Egg Donation does not cause Infertility

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It’s one of the biggest and most harmful misconceptions about egg donation… One commonly cited by egg donation naysayers.

We’re talking about The Myth: That egg donation causes infertility.

The main takeaway is this: There are no studies that prove a link between egg donation and infertility later in life.

One of the most common “sub-myths” is that donating egg puts a donor at risk of running out of her own eggs.

In order to unpack this, we need to take a step back. Yes, it’s true that women are born with a finite number of eggs – but that number is estimated at around two million! While young girls lose a lot of eggs a lot more quickly (ending up with around 400 000 potential eggs at puberty), with each menstrual cycle, between 15 and 20 eggs begin maturing for ovulation. However, usually one “Superstar Egg” is released for ovulation (the one that has the best chance of being fertilized), while the remaining dozen or so are flushed out of your system.

What fertility medication does is to fully develop those remaining eggs for retrieval – the ones your body was going to waste anyway.

Long story short? During an egg donation cycle, you’re not losing more eggs than you were going to naturally!

Of course, there are a few horror stories online of women who have suffered extreme complications during their egg donations, that have had an impact on their future fertility.

As with every medical procedure – from a visit to the dentist to having your appendix taken out – there are some risks – which we always be upfront about. But these are very, very rare.

As with every surgery, there is a chance of infection. Many clinics will give you a shot of an antibiotic while you’re under to mitigate this risk, but if you start feeling feverish or unwell, give us or the clinic a call straight away to have it sorted out!  Thankfully we haven’t had a single instance of infection happening in the 11 years we have been in business. This is because we only work with the top fertility clinics in the country.  Most of the horror stories you will read online is where donors have travelled to dodgy countries to donate.

And so there you have it! No, you won’t run out of eggs – and the risks are super duper low! f you have any questions or concerns, give us a shout. We’re always on hand to listen.

Are you ready to sign up?  Register on our website for more information:  https://sa.nurturedonors.co.za

What to expect on retrieval day

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So, the big day has finally arrived! The doctor is thrilled with how your ovaries are looking, you’ve finished all of your injections, fasted for a few hours and you’re ready to go. It’s retrieval day.

While you should have been able to fit your appointments in around work or classes, you absolutely must take the day off on egg retrieval day. While you’ll only be in the clinic for around three hours, you need to factor in some time to recover from the anesthetic (you might still be quite groggy), and REST. Make sure you’re stocked up at home with snacks and drinks and painkillers, just in case.

When you arrive at the clinic (usually sometime between 7am and noon – most retrievals are scheduled in the morning), you’ll be checked over by an anesthetist and a nurse to make sure that everything’s A-okay before you’re given a VERY sexy hospital gown to change into.

By this time you’ll have been in and around the clinic so often that you’ll recognise friendly faces – so if you’re feeling nervous or have any questions, don’t be shy! When it’s time to get started, someone will walk you into the procedure room to get you settled on the bed and ready to go.

You will have been asked to fast for a few hours before you undergo anesthetic, which is referred to as “twilight” anesthesia. The anaesthetist will insert a cannula to administer the anesthetic, and you’ll be asked to count backwards from 10. You’ll be out before you know it!

While you’re out, your eggs will be retrieved by a process known as “ultrasound directed needle aspiration”. A needle is passed through the top wall of your vagina, guided by ultrasound, into the ovaries and then the follicles to get at the eggs. The eggs are then ‘sucked’ in through an aspiration needle and safely retrieved. The amazing thing? This process takes less than 30 minutes! That’s shorter than an episode of Friends or The Big Bang Theory!

Then you’re wheeled into the recovery room, where you’ll wake up shortly after your retrieval is done. You’ll probably feel a bit groggy and disoriented, or maybe even a little nauseated. This is all normal! A nurse will come to check in on you and, when you’re ready, give you something small to eat and drink, and painkillers if you need any. They will also check your blood pressure a few times. When they’re happy that you’re recovered enough to leave, it’s time to head home. Depending on the clinic, you might receive your donor compensation after your retrieval.

You must have someone there to fetch you. You’re legally not allowed to drive yourself home – even though you might ‘feel fine’. And no, your Uber driver doesn’t count!

When you get home, it’s time to take it easy. It’s time for you to nap, to snack, to bond with Netflix or that pile of movies you’ve been saving. This is the perfect excuse for a real day off!

You might experience some spotting and some cramping after the retrieval (again, totally normal, and hot water bottles and pads are great to have on hand), but give the clinic a call if you experience any ‘scary’ or unusual pain or bleeding. Don’t be a hero!

You should be fine to return to work or classes the day after your retrieval, but every woman is different, so listen to your body. If you don’t feel up to it, rather take another day off and rest. Be kind to yourself – you have just done an incredible thing, you can afford to put your feet up!

If you have any further questions, give us a shout! One of our fabulous Nurture gals will be on hand to answer any and all questions, or just to chat.

Why does an egg donor’s BMI matter?

