Why do women donate their eggs?

Eggs

It’s a question that gets asked all the time – why would women donate their eggs? Aren’t they, like, giving away their babies? Are they selling their eggs for the money? At Nurture, we’ve heard it all, and we’re here to say: Every woman is different and may have different motivation.

So here are a few of the most common reasons.

They need the money

Let’s get this out of the way first – donors are compensated R7 000 for their time and effort. They’re not ‘selling’ their eggs. And yes, the money does entice some donors to apply to Nurture. But egg donation is no quick buck – it’s hard work and a lot of commitment, and involves an intense screening process. Very often we find that women who are initially attracted by the idea of some extra money quickly find that it doesn’t matter as much as helping someone to fulfil their dream. It’s so much more valuable than the money!

They know someone who has struggled with infertility…

A personal connection to someone who has struggled with infertility is another motivator for donors. Our very own Melany, for example was moved to donate her eggs by Tertia’s struggle with infertility!

… Or know single people or same-sex couples who want a baby

Unlike some places around the world, in South Africa it is legal to donate your eggs to gay couples and single parents!

They genuinely want to make a difference

This is made all the more incredible by the fact that our donations are anonymous. Donors sign up because they want to make a difference in another person’s life by helping them to build their family.

They are innately compassionate people

Simply put – they care. They’re willing to undergo a pretty intense process to help a total stranger – one that they often end up forming a bond with, even though they never meet. They know how important this is to the recipient, and are invested in seeing this succeed.

Often, it’s a combination of some or all of the above.

Can I be an egg donor?

Heart-in-hands2

One of the questions that we get asked most often from women across the country: Can I be an egg donor?

Unfortunately, your generous spirit and fabulous personality are not always enough. There are some important physical and medical criteria that all our egg donors need to meet.

Age

You must be between the ages of 19 and 32 years old – obviously of legal age in South Africa, which makes sense. But why cap at 32? It’s something we’ve covered in detail in another blogpost (https://www.nurture.co.za/2018/09/21/why-you-shouldnt-wait-to-donate-your-eggs/), but it mostly has to do with the quality of your gorgeous eggs as you age. Spoiler alert: Don’t wait! In order to give your recipients the best chance at a pregnancy, we look for donors under the age of 32.

BMI

You must have a medically healthy weight – specifically a body mass index (BMI) of between 18 and 28. This has everything to do with the fertility medications that are prescribed to our donors, and their safety. If you’re very overweight or underweight, you might not respond well to the anaesthesia, and it might be more difficult to safely reach your ovaries to retrieve the eggs (https://www.shadygrovefertility.com/blog/fertility-health/the-truth-about-weight-and-fertility/). Additionally, women who are over the recommended weight range typically have a lower response to the medication prescribed – which means there is a chance that you won’t be able to provide the eggs your recipients need.

Menstrual cycle

You must have a healthy menstrual cycle and regular periods. Whether you’ve had children or not won’t be a factor, but it’s important to note that you cannot donate while breastfeeding, and for at least two regular periods after you’ve finished breastfeeding. This is for two main reasons: Firstly, your hormone levels will already be out of whack while you’re breastfeeding, and secondly, the fertility medication can be passed on to your baba.

Vices

You also can’t donate if you suffer from alcohol addiction or use any recreational drugs. Again, heavy alcohol use and any drug use will negatively impact your egg quality, and potentially put you (and your recipient) at risk. And while you won’t be disqualified if you’re a smoker, we really, really, really REALLY suggest that you cut down (or use this opportunity to quit entirely!) Again, this has everything to do with your egg quality.

Medications

You may not be able to donate if you take certain prescription medications, or combinations of prescription medications (these include acne medications like Roaccutane and combinations of two or more psychiatric drugs). Make sure you flag any medications that you take with us and your doctor so that they can give you the go-ahead.

