Frequently Asked Questions
Because you are on our site, we know that you’re the type of person who will have a whole bunch of questions you’d like answered. How do we know this? Because only the most fabulous, curious, wonderful people become egg donors and if you are thinking about becoming an egg donor then you must fall into this category!
We have put together this list of questions that will help you with your research, but if you have more questions that we have not answered then please contact us at [email protected].
An egg donor is a healthy young woman who is between the ages of 19 and 33. This special woman donates a few of her eggs to a recipient, who strongly desires to have a child but who is unable to produce eggs from her own ovaries. Following their removal, the eggs are fertilized with the recipient’s male partner’s sperm or with donor sperm. The resulting embryos are then placed into the recipient’s uterus. She will then hopefully have the opportunity of becoming pregnant, carrying, and delivering a child and finally creating the family she has longed for. A donor gives one of the most beautiful gifts possible—the gift of potentially growing a family.
The recipient of donor egg(s) is someone who desires to have a child but is unable to produce viable eggs themselves. Various reasons a woman might not be able to produce eggs include premature ovarian failure, infertility due to poor egg quality or age, severe endometriosis, genetic disorders that she does not want to pass on, or elevated follicle stimulating hormone. Being unable to have a child when you really, really want one is heartbreaking. Infertility isn’t something we would wish on our worst enemy!
We understand the business of egg donation better than anyone else. Before you come on board, we will have a one-on-one chat with you. This gives us the opportunity to explain Egg-zactly how it all works – the good, the bad and the not so ugly! We have supported over 3500 fabulous donors in 13 years who have signed up and donated through us. We will answer all your questions honestly and support you all the way through the process. In a nutshell, we care. We call. We write. We call some more.
Recipients often look for a donor who matches their physical characteristics, or who they have some other connection with. Once you qualify to be an egg donor through our fabulous agency, your information will be placed on our password protected donor database where recipients can view your profile. We are a completely anonymous egg donor agency so your confidential information will not be shared. The Recipients will not know your identity but will know your physical characteristics and any pertinent details of your medical and family history.
Think of it this way: Point A: Those eggs you donated? They would have been flushed away with your normal cycle if you hadn’t donated them. Point B: Eggs alone do not make a child! Without the partner’s sperm, and without the future mother’s womb, there is no child. So fear not, there aren’t going to be any of ‘your’ children running around any where!
As I sit on the couch at 2am holding my ill son in my arms, I reflect back on a conversation I had with a potential donor egg recipient today, a future mother. She has only just heard that she will need a donor egg in order to conceive and is still in shock. Part numb, part devastated. Grieving for the loss of a child created from her own DNA.
So many questions, so many concerns. “But will I feel like the child’s mother?” Will that child feel like ‘mine’.
Sitting in the perfect still of the winter night, wiping my child’s feverish brow, it comes to me in a moment of absolute clarity….being a parent is not about the origins of conception. It is not about an egg or where the DNA comes from. Simple biology does not a parent make.
The parent is the person who cradles the baby to his or her chest, gently rocking him to sleep.
The parent is the person who holds the sickly child in his arms, wiping her feverish brow.
The parent is the one who whispers ‘I love you’ into the sleeping ear, who wipes the snotty nose, who fixes the scraped knee and cleans the poopy diapers.
The parent is the one who loves the child regardless, who loves the child unconditionally, even on the days where they behave revoltingly.
The egg donor, surrogate or birth mother (in the case of an adopted child) is a wonderful, beautiful, generous person who helped in the creation of that child, but they are not that child’s mother. That child’s parent is the one the child calls mommy or daddy.
What makes a parent is not about what happened at the moment of conception; it is about what happens every day in the life of the child.
And that my friends, is what makes a parent.
The factors recipients consider are varied and personal. For some people, things like eye colour, hair colour etc are important. Some are looking for donors who share similar interests. Actually, it is often the little messages and personal bits that help them decide on the ‘right’ donor for them. It is very important that you complete the application as honestly and thoroughly as possible and provide quality toddler photographs of yourself. Those gorgeous toddler pics of yourself mean a lot and the recipients appreciate all the information you can provide. We understand that you might not have any toddler photos of yourself, if this is the case, you can send photos of your own child. If you do not have a child, we will place a message on your profile indicating this however we do want to ask that you try REALLY hard to find those gorgeous toddler photos of yourself first.
