I was first introduced to the concept of egg donation by an ex of mine who, about half a year into dating, told me that she was an egg donor. I was fascinated, curious, and worried. Why would she donate her eggs? What would happen if the child or children came searching for her years down the road? Admittedly, it freaked me out to know there was “a little her” or little hers running around in the world. I didn’t understand egg donation. At all.
Fast forward some years and a few relationships later, and I find myself looking to start a family though sperm donation, which is entirely different than egg donation — but not. The further into my own family planning I got, the more I began to better understand the many different ways families come to be these days, including by way of egg donation.
So when I was first presented with the opportunity to review The Insider’s Guide to Egg Donation and to interview its authors, I was immediately excited. Not only is the book a first of its kind to offer families a comprehensive guide to a subject that is often multi-layered and arduous to understand, but since its authors are both egg donors themselves, the text is written in language that doesn’t require the reader to have a medical degree.
If you’ve ever wanted to know more about the struggles many women face in achieving the dream of motherhood, or if you’ve ever been curious about egg donation, read on.
According to the authors of The Insider’s Guide to Egg Donation, there are currently more than 51,000 children born from egg-donation technology. That’s a lot of kids. But before the publication of this book, parents-to-be seeking information and real-life stories from egg donors and recipients had little in the way of resources.
“Those looking for an egg donor often want children more than those who were able to have them the old-fashioned way.”
Wonderfully dubbed “what to expect when you weren’t expecting this,” the authors of the book cover everything from the basics to the explicit “hows” of egg retrieval and transfer, to choosing the right reproductive clinic and egg-donor agency, to specific concerns for LGBT families. Throughout the chapters, real-life stories sprinkle the pages and lend human perspective and emotion to a scientific subject that is anything but just scientific.
Having been egg donors themselves, the authors are able to bring a voice to the emotional and personal side of the whole process, yet they balance their perspective with solid medical and technical information, contributed by numerous doctors and experts in the field. Readers will easily walk away feeling as though their best friend just explained the ins and outs of egg donation with accuracy and compassion.
After I finished reading The Insider’s Guide to Egg Donation, I asked its authors a few questions about the book, their experiences, and plans for future editions.
Q: You write in the book, “Those looking for an egg donor often want children more than those who were able to have them the old-fashioned way.” Explain how that is fair to say.
A: Parents who seek out egg donors have already faced many struggles and have had Mother Nature tell them “no” in various ways. It’s a commitment of a different nature to seek out someone who isn’t biologically or event romantically connected to you to build your family. It’s a significant emotional investment, not to mention the financial commitment for IVF costs. [Additionally] their desire to have a family is heightened by the loss experienced. This isn’t stating that parents of children through egg donation love their children more, rather they’ve been through a lot more to have them.
Q: It’s mentioned numerous times that more and more egg donors are willing to be known. What can you say or what do you suspect are the factors behind this trend?
A: Within the last few years, many well-known therapists in the field of assisted reproduction have begun to strongly encourage open relationships with donors in case the future children feel it’s important to have more information. I think one of the biggest factors contributing to this is that it has become industry standard to ask egg donors if they are willing to be known as part of a movement to make it more acceptable as a whole. Back when I [Wendie] first started in the industry, egg donors weren’t asked [about this] and, in many cases, were told it wasn’t even an option.
Q: Since all research suggests that females mature faster than males, does it seem odd to you that most sperm banks allow donations beginning at age 18, but that the standard is higher for women (age 21) as recommended by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine?
A: This is an ongoing debate within the industry. Many therapists feel like the brain does not reach its full level of maturity (in males or females) until around the mid-20’s, and I even read one therapist suggesting that egg donors be at least 25 to be able to make a mature, informed decision. I believe all should be standard of practice to have all potential donors speak with a therapist who is familiar with the ins and outs of the donation process as well as take a standard personality test (MHP). It’s also important to note that a good agency and a good therapist will reject a donor based on immaturity, lack of clear understanding, or other emotional red-flags regardless of whether a donor is 18 or 29.
Q: Considering that science and technology continue to advance quickly, what are the plans, if any, to publish updated versions of the book?
A: We have plans to update the digital version of the book on a regular basis [and] will propose an updated printed edition when there is enough information to warrant another print run.
Q: In the world of sperm donation, there exists the anonymous donor, the willing-to-be-known donor, and the known donor (the last of which is a man the recipients actually know before donation). As per the explanation given in your book, it seems that “known egg donor” is equivalent to the willing-to-be-known sperm donor. Is there a separate or unique name for a woman who donates her eggs to someone she knows before the donation?
A: I [Wendie] just donated 7 of my frozen eggs to a good friend of mine who lost her egg quality due to cancer treatments. It was still called a “known donation.” In the medical chart it would say if it was a known donation and likely state whether it was a “friend” or “family” member — but there are no special word(s) separating this scenario.
About the Authors:
Wendie Wilson-Miller is an 11-year veteran in the egg-donation and assisted-reproduction technology field. She is founder and CEO of Gifted Journeys. Currently serving on the board for Parents Via Egg Donation, Wendie is able to offer support to others stemming from her own experience as a five-time egg donor. She has been featured in The New York Times, on NPR and ABC News, and most impressively, Babble.
Erika Napoletano is a multiple-cycle egg donor, columnist for Entrepreneur Magazine, and author of The Power of Unpopular.
You can get your copy of The Insider’s Guide to Egg Donation on Amazon.
Read more of Aela’s writing at Two Moms Make A Right