Health conditions

And then, if you have any serious medical problems, genetically transmitted diseases or certain sexually transmitted diseases, you will not be allowed to donate. This includes things such as epilepsy, schizophrenia, Chron’s Disease, HIV, Hepatitis B or C and Lupus – you can check out the list here: https://www.nurturedonors.co.za/medical-conditions/

All clear? Head straight here to get started: https://portal.nurture.co.za/members/sign_up/donors

And even if you can’t donate yourself, perhaps share the link with someone you think might be interested. Every referral helps!

Things first time donors might not expect

7

Your first egg donation is a very exciting time. Perhaps a little scary, sure, as you stride into new territory in that cute pair of sneakers you found on sale last week. There are interviews and doctor’s appointments and injections – all of which you, our awesome Nurture donor, are prepped for.

But there’s one thing you might not expect – and that is how profound and emotional the process might be for you. And by this, we mean lots and lots of happy tears, lump-in-throat moments, and cheering out loud in random places when you get an email with great news.

It’s only natural to feel absolutely freaking awesome when you get the news that someone chose your profile out of literally hundreds out there. After your lengthy application, meeting with the psychologist, and physical screening, you’re finally on the road to helping someone achieve their dream of falling pregnant. Many of our donors tell us that they feel honoured to be chosen to be part of the recipient’s journey – it means they’ve seen something that calls out to them in your application, and want you to be part of their journey.

You might also fall in love a little bit. Just as we have fabulous Nurture donors, we also have fabulous Nurture recipients, so we can’t blame you!  During your donation process, we might forward you notes from your recipient, and give you an opportunity to write them back. These might be notes telling you a little bit about them, or their partner, or their lives, and how grateful they are to you for generosity. No matter how long or short the note, these are almost always guaranteed to leave you with a lump in your throat!

After your retrieval, it’s time for you to give yourself the biggest pat on the back EVER. You have ever right to feel totally proud of yourself. If you’re also a bit overwhelmed, that’s also totally okay. You can just blame it on the hormones 😉

Not all recipients will want to share the results of the donation – and you might not want to hear how it went, either. But if they do share the news of a positive pregnancy test or – even better! – a baby (or two!), then we give you full permission to cheer out loud wherever you are and shed more than a few happy tears.

Trust us – there is literally no other feeling like this! This is why donors come back – and this is why we do what we do – this incredible experience of changing lives in such a profound way.

Egg donation and your safety

staying in the know blog

While you’re contemplating whether or not egg donation is for you, it’s important to consider some of the

potential risks around the process.  And yes, there are some – but what in life doesn’t have risks?

First things first – is egg donation safe? Yes, it is – especially when you’re in the right hands, which is why Nurture only works with the very best hospitals, clinics and fertility specialists around. Our donors’ safety and wellbeing is the most important thing to us!

But we’re all about playing open cards and making sure all of our donors are informed, so – take a deep breath, and let’s plunge right in.

The what: OHSS

The main risk is something called Ovarian Hyper-Stimulation Syndrome (or OHSS, which is a bit less of a mouthful!) Simply put: The fertility medication you’re put on stimulates your ovaries to produce more eggs. In rare cases, your ovary goes a little crazy and starts producing too many eggs, which can cause swelling of your ovaries, and a fluid build-up in other parts of your body. If it’s going to happen, OHSS usually kicks in a day or two after retrieval and symptoms include bloating, nausea and pain.

How we mitigate it:

All those scans you’re going to? Part of what the doctors are keeping an eye on is how your ovaries are reacting. If they see your body’s a little over-eager, they’ll lower the dose of your medication. Plus, in the vast majority of egg donation cycles in South Africa, your drug protocol will include an injection called Lupron, which effectively eliminates the development of OHSS. (Hooray!)

In the very unlikely event that you do get OHSS, the doctor will most likely send you off to bed and tell you to rest and drink loads of fluids until your ovaries shrink back to their less angry state. If they’re very concerned, they might book you into the clinic and put you on a drip and some antibiotics until you’re on the mend.