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To qualify to become an egg donor in South Africa, you must meet a strict set of guidelines. You must be a certain age (between 19 and 32), be drug-free, have good family medical history, your BMI must be between 18 and 28 points.

The BMI requirement is one that we’re asked about a lot – so we’re taking some time to break it down.

What is BMI?

BMI stands for Body Mass Index, it’s a mathematical way of measuring how ‘healthy’ your size is, based on your weight and height. If you’re into the maths, the formula is this: Your weight (in kilograms) divided by your height (in centimetres) squared, then multiplied by 10 000. If you’re not into the maths, there are literally thousands of BMI calculators online.

While it doesn’t directly measure your amount of body fat, BMI is still the measurement that many medical professionals use to establish whether a person is ‘normal’, overweight, or underweight.

A ‘normal’ BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9 points, while ‘overweight’ is classified at between 25 and 29.9 points, and ‘obese’ at 30 points and above.

So, what does it matter?

Your BMI not only impacts the quality of your own eggs, but also how you might respond to the fertility drugs that you’re given.

Research has proven that women with an ‘abnormal’ (high or low) BMI are less likely to fall pregnant in the same period as women with a ‘normal’ BMI. There is a ton of science behind it, but a lot of it has to do directly with those fatty bits (also known as adipose tissue), which release hormones and proteins that can get in the way of healthy egg development and ovulation. For example – adipose tissue releases some oestrogen (who knew?) A healthy balance of oestrogen is critical for healthy ovulation – more adipose tissue means more oestrogen, throwing your body’s delicate hormonal balance out of whack.

But most importantly, women who are overweight also typically have a lower response to the medication prescribed, requiring a larger / longer dose of the egg stimulating medication that you’re given. These higher doses, somewhat counterintuitively, could lead to fewer healthy eggs being retrieved – which could lead to a lower success rate for your recipients.

Other risks

Aside from the meds not working as they should, a very high or low BMI can impact how your body responds to the anaesthetic that is administered during your retrieval and make it difficult for the doctors to physically perform the retrieval. It puts our donors at risk and that’s the last thing we want!

So, if you’re looking to donate your eggs and your BMI falls out of the required range, it’s a perfect motivation to make any lifestyle changes that you might need. Just make sure not to do anything drastic without the help of a medical professional!

Why do women donate their eggs?

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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?

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Why you shouldn’t wait to donate your eggs

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There’s (almost always) no time like the present… And the same holds true for egg donation.

Nurture donors are required to be between the ages of 19 and 32 – and there’s a very good reason for this age limit!

A woman is born with a set amount of potential eggs – around 2 million. Each month, our body preps a certain amount of these egg follicles for ovulation (estimated by doctors to be upwards of 1000 per month) – but (usually) only one egg takes centre stage and is released from the ovary.

This egg is the superstar of that month’s batch – basically the Beyonce of your ovaries. It’s the one that the body decides has the best chance of being fertilised, becoming an embryo and then a happy, healthy baby.

The rest of the unused follicles are reabsorbed by the body and lost – unless you give them a boost with fertility medications to help bring them to maturity.

However, as you age, two things start to happen: The number of follicles that your body loses each month accelerates, and the body’s stockpile of superstar eggs starts to decline.

That essentially means that a woman loses more eggs each month and has a higher chance of releasing an egg that is chromosomally abnormal – which could cause things such as Down syndrome or Cystic Fibrosis.

Starting around age 32, a woman’s chances of falling pregnant each month start to decline. And, at age 35, that monthly decline starts becoming steeper. That doesn’t mean that as soon as you pop the bubbly on your 35th birthday you won’t be able to get pregnant – just that it won’t necessarily be as ‘easy’ as it could have been in your 20s.

(This is where we remind you again that fertility is different for every woman, every time!)

In a nutshell, you’ll be producing the highest number of ‘quality’ eggs before you’re 32 – which is music to ears of the intended parents looking for a donor!

So, what are you waiting for?

A glass of Chardonnay with Tertia

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Tertia Albertyn

The other half of Nurture’s dynamic duo, Tertia Albertyn co-founded Nurture with her BFF Melany Bartok in 2008.

A recovering infertile (who gave birth to now-teenage twins after her ninth IVF, and had one ‘freebie’ baby), Tertia has poured her heart and soul into this business.

Lover of Chardonnay, fruit chutney chips and Pokemon Go!, we get to know the fabulous Tertia and the “no-brainer” that was founding Nurture… 

 

Describe in 10 words or less what you do at Nurture. 

Look for new opportunities to grow the business

What does a typical day at Nurture look like for you?

Open my laptop and try to get on top of my emails.  Which is a pretty daunting task.  The emails never stop!  And by the time they arrive in my inbox, it usually means it’s a tricky or difficult situation. Sorting out problem cases or tricky situations is the least favourite part of my job, but it needs to be done. Things can’t be all sunshine and roses all the time.  I love numbers and figures and spreadsheets so as a reward for doing the difficult stuff, I spend some time invoicing and recording information in spreadsheets. I often have meetings, which is another not-so-fun part of my job.  Not only because the travel time and the meeting time takes up so much of my valuable working day, but I am a bit (VERY!) antisocial so having to look up from my computer and actually speak to someone face to face is always a bit daunting for me.

