By Mary Ellen McLaughlin

When headlines such as Win a Raffle, Become a Parent or Free Human Eggs offered at U.S. Infertility Clinic, spread virally across the Internet, I feel a duty to explain exactly what is involved in the egg donation process.

What people need to know first is that these centers are not raffling off a human or her eggs. They are giving a couple a financial break on the treatment that comes with egg donation, which can be quite costly. Compensation also is one of the hot topics discussed in these articles. One has to remember that the egg donation process is not a walk in the park. If it were, I think we’d see a lot more women willing to donate. It’s a process, both mentally and physically. It’s for undergoing the process – not the egg itself  – that we pay them a $7,000 fee.

For those who don’t understand what the donor goes through, let me take you through the process:

  • Donors research and contact an agency. Time involved: 24 to 48 hours.
  • Donors complete a pre-screening questionnaire. Time involved: 10-20 minutes.
  • Once approved, donors research their family heath history. Time involved:  24 to 48 hours.
  • Donors complete a 27-page questionnaire and meet with an agency representative to discuss the donation process. Time involved: up to 3 hours.
  • Donors collect family photos and photos of themselves from birth to adulthood for profiles. Time involved: 24 to 48 hours.
  • Donors provide agency with latest pap smear results. Time involved: 24 to 48 hours (to receive records).
  • Donors supply agency with a copy of current ID or passport. Time involved: 30 minutes.
  • Donors complete a full psychological evaluation. Time involved: up to 3 hours.
  • Donors meet with an attorney. Time involved: up to 2 hours.
  • Donors complete a physical exam. Time involved: up to 2 hours.
  • Donors get blood work and have a baseline ultrasound. Time involved: up to 1 hour.

That’s just the preliminary work. Here’s the medical side.

  • Donors start birth control pills. Time involved: one month to three months.
  • Donors start an injectable medication called Lupron. They inject themselves daily for approximately one month. Time involved: 15 to 30 minutes daily.
  • While on Lupron, the donors also must receive another baseline ultrasound. Time involved: 30 minutes to an hour.
  • After birth control, while on Lupron, donors must wait one week to get their period. Once the donors start their period they must get another ultrasound and blood work (to ensure everything is running smoothly). Time involved: 30 minutes.
  • Once the donor’s period ends, she is put on fertility drugs. Time involved: 10-14 days, with daily injections that can take up to 15 minutes.
  • During this time, the donor must be available to have daily ultrasounds to monitor how her follicles are developing and make sure her estrogen levels do not rise too high. Time involved: depends on how many ultrasounds the donor needs.
  • After 10 to 14 days, the donor receives the final trigger shot, Ovidrel. Time involved: up to 15 minutes. After 36 hours, the donor is then ready to have her eggs retrieved.
  • The day of the retrieval, the donor must take a full day off school or work. She may not eat or drink anything before retrieval, since she will be under a conscious sedation anesthesia. The donor also must have someone take her to and from the appointment. The retrieval process, from IV to retrieval to recovery, takes approximately 2 to 3 hours.
  • Retrieval follow-up appointment. Time involved: 1 hour.

None of this includes wait time at doctors offices, time spent with the agency representative on questions or recovery time (it can take some donors a day or two to bounce back). The entire process can take between three and six months.

Egg donors are taking days off from work, school or family to help a couple have the family they always dreamed of. Neither they nor their eggs are the commodities the media can make them sound like. They are kind, nurturing women who just want to help a family in need.