The what: Ovarian torsion

It even sounds painful – but thankfully it’s super, SUPER rare. Basically, ovarian torsion is when your ovary gets itself twisted with the tissues that support it. It can happen to any woman, but is more likely to occur in women who are pregnant or have undergone fertility treatment. The main symptom is intense pain. If you experience any severe pain during your cycle and in the days after your retrieval, phone up the clinic immediately. Surgery might be required, and the longer you leave it, the more you are at risk to possibly lose the ovary. Don’t be a hero – get in touch with the doctor as soon as you can!

How we mitigate it:

Take it easy after your retrieval – your kickboxing class can wait for a week! Ovarian torsion after a donation mostly occurs during vigorous exercise, so give it a week or so until you start climbing mountains again.

The what: Infection

With any medical procedure – from egg donation to dentistry – there is a risk of infection. A very, very small risk – but it’s still there.

How we mitigate it:

As we said earlier, our doctors and clinics are top-notch – there are no dodgy back-rooms on our books! Besides, what most clinics will do is give you a shot of antibiotics while you’re under to minimise your risk of infection. If you experience some bleeding after your procedure (a little is very normal), then make sure that you use a sanitary towel and not a tampon to further reduce the risk of infection.

The chances of anything going wrong during your donation are so very, very small (seriously, you’re more likely to get into a car crash on your way home), but here at Nurture, we firmly believe in informed consent.

Remember, if at any stage during or after your donation you feel anything unusual – any pain or discomfort – let your doctor or someone from the Nurture team know right away! And if at any stage anything is worrying you, feel free to give us a shout.

Five traits of an awesome Nurture donor

Two women standing in the back of open car turning

At Nurture, we have worked with thousands of different women over the years – of all races and from all backgrounds. Women with blonde hair. Short women. Women with freckles. Women who like trail running and Netflix. And while every woman at Nurture is unique, they all have a few things in common.

 

They’re generous

There’s no other way to say it – our donors are giving people one of the ultimate gifts: A chance to have a baby.

They’re responsible

Our donors are responsible – they have to be! There’s no room to flake on appointments, forget to take medication on time, or take two weeks to answer an email.

They’re compassionate

Our women are kind and compassionate. They’re investing their time and energy into something that they believe in, and their hearts truly go out to the recipients.

They’re selfless

These women are giving a lot of themselves – physically, and of their time. They’re going through a major process – injecting themselves, heading to appointments, undergoing a medical procedure – all to help someone they’ve never met.

They’re committed

Once they’re in, they’re in – and they can roll with the punches. Sometimes the doctors will change a donor’s drugs, push back a retrieval, or even move it up. No matter what, our donors are committed to the outcome.

Think you have what it takes to become a Nurture donor? Apply here.

Four reasons to consider signing up to be an egg donor

 

DC comics - Superheros

August is Women’s Month in South Africa, which commemorates the 20 000 women

who marched to the Union Buildings in 1956 to protest the extension of Pass Laws to women.

Over the years, Women’s Month has grown to celebrate strong women from all walks of life – and we just so happen to think that our donors are some of the most amazing women of all!

If you’re still on the fence about donating, here are four reasons to consider donating.

You can (literally) make someone’s dream come true

For many of Nurture’s recipients, the decision to use donor eggs is another step in an often incredibly difficult journey to become a parent. By donating your healthy, beautiful eggs to a person who needs them, you could help them to achieve their dream of becoming a parent.

You will have the best ice-breakers

Trust us, we’ve used the “I’m an egg donor” fun fact more often than we can count! Apart from the fact that it’s a great conversation starter, it is also a way to start getting other people to think about issues around infertility and LGBTQ+ parenting (particularly if you have donated to a gay couple or a single gay parent), as well as conversations about reproductive health.

You learn AMAZING things about your own body

As you go through the egg donation process, you will get to learn some pretty mind-blowing stuff about your own body, your own fertility and your menstrual cycle. You will have access to some of the best doctors and nurses in the fertility industry, so ask EVERY question you can think of.