What has been the highlight of your Nurture career?

There are so many!!  I always say that I have the best job in the world.  We get to help others have their ‘happily ever after’.  Every single baby born through our program is a highlight for me.  Whenever I am feeling particularly stressed, I go to our photo album and look at all the gorgeous baby pics sent from our happy recipients.  Makes my day each time.  Another thing I absolutely love is following the day to day lives of our recipients who I have become friends with on Facebook.  I look at the shiny faces on the first day of school and the parents’ proud faces and my heart wants to burst with happiness.  Having suffered from infertility myself I know what it is like to want to have a child and not be able to. When I read the seemingly ordinary day to day lives of our recipients, I know just how grateful they are to have all those usual ‘firsts’ and big moments as parents, moments they thought might never happen.

What was your day job before Nurture? 

I worked for IBM as Communications Manager for one of their divisions.

How did you and Melany come to the idea of starting Nurture together? 

Melany and I have been friends for over 20 years. In fact, I’ve known Melany longer than I have known my husband who I have been married to for 18 years!  As I mentioned before, I suffered from infertility for many years.  During this time Melany could see how much pain I was in, which obviously made her really heart sore too.  She asked what she could do to help me.  At the time my problem wasn’t my eggs, so she couldn’t help me, but I told her she could become an egg donor and help other people. Which she did.  A few years later Melany worked for an international egg donor program.  One day Melany and I were chatting and we realized that there was a need for a local egg donor agency who could provide excellent service and good quality egg donors to the local and the international market.  Melany and I had worked together in the past, we shared the same passion and enthusiasm for life.  Plus, Melany had personal experience as an egg donor and I had personal experience as an infertility patient.  It was a no brainer.  That was over 10 years ago and we have taken our ‘baby’ Nurture to great heights locally and internationally.  We are very proud of our team.

Nurture recently celebrated its tenth anniversary – how different is the fertility landscape now from when you first started in the industry?

Some things are quite different, and others remain the same.  Infertility still affects so many people.  And there is as much of a need for donor eggs as there was back then.  However, some things have changed.  The technology has improved in leaps and bounds.  The most exciting innovation has been around egg freezing.  Sperm banks have been around for ages, but in the past egg banks weren’t an option. That has changed in the past few years and now Nurture has partnered with the country’s leading fertility clinic to offer frozen donor eggs to our recipients.  Very exciting stuff!

If you could know the absolute and total truth to one question – what would you ask?

Wow, that’s tough.  I would want to know things like: Why do babies die?  Why do bad things happen to good people?  Why haven’t we found a cure for cancer? But if I had to pick one, it would have to be:  How does one survive the teenage years and stay sane?!  (I have twin teenagers, and it is a pretty scary ride!)

What is in your picnic basket?

Chardonnay.  More Chardonnay.  Fruit chutney chips.  Dip.  Those yummy crackers made with lots of butter and sun-dried tomato from Woollies.  Some stinky cheese.

What’s your superpower?

Doing a million things at once:  Running a business, raising a family, surviving the teenage years, supporting my parents, serving on the PTA.  All at once.

What gets you going in the morning?

Coffee!  Plus getting 3 kids up and ready for school.

What are you doing when you’re not at work?

Playing Pokemon Go!  My husband and I are big Pokemon addicts, and we spend most of our weekends meeting up with our Pokemon friends and playing the game together.  It’s very social.

What is the one piece of advice that you have for a new egg donor? 

Don’t be shy to boast about yourself on your profile.  Donors with detailed, interesting profiles get chosen quicker.  Recipients love to read everything you’ve written.

Describe the average Nurture egg donor in five words. 

Amazing, strong, committed, giving, caring.

You and the team have scanned through hundreds of applications – what are the first things you look for in a potential donor?

By now we know which donors get chosen quicker.  Donors with detailed profiles where they share a lot of info about themselves – their interests, hobbies, achievements, likes/dislikes etc.  Recipients love that.  Then, donors with a tertiary qualification are in high demand.  Lastly donors with cute childhood pics definitely get chosen quicker.  In the absence of meeting the donor face to face (because egg donation in South Africa has to be anonymous), all the recipients have to go on when they make their choice is what the donor has written about herself, what she has achieved academically or in her career and lastly, how she looked as a young child.

What is the one misconception about egg donation that you would wave a wand to clear up?

That donating your eggs uses up your own store of eggs, making it harder to have a baby one day.  We are born with all the eggs we will ever have, and every month these eggs go to waste.  Egg donation is using the eggs that would have gone to waste anyway.  Instead of wasting them, you could be blessing future parents with the baby they long for.

What do you think the future holds for Nurture? 

Lots of exciting things!  Growing the frozen egg bank, and expanding internationally.  Helping even more people have babies!