You can continue to use the birth control that you are on while you are waiting to be matched with a recipient. Once chosen, when you attend your first medical appointment at the clinic, the Dr will discuss your current birth control method with you and your course of action going forward.
For the ladies who are on the contraceptive pill, please note that during the actual donation process – you will be taken off the pill for a month – during this time you will need to abstain or use extra precaution as you will be verrrrry fertile during this period.
You are born with approximately 1-2 million eggs*. Each month a group of eggs enter a growth phase that will ultimately result in ovulation. Normally, your body selects only one egg each cycle to ovulate and the remaining eggs from this group do not develop fully and are flushed down the loo. Fertility medications allow your body to rescue many of those eggs that would have been lost (those rescued ones are the ones you donate!) and do not affect any eggs destined to enter growth phase in future cycles. The fertility medication has no proven long term effects and in fact a recent study has determined that egg donation has no effect on your short term future fertility.
To put it more scientifically:
** Women are born with a finite number of eggs, around 1-2 million. At puberty, that number has dwindled to 300,000 and subsequently approximately 750-1000 eggs are lost each month by a process called atresia. The eggs not only begin to diminish in quantity, but also in quality. The combination of these factors leads to a woman’s fertility beginning to decline in her 20’s and significantly deteriorating after age 35. The chance of conception for a woman older than 43 is very low.
Normally of the 750-1000 eggs that are lost, one (or two) will ovulate. With egg donation 10-15 eggs are given to another woman. These eggs would have been lost anyway.
Therefore egg donation does not reduce the amount of eggs in the ovary.
Well let’s start off with the injections – for the needle phobes. On a scale of 1 to 10 – the thought of what you are going to do (i.e. poke yourself with a needle once a day for the next 12 days) is going to be a lot more frightening than the actual injection. Promise. Moving onto the actual donation process and retrieval – it is impossible for us to anticipate how you – as an individual – are going to feel. You could have 0 out of 10 pain or discomfort / 2 out of 10 pain or discomfort / 5 out of 10 pain or discomfort / and (do you see where this is going) hopefully not, but you may have 10 out of 10 pain or discomfort. Nothing that a couple of pain killers / hot water bottle and a few hours of zzzzzzzz’s can’t sort out.
Here is some feedback from a donor who has just donated: "I would love to donate again! My "recovery" was so quick I don’t even think it needs to be called a recovery. Within a few hours, I was perfect."
You MUST have someone drive you home after the procedure. It’s the law. You may find that you need to sleep for the remainder of the day after the procedure. We recommend you take it easy for a few days post-retrieval. Your fertility clinic physician may give you other guidelines regarding post-operative activities.
Not you! All medical costs are funded by the recipients.
Compensation is guided by the South African Medical Ethics committee and is currently set at R7000. This compensation paid is not intended to pay for the eggs donated (as donors donate their eggs as a gift of hope), nor for monetary reward. You are not ‘selling’ your eggs, you are giving them as a gift to someone else and for the mission of going through all the appointments and taking your meds. The payment is recompense for expenses occurred and inconvenience suffered during the donation process. The seven grand does not even begin to come close to reflecting the immense gratitude the recipients feel. Their deep appreciation and good wishes for the donor continue for many years.
No. Nurture operates within the law – Anonymity is key! No real names – no adult photos. The recipient will not know your identity, only your physical characteristics and the details of your medical history, family history, hobbies and educational background. Your love of expensive shoes and fear of goggas may also be of interest…so be sure to put all of this info in when completing the application.
This is really private stuff, but if the recipient agrees and you really want to know, the doctor will let you know.
Yes – Once matched, there will be an initial appointment with the doctors at the clinic which will take approximately an hour. In addition to this, you will also have a once off hour visit with a psychologist. During the actual procedure, you will have to go to the clinic at least 3 to 4 times for ultrasounds. (This is over a 2 week period) You will also have to take a day off for egg retrieval. These visits cannot be scheduled for outside of normal working hours or on Saturdays or Sundays. So you will have to take time off, but not AGES and AGES.
The active participation required on your part is 7 visits to the clinic (there might be 8 max) over the two to three month period.
The great news is that all the dates are worked out in advance, so you will be able to plan around your studies and work.