After doing a donor cycle, you’ll almost certainly never look at your body the same way.

You will feel like a superwoman

You have truly given one of the most generous gifts that a woman can give – and this is something for you to look back on with pride later in your life.

Without a doubt, you are someone’s superwoman.

So, what are you waiting for? Click here to get started!

How on earth do recipients choose an egg donor?

crb466040

As a potential Nurture donor, we know that you can’t wait to help fulfil someone’s dream of becoming a parent.

You’ve finished your (very lengthy) application and your profile has been added to the database for the recipients to choose from. But, you wonder as you click ‘submit’, HOW do people choose an egg donor? And how can you make sure that they choose YOU?

For many recipients, egg donation is a step in what is often a long, difficult journey to parenthood. Many of Nurture’s recipients have endured years of unsuccessful fertility treatments, and the decision to use an egg donor is not always an easy one.

But what does a recipient look for in their donor? Honestly, it’s different for every single one.

In South Africa, unless an egg donation has been arranged with someone you know personally (for example, a sister or a friend), the entire process remains strictly anonymous. That means that the recipient will never know your name or identity and will never see a picture of you as an adult (so you can cancel your photo shoot!).

Their decisions are based entirely on your answers to the questions in your profile questionnaire, and on the oh-so-adorable baby pics you share with Nurture.

Recipients might look for a donor who could look like them. Things like eye colour, hair colour and height might be important – if the recipient is a short, blonde woman with green eyes, she might look for someone who could resemble her.

For other recipients, physical characteristics aren’t really a consideration at all. They look for women who share similar interests and hold similar values – basically, someone they could see themselves being friends with.

Do you like running? Play guitar? Does curling up with a good book sound like the best Friday night you could imagine? Do you love cooking? Often, it’s how your personality shines through in your profile that helps a recipient to decide on you – so let your flag fly!

And for some people, all they want to know is that their donor is healthy and (probably) not a serial killer.

Sound like a lot? While we’re taking care of our donors, we’re also helping to work some matchmaking magic behind the scenes to make sure our recipients find the perfect match for them!

So how do you make sure that someone chooses you?

Simply put: This is absolutely not the time to be shy or modest. Be honest, be open, be thorough… Be unapologetically YOU!

And, pick ADORABLE baby pictures.

It’s not about the money, but let’s talk about it anyway…

download

One of the biggest misconceptions about egg donors is that they are only in it to make some quick cash –

but after 10 years in the business and over 2400 donor cycles, we can comfortably say that it’s simply not true!

Most of Nurture’s donors sign up to donate not because of the money, but because they want to do something incredible for another person – and that’s what makes them superwomen.

But yes, let’s talk about the money.

South African egg donors are compensated after their donation – an amount that is, by law, limited to R7 000. No more, no less.

If that number is making your head spin and you’ve already counted how many pairs of shoes you could buy with that, sit back and take a few deep breaths. Becoming an egg donor takes time, effort, and commitment. It is by no means a ‘quick buck’.

You will need to travel to and from appointments with your doctors, inject yourselves with fertility medications, and take a day off work for the egg retrieval.

(Side note: You will need to make sure that you have enough money available to get yourself to and from the clinic for your appointments and retrieval. You won’t receive any money upfront, so no Uber Black for you!)

Remember: You’re not selling your eggs, and no matter how many happy, healthy eggs are retrieved on the day of your donation, you will receive the same amount from the clinic that handles your donation. You are being rewarded for your time, effort and dedication – not your eggs!

What to look for when you’re choosing an egg donation agency

Much like trying to find the perfect date for your matric dance, Nurture logo pink

choosing the right egg donation agency for you is a critical step in your  journey.

If it’s not the right fit, the experience is going to be long, drawn-out and painful. But, if you’ve made the right choice and found the perfect partner, it’ll be a dream – and possibly even life-changing!

So here are some things to look for in choosing the right egg donation agency for you.

What’s their track record?

