Video Transcription (Show)
Narrator: All over the world, young women work with fertility centers to help infertile couples have children. 18,000 donor egg cycles are performed in the United States each year. Medically, the donors experience the same risks as infertility patients going through In Vitro Fertilization and are compensated for their time, effort, and assumed risk. Egg donation is an extremely important treatment option for recipient couples. It is often the last hope for the prospective mother to have a pregnancy and the prospective father to have a genetic link to their child. Shady Grove Fertility is the largest fertility clinic in the United States, performing 800 donor cycles each year. It is also the largest donor egg program in the Country. Before women are admitted into the program, they must go through an extensive pre-screening process. Recipients then go through a database to select their donor. Once a donor is selected, they go through a cycle in which their ovaries are stimulated to produce the eggs and then go through a minor surgery for the egg retrieval. After the eggs are retrieved, they are fertilized in the lab and prepared for an embryo transfer. Two weeks later the recipient will find out whether she is pregnant. We will take you inside the egg donation program at Shady Grove to explore the experiences of donors and recipients.
Potential Anonymous Egg Donor: One of my older cousins had trouble with infertility so she went through the process and got pregnant with a donor egg. So, before that, I had never even heard of the process or knew it existed so when I heard about that I got interested in it and started looking it up online and that kind of sparked the interest.
Narrator: Any healthy woman between the ages of 21 and 32 may initially be considered for egg donation. However, before a donor is admitted into the programme, they must pass a rigorous screening process. Candidates go through a extensive physiological assessment, and medically they are tested for their potential fertility and genetically transmitted diseases. The pre-screening process is very extensive and only a select few ever become donors.
Michelle Purcell, Donor Program Manager: We get about 7,000 applicants a year and we only accept about 3% of the applicants, so 97% of the woman that apply are not going to qualify.
Potential Anonymous Egg Donor: So you do kind of like a pre-screening application online, and it’s really short, just a couple questions. And then if you pass that, they let you do their full application which is pretty intensive, it took probably 2 or 3 hours to do. It goes through complete family history, so some about my mom, asking about cousins, aunts, uncles, if they had any medical problems, so that took a long time. Once that went through, within about a week they called me back and told me I passed that, then I came in for some blood work, then I did donor day, which is a couple hours.
Narrator: Once a donor passes pre-screening, they become a part of the donor database. The donor database is made available for recipients to select donors and includes childhood photographs as well as extensive information about the donor physically, personally, and medically.
Recipient Couple: You want to look at everyone, because even though looks is one portion, it’s only one portion. So, we spent a lot of time, we looked at their education, we looked at and spent a lot of time on their abilities. We read all the personal statements; I think the personal statements for us, was one of the key factors. It definitely was the tipping point.
Recipient: You had to look through it a couple times before you’re like “yup, okay, this is great, I like this.” It took a while, I must have went on the site, I don’t even know how many times.
Recipient 2: When we were ready to do it, the doctor had said to us, “don’t try to find the perfect donor, because you might have to go through this many times, you won’t necessarily get lucky the first time.” So we logged on and just looked out of curiosity one or two times, and then the third or fourth time we logged on it was pretty quick, we saw the profile of a donor that really appealed to us immediately. We were just getting ready to go on our honeymoon, and we clicked on it and said “let’s try it, why not? I might have to do this many times,” and the next day we were matched to her.
Narrator: When donors have been admitted into the program, they are put on birth control. Once they are selected, the recipients order the stimulation medication on the behalf of the donor, and begin taking birth control as well to time their cycle to the donors.
Anonymous Egg Donor 2: This would be my fourth time, and it’s been a really good experience so far. I haven’t had any side effects of any kind. Hasn’t really been painful to me, even after the surgery. This Thursday I did the trigger shot at 9:45 at night and today is Saturday and I have the surgery for the egg retrieval being done at 9:45 in the morning.
Nurse: Just going to get your numbers here and then we’ll go over all of your paperwork, talk about the flow of the day. Rod’s going to come in and start your IV, he’s our Anesthesiologist, he’s going to ask you a couple questions and then we’ll take you in around your trigger time, but we’ll keep checking back on you to see how you’re doing. Any questions?
Anonymous Egg Donor 2: The staff has been great. They are so friendly and they definitely don’t make you feel like you’re just a nobody, or that you’re being used in any way. You’re just as important as anyone else they treat. They’ve never pressured me to do it, if I come back I’ve come back because I’ve wanted to.
Narrator: Donor’s are not compensated for their eggs; they are paid for their time, effort, and assumed risk. While compensation may play a factor, most donors are also strongly motivated by the opportunity to help an infertile couple.
Anonymous Egg Donor 2: I didn’t even know that you can get paid when I did it the first time, and I was just like “oh” because to me donation means you’re donating, not necessarily because you’re going to get paid.
Michelle Purcell: We have found that donors that want to be a donor for altruistic reasons, those are really the only donors that are going to make it through the process.
Narrator: After the egg retrieval, the donor has completed their cycle and the next step is the embryo transfer. After the embryo transfer, the recipient goes through a period known as the two-week wait, and then they will find out whether or not they are pregnant.
Recipient Couple: It was unbelievable first of all to hear the words that not only are you pregnant, but this really looks like it’s a viable pregnancy. The beta looks good, it was an answered prayer.
Recipient 2: For us it has meant opportunities that we didn’t think we had, it gave us hope, and for Juice Laila, so it’s been an incredible, incredibly rewarding and positive experience for us because it resulted in us being able to have a family of our own and a child.