting.
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