Opinion: Thinking About Egg Donation

Ana Hine looks at the practicalities of donating her eggs after hearing a talk by Dr Aarathi Prasad about her new book Like A Virgin: How Science Is Redesigning The Rules Of Sex

Feature by Ana Hine | 04 Mar 2014
  • egg and spoon race

I’ve been considering donating my eggs. Last October, at my twenty-first birthday evening, I raised the topic with two of my closest friends. Unfortunately they both reacted quite negatively, saying I was too young to make such a major decision. I was flabbergasted. Both of them are lesbians and had spoken in the past about wanting children later on in life. I thought they would understand.

I figure that by the time I am financially and emotionally ready to have children (if I ever am) my eggs will be too old to be much use. I’ve never much cared for the idea of being pregnant though and could really take or leave the whole thing. But other people don’t feel like that. If my eggs are perfectly healthy (and by all accounts they are) then I don’t see why I shouldn’t at least offer them to others who might want them.

Last night I went to a talk by Dr Aarathi Prasad about her new book Like A Virgin: How Science Is Redesigning The Rules Of Sex. During the resulting Q&A I asked her whether she would recommend someone like me donating my eggs. She said, “The number one thing that stops a woman having children is the eggs they have. There are women who would thank you for it.”

Egg donation requires stringent psychological and physical tests, hormone injections and pills and invasive surgery, but every time I hear about it sounds rather amazing. The extracted eggs are incubated and then used in IVF, or research, or frozen for use later on, depending on what you specify.

In the UK, egg and sperm donors are not anonymous, though they have no legal obligations. If my eggs are involved in the creation of a child then that child will have a legal right to contact me once they turn eighteen. That is fine with me. I agree that people should be able to find out about their genetics and answer the question of ‘where they came from.’ Anyway, I’ll be forty by then and if I haven’t already had children ‘naturally’ by then I will have missed my chance.

Prasad stressed that young women need to think very carefully about donating their eggs. However, she assured the audience and I that the procedure has been going on for a long time and has few risks. While I was aware of what egg donation requires, Prasad did raise some issues I hadn’t considered. The storage of the eggs long term and the possibility of saving some for myself in the future hadn’t occurred to me. Prasad reminded the audience that while sperm freezes well eggs are kept in liquid nitrogen and can deteriorate over time due to their higher fluid content. I had heard it wasn’t good to rely on your frozen eggs as your only reproductive option, but I may well consider it as a back up. After all, as my friends last October reminded me, my future partner might want children. 

Like a Virgin: How Science is Redesigning the Rules of Sex is out now. Published by Oneworld. Cover price £12.99.