Let’s get the 2 immediate general concerns out of the way – 1) Am I going to put on weight? You are on medication for 12 days so we are not quite sure how many kilo’s you can pack on in 12 days, but if it is more than a kilo or two, step away from the 7th slab of Toblerone! 2) Am I going to turn into an emotional basket case / raving ice-pick killer? The Doctor’s who we work with are not cowboys, i.e. they are not pumping you full of hormones so that your body produces kazillions of eggs – They use a very mild/gentle stimulation protocol which is closely monitored. Side effects differ from donor to donor. Some women experience absolutely none. If you are prone to premenstrual syndrome (PMS) you may feel some of the side effects attributed to the injections. These effects are usually mild and may include allergic sensitivity, breast tenderness, abdominal bloating, headaches and/or mood swings. You shouldn’t become too much of a dragon, but if you do, blame it on the hormones! You may gain a kilogram or 2, which will only be a temporary weight gain as it is when you have PMS. As with any medical procedure, there is always a minuscule chance of infection, and/or reaction to the anaesthetic medication(s). Bleeding is usually minimal and infection is unlikely as an intravenous antibiotic is routinely administered at the time of the procedure.
This is the serious bit and we can do serious. The clinics we work with prefer to have all the steps in place so that none of these nasties happen – Prevention being better than cure! The primary risk is a condition called Ovarian Hyper-Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS). This is relatively rare (1% of IVF cases). It is caused by the ovary producing too many eggs in response to the drug stimulation. This is why we make sure that you can get to the clinic for all those important scans – The doctor’s can soon pick up that your ovaries are over zealous – and will adjust the medication accordingly. i.e. lower the medication whilst you are on it. If OHSS does kick in, it normally happens a day or two after the retrieval – you will go from feeling uncomfortable to pretty rotten – You have your Nurture representative’s cell number – you will have the doctor’s cell number and if in any doubt, get dialling. Symptoms include feeling nauseous, extreme bloating and pain. The doctor will ask you to get to the clinic so that he can assess your condition. Normally extra bed rest and a couple of days for your ovaries to shrink back to their normal size is sufficient. IF the doctors are overly concerned, they will check you into the clinic, hook you up to a drip and administer anti-biotics. Basically, your ovaries are swollen, pissed off and they are letting you know all about it. They need an extra bit of TLC and time to shrink back to their normal size. It is also key to note that in the majority of egg donation cycles in South Africa a ‘new’ medical protocol called “Lupron trigger protocol” or GnRH agonist trigger protocol is used that effectively eliminates the development of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).
For more information, visit: https://www.advancedfertility.com/lupron-trigger-prevent-hyperstimulation.htm
The secondary potential risk is the risk of infection – whether one is having a baby, having an ingrown toe nail cut out, wisdom teeth removed or donating ones precious eggs – there is always a chance of an infection developing. There is NO doctor, agency or clinic that can say “Yes Ma’am – this procedure is 100% safe” (so beware the people who do!) The thing to remember is that the chance of anything going wrong is highly unlikely, but not impossible. Again – what most clinics do – is, whilst you are under having your eggs retrieved, they will administer an anti-biotic shot to counter act that very small risk of infection.
Should a donor need follow up care as a result of a complication arising from the donation – the clinic that she donates at will see to it.
As with any medical procedure, there are risks. Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome is the most common serious complication (see point above). It may become a more serious problem in 1% of women undergoing egg donation and very rarely it can be life threatening.
We would prefer a donor to only be signed up with fabulous us, however…we realize that some donors can and do sign up with other agencies, so if you do this – let us know – and more importantly – if you are selected through us (or the other agency) we need you to tell them (or us) right away. As you know, it is physically impossible to do 2 simultaneous donations! There is a VERY precious recipient who is investing a whole lot of soul here, so…a bit of common sense and courtesy needs to prevail here! Yebo yes!?
The South African guidelines state that a donor may donate six times or 6 viable pregnancies (whichever comes first). This can differ slightly between clinics – depending on their policy. When you are matched for a donation, we remove your profile from our website. After the donation is completed (and if the Dr has given his/her approval to Nurture that you can donate again), it is then up to you to decide if you would like to join our fabulous Nurture team again. We will put your profile back on the website a month after your last donation. That way if you get snapped up straight away, you will have had three months break between donations.
