It’s a question you don’t often ask yourself, but when you do the internal debate can last a long time. A friend is infertile, they have had nine cycles of IVF, they sold their car to afford the last unsuccessful round, and they’ve been told by doctors the best chance for conception is through a donor egg. You’ve known each other for a long time, she was one of the first at the hospital to visit you when you had a baby, you’ve gotten drunk together over the crappy IVF “implantation failures”.
Would you help? Would you give her one of your eggs?
Donating an egg is a complex and involved procedure. According the an Atlantic investigation into How much a woman should be paid for her eggs? it requires 56 hours of “work” compared to the sperm donor’s one hour. Physical intrusion is required with cycle suppressant injections, daily hormone injections, and the day of “harvesting” the eggs where the donor is put under general anaesthetic. There is also medical risk: ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), whereby the ovaries swell too much and fluid leaks into other internal organs.
But this is an assisted fertility option with positive success rates - particularly in older women. The U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention 2013 Assisted Reproductive Technology National Summary Report found that the percentage of live births resulting from donor eggs was consistently higher (between 50 and 68 per cent) across all ages groups than non-donor eggs (0-50%). For non-donor eggs the rate of live birth success declines from 38 years but does not for donated eggs. The CDCP report attributes the success rate of donor-egg live births to the age of the woman who produced the egg, which is typically in the 20s and early 30s.