The Perils of Egg Donation Abroad

Donating eggs is supposed to be a wonderful and selfless gift. The donor should feel safe and cared for and be confident that her medical team has her best interest at heart. So, it’s with great concern that we’ve noted a growing international market in assisted reproductive technology (ART), with egg donation as a central resource in this market.

Research tells us that so-called ‘reproductive travel’ has increased in the last decade and that South African women are also taking part and getting paid for their eggs. At Nurture, we are unashamedly ethical, and we believe in the high standards of South African law. Before you consider donating your eggs abroad, please take a moment to reflect on the risks and perils:

Legal Protections

In South Africa, egg donors benefit from robust legal protections safeguarding their rights throughout the egg donation process. These legal safeguards include confidentiality provisions, ensuring donors’ personal information and identity remain private and protected. Additionally, donors have the unequivocal right to withdraw their consent at any stage of the donation process, giving them autonomy and control over their participation. However, when donors choose to donate eggs outside of South Africa, they may not enjoy the same level of legal protections or rights.

This lack of consistent legal safeguards can create uncertainties and potential challenges for donors, impacting their overall experience and well-being. Donors may face issues in case of disputes, concerns about confidentiality and data protection, and challenges in asserting their rights if complications arise. Or even worse, find themselves incarcerated in a foreign prison for breaking a law they didn’t even know existed.

Medical Standards and Regulations

Countries have varying standards and regulations for the medical procedures involved in egg donation. Donors who choose international egg donation may encounter a range of standards in the screening process, medical care during the donation procedure, and follow-up support.

For instance, some countries may have strict guidelines for donor screening, ensuring thorough health assessments and genetic testing. In contrast, others may have less comprehensive screening, which could pose higher health risks. The quality of medical care during procedures like ovarian stimulation and egg retrieval can also vary, affecting the success and safety of the process.

The greatest concern is about follow-up care after the donation. Who is going to look after you after the donation, should something go ‘wrong’. While South African doctors use a medical protocol that protects donors against ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), some overseas clinics do not, putting the donor at risk for post-egg retrieval complications like OHSS. While OHSS is mostly manageable through proper post-donation medical care, if left untreated it can be life-threatening. OHSS often only shows a day or two after the egg retrieval, by this time you might be on a long-haul flight back home, or far away from a medical team who can treat you.

Long-Term Health Implications

The egg donation process is a safe practice, but it’s still a medical procedure. Equipment needs to be sterile, and medical professionals who extract the egg cells must understand the intricacies of the process. Donating eggs in a facility that doesn’t meet (or exceed) all standards in healthcare can have long-term implications for a donor’s physical health and fertility.

Unfortunately, there are several examples of how inadequate sterilisation practices and improper handling of equipment have led to infections that affected the donor’s reproductive health in the long run.


Medical tourism has a dark side and presents risks like exploitation, inadequate regulation, and substandard care. South African egg donors who travel abroad to donate eggs may inevitably become part of a circle of exploitation, especially in regions where the oversight of ART, like in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and surrogacy, is lacking.

If you believe egg donation is a noble and rewarding choice, we’re honoured to be a part of your journey. We understand that the egg donation process can be physically and emotionally demanding; that’s why we provide our donors with comprehensive medical and psychological support throughout the process. At Nurture, we’re committed to making your egg donation journey as smooth and stress-free as possible. Our experienced team is on hand to guide you through every step of the process. Learn more about the process today!

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Tertia Albertyn is the founder of Nurture - South Africa’s longest-running and most successful Egg Donation Program. An accomplished speaker and an award-winning published author, as well as an ex-infertility patient herself, she is highly regarded in South Africa and internationally for the work she does in infertility. Tertia was instrumental in establishing the first FDA-approved frozen donor egg bank in Africa. Tertia has an MBA from the University of Cape Town and lives in Cape Town, South Africa with her husband and three children.