If your application is successful and you are chosen, you are given the opportunity to chat about these feelings with our counseling Psychologist before proceeding. This is a very personal decision which you must be comfortable with. We will encourage you to take time to make the right decision for you and will respect whatever you decide to do.
Not an issue, however you need to be aware that you will have to undergo a number of internal vaginal scans and there is a risk that the hymen may be ruptured during the egg retrieval process. We have had many virgins who have donated successfully!
No, the eggs are removed vaginally with an ultrasound guided fine needle whilst you are under sedation. The actual egg retrieval takes about 20 minutes. For a video on how eggs are retrieved, you can have a look at this video which although not totally the same, is similar to what egg donors go through in South Africa: www.youtube.com/watch?v=mV5lA_0i4S4
Nurture has many donors who travel around South Africa to donate. Nurture currently works with clinics based in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth and Durban. You can indicate whether you would like to/are able to donate at various locations. If you are chosen to donate in a city far from home, are willing to travel and can afford the time away from home/work/university the process will involve a day trip to that specific city (generally fly in the morning and back the same day). Then around 2 months later, you will need to travel back to that city and stay for a minimum of 10 days. All of the necessary travel, transport, accommodation and daily allowance arrangements will be taken care of and paid for on your behalf. There is no cost to you, the donor.
No, you need to have finished breast-feeding and have had 2 consecutive periods again prior to being able to donate
From the time you are chosen by a recipient it usually takes 2 to 3 months until the actual egg donation happens. The initial screening happens shortly after being chosen (2 appointments – one with the doctor and one with the psychologist). Then about 2 months after the initial screening the actual donation process begins. You will have an appointment to collect your medication and once you start injecting yourself with the fertility medication, there will be a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 4 visits to the clinic for an internal scan + the day of retrieval (this is the only day you will need to take the whole day off.) A doctor’s note can be arranged with reception at the clinic for any/all of the appointments, (this will be a regular gynae letter & will not disclose that you are donating your eggs.) To summarize – you are looking at a minimum of 7 appointments over a 2-3 month period.
To avoid getting pregnant yourself during the egg donation process you need to be extra careful!! You are super fertile before and after the donation. You will either need to abstain (ouch!!) or you will need to use condoms. The ‘rhythm method’ is NOT a reliable method, don’t do it! Once you get your period after your egg retrieval, you can go back to your normal method of contraception.
Remember – the objective is for the recipient to get pregnant right now, not you Be wise, condomize!
As the law stands no contact is allowed between the donor and the potential child in the future.
Our recipients are amazing, resilient and tenacious people. Most of them have endured years of fertility treatment, to no avail. The common thread that connects this group of people is the desire to become parents. Each and every recipient has consulted with a Fertility Specialist, at the highest level and the decision to use an egg donor is sometimes not an easy one. Although our recipients are eternally grateful for the generosity and appreciate the ultimate act of kindness offered by you (our donors), they still undergo a certain amount of emotional distress before finding peace in the process.
You can rest assured knowing that the physical, emotional and financial investment made by our recipient parents is reassurance of the fact that these are good people, wanting to be good parents. Our team support each and every recipient through their journey, from choosing a donor who is right for them, throughout the donation process and beyond.
It may interest you to see some Recipient feedback on our website.
Body mass index or BMI, is an index of a person’s relative “skinniness or heaviness”. The BMI factors in a person’s weight and their height to give an overall “index”. For a woman to donate eggs, it is a medical requirement that her BMI is between 18 and 28.
You can calculate yours here.
No it doesn’t.
Your treatment will take place at the clinic where your recipient’s fertility Dr is based. We will only know which clinic you are donating at if/when you are selected. The clinics we work with can be found here.
Yes, SA Legislation currently states that unless a “known” donation is arranged i.e. Your sister, cousin, friend is the egg donor, egg donation has to remain strictly anonymous.
It is not possible to specify how many eggs are donated as everyone responds to the medication differently and added to that, every donation cycle is different. Just to explain further – the female body releases new eggs each month (until your mid 30’s). If left unfertilised these eggs are flushed away each month with your menstrual cycle. During a donation cycle you are given medication to gently stimulate your egg growth – those “extra” eggs are the eggs which are donated. The average number of eggs retrieved is 15 with each cycle.