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By Mary Ellen McLaughlin

You don’t have to be a leggy blonde with blue eyes, with an SAT score in the stratosphere and Ivy League credentials to qualify as an egg donor. In fact, most of the donors we work with are characterized by the size of their hearts and the aspiration to help a couple create a family.

Alternative Reproductive Resources recently did some mining of our egg donor data to see how the typical profile shaped up. Interestingly, there was no “typical.” Our donors – like the intended parents who come to us – come in all sizes, shapes and colors, and from many walks of life.

If there is a “typical” involved, it springs from what motivates young women to donate their eggs: The money is nice, but they overwhelmingly want to help people who are otherwise unable to create the families they have been longing for.

Here’s what we found:

  • 98% of our donors are in their 20s.
  • 46% are currently in college; 29% have completed it; and 12% hold advanced degrees.
  • 66% are Caucasian; 17% are African-American; and 10% are Hispanic.
  • 71% of our donors did it for altruistic reasons – to help a family in need; 13% donated for both altruistic and monetary reasons; 9% knew someone who had problems conceiving and wanted to help in some way; and only 3% donated strictly for the compensation involved.
  • 78% are single.
  • They have a variety of different religious and ethnic backgrounds.
  • 100% of our donors have at least one sibling and come from a family unit.
Our intended parents look for egg donors who share their traits. That might mean they want a donor who is short, with black hair and a big heart. A high SAT score is just a nice bonus.

By Robin von Halle

Are you a 5’9” or taller Caucasian female, who is between 18 and 30 years of age, very attractive, college educated and athletic with no genetic medical issues? If so, an ad in the Stanford University Daily promises to pay you $100,000 for an egg donation.

Frankly, I’d find such advertising amusing if it didn’t cross a dangerous ethical line – treating human life like a commodity. No wonder some people think we’re in the business of selling “designer genes.”

When agencies compensate egg donors based on SAT scores, athletic trophies and beauty pageants, it sends a negative message about fertility practices. That’s why we at ARR felt it was so important to adopt a code of ethics and to promote that code on behalf of our entire industry.

Our code of ethics calls for compensating egg donors and gestational surrogates solely for their time, effort and inconvenience, in keeping with the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) guidelines. There are no premiums for blue eyes or Ivy League degrees.

We hope others in our industry will join us by embracing similar ethical standards. The world should know we’re in the business of helping build families, not auctioning off genetic matter to the highest bidder.

By Mary Ellen McLaughlin

If egg donors weren’t compensated, the whole business of assisted reproductive technology would be a shadow of where it is today. “No one would [donate eggs] for free,” one donor told a writer with MSNBC. “Maybe for your sister, but not for a stranger.”

That’s exactly what I’ve found in 15 years of working with egg donors for ARR. For many of our donors, altruism plays a critical role in their decision. Many have witnessed, first hand, the infertility of a friend or family member. But few would donate without compensation unless it was for someone she knew.

That doesn’t mean we condone the practice by some agencies of promising enormous amounts of money to egg donors.

Compensation to egg donors is intended to reflect the time and inconvenience the process entails. Our donors undergo a lengthy screening process, medical evaluations, hormone injections and an outpatient surgical procedure to retrieve the eggs. Compensation should not be intended or viewed as a bonus for good looks, brains and athletic prowess (and providing such genetics to the highest bidder), but to reflect a process that’s a lot more complicated and, often, uncomfortable, than people realize.

Without compensation, families would be far more limited in their options, as they are in Germany and Italy, where egg donation and surrogacy are illegal. When compensation is fair, both donors and recipients can benefit.

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About Us

Conception Connections is a blog about alternative paths to family creation. It is maintained by Alternative Reproductive Resources. Contributors include intended parents, egg donors and gestational surrogates in addition to ARR staff. Our goal is to facilitate conversations about trends, issues, current events, technology and personal stories surrounding infertility, egg donation and gestational surrogacy. If you'd like to contribute, please e-mail We also welcome your comments and suggestions. Note: Comments are moderated and posted on approval.


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