Let’s face it, as soon as you meet someone new, you head straight on to your phone to find their Instagram profile and learn as much as Google will allow you to. If the cutie at the bar looks dodgy online, you’ll be deleting that number, right?

It should be the same for choosing an egg donation agency. Try to find out as much as you can about the agency – from how long they’ve been in operation, to who their employees are. Has the agency ever been in the news? Do they have real references from real donors? Do they mention some of the fertility clinics that they’ve worked with?

Of course, if you can’t find any information on the agency you’re interested in, that should be a major red flag!

Do they play by the rules?

Egg donation agencies should follow the guidelines set by SASREG (which stands for The Southern African Society for Reproductive Medicine and Gynaecological Endoscopy, in case you were interested), and they must obey all laws set out in the National Health Act regarding egg donation. Consider this essential reading: https://sasreg.co.za/downloads/Guidelines-for-Egg-Donation-Agencies.pdf

Nurture adheres to all SASREG guidelines (and then some!), and we will always put the health and wellness of our donors first.

Can you get in touch easily?

You should never have to work hard to find the right people to contact, and the people that you do get in touch with should be compassionate, professional, and easy to talk to! As with dating, chemistry is always important. If you don’t ‘click’ with your agency, it’s time to move on.

And because no one likes staring at their phone waiting for a reply… It’s important to us that our donors feel supported and loved from the start. We’ve been known to answer emails at 2am and reply to WhatsApp messages at all hours!

Do you get all the information you need, upfront?

One of the SASREG guidelines states that egg donors must be fully informed about the process, including the potential risks and side effects. If you ever feel like the agency is dodging questions or not answering them properly, take that as a red flag. You shouldn’t have to drag answers out of them – you have a right to be fully informed at all stages. And remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question!

Luckily for you, here at Nurture we’re chronic over-sharers. Seriously, if you’re interested, you can see which of our team members are dog-mad (Melany!) and what our drink of choice is (wine, please. Chardonnay if it’s going.)

Trust your gut

At the end of the day, YOU are the one that needs to make the decision on which agency to donate with. So, the biggest piece of advice that we have for you is to trust your gut.

If at any stage of your research for an egg donation agency you get a funny feeling about the agency or the people you will be working with, rather let them know that you have chosen not to go with their agency.

  1. Pick Nurture. We’ve been in the business for ten years and counting, and are positively fabulous.

Five tips for a first-time donor

So, you’re getting ready for your first-ever egg donation – exciting times! DonorEggs

By now you’ll have met with one of our fab Nurture women, been matched and are getting ready to go. Here are a few extra tips from a former donor for making your first donation a stellar experience.

Ask questions

Never be afraid to ask questions during the donation process. If something interests you, ask. If something worries you, definitely ask! If you’re not sure, or are sure and just want to make extra sure, then ask! There’s no such thing as a stupid question. This is an awesome opportunity to learn about some

rad science, and your own health and fertility – so take it!

Stay healthy

There are some quick (and cheap and easy) fixes to make sure you stay healthy when you’re getting ready to donate – and help make beautiful eggs for your recipient! Pop to the chemist to find some folic acid (which will boost your egg quality AND make your hair and skin look awesome, total no-brainer) and some good old-fashioned multivitamins. Choose more fresh fruit and veg and fewer processed foods. And (deep breath) – cut back on the alcohol and cigarettes. But especially the cigarettes – smoking has a major impact on your egg quality.

Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated is important to promote circulation throughout the egg donation process. Drink as much water as you can, choose fluids with electrolytes, and cut down on anything that can dehydrate you.

Relax

Let yourself take time off to rest and relax both before your donation, and after! Try to make sure that you’re not scheduling your egg retrievals for times that you know will be stressful for you, and that you take the opportunities to meditate, nap, or bond with your couch and your new favourite series!

Journal and take photos

This is an amazing experience that you’re on – and it has the potential to be life-changing for you. Write in your journal, make notes on your phone and take a million photos. That way, when you’re old and grey and looking back at your life, you can remember all the small details.

Good luck!