Being an Egg Donor: Helping out or Taboo?
The many sleepless nights. The changing of dirty diapers. Early morning bottle feeds. The joys of parenthood. Many dread it, and many look forward to it. It is probably even considered a rite of passage for a woman – becoming a mother. Some people even say that you’re not a woman unless you have given birth to your own bundle of joy. But what about those women or couples who are unable to conceive a child because of infertility?
It may seem a bit ‘taboo’ for families to speak about not being able to conceive because it is such an emotive subject. Some cultures see having many children the equivalent to being wealthy. In the Caribbean, an infertile woman is deemed as the “barren one”, while the infertile male may be ridiculed as “shooting blanks”.
As I went through the dailies recently, a local ad in the newspaper read, “Do you want to become an egg donor?” with a listing of contact numbers to the Trinidad and Tobago IVF Fertility Centre. I was completely intrigued by this advertisement.
Giving your eggs for in vitro fertilisation (IVF) may not seem odd too some people, but it certainly made me wonder about persons who were doing just that – donating their eggs. I even posed the question to my girlfriends, asking if they would do so, to which a resounding “no” was given.
“But,” I added. “You do know females produce a lot of eggs? Why not share?”
“We only have a certain amount of time, till we stop!” another retorted. They went on to mention that they saw that egg as a part of them, and, thus, not so easy to part with.
One of my guy friends noted that he didn’t see it as a problem, if his significant other wanted to. He said was fine with it.
“It’ll be helping out someone,” he said. “At least that’s how I see it.”
A lady I spoke with, who actually donated her eggs, shares this view.
“Well I saw it as helping a couple to start a family,” she said. “It’s disheartening to see a woman not to be able to have a child of her own and hear of a couple’s troubles.”
While some see it as ‘helping out’, others cry foul at the idea, stating that society, nowadays, tends to lack morals and that people are not able to just accept their issue – the inability to have children.
I contacted the IVF Centre and spoke with a manager at the centre, Allison Lee. I asked her if infertility was quite a taboo topic in Trinidad and Tobago.
“Oh definitely,” she said. “It definitely is. There are a lot of kids running around right here who have been a product of IVF, but because of the stigma attached to such a procedure, it is highly confidential.”
But what does one have to know or do to become an egg donor in Trinidad and Tobago? I learnt that you must be age 35 years or less, a non- smoker, free of transmissible diseases, free of severe endometriosis, have a normal follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and anti-mullerian hormone (AMH) hormone blood test, have a body mass index (BMI) below 33, and must have had a child before. Additionally, a potential egg donor candidate is screened for STDs, and they are required to discuss their family medical history.
By volunteering to donate your eggs, you are also subject to undergo several psychiatric tests and counselling sessions.
Some may look at the opportunity to donate their egg as a sure way of making some extra cash, with no real work required. Well, the actual process of getting the eggs can be a little tedious. Firstly, you’ll have to consume hormone pills to get your menstrual cycle in sync with your recipient’s. Shortly thereafter, hormones will be injected in your system to produce even more mature eggs. Then, when you are all ripe and full with the goods, they can be extracted from your body. So, this is a side hustle you may not want to consider, if you have to constantly induce hormones on a regular basis to keep up with the demand.
That’s the physical process, but some of you may still be wondering how the donor actually makes cash.
“A small fee is paid to those anonymous egg donors provided by the clinic,” Ms Lee confirmed. “However, if you bring your own donor, then the clinic does not make a payment to your egg donor.”
That small fee paid by the Centre is TT$5,000. If the couple selects its own donor, then they agree on a mutually accepted fee with the donor.
Having that bundle of joy can be quite pricey, and in vitro fertilisation is an expensive process for the couple seeking to have a child. Prices ranged from TT$31,500 to $36,500 dollars for IVF procedures alone. For some, the price is worth it.
While joining local, support groups may also seem helpful to those who are facing this situation, adoption is always another option for. One may agree that there are many beautiful children who need homes and love. Still, how someone chooses to start a family is a personal decision.
For many individuals or couples out there, who are trying to have babies and are faced with this dilemma, no one can understand the emotional rollercoaster involved, especially if they choose to try in vitro fertilisation. In vitro fertilisation, though taboo in Trinidad and Tobago, is a reality for some people, who desperately want to have children, and who, even when this method proves successful for them, still feel the need to be secretive about it to avoid gossip and shield their child from being called a “science experiment”.
Some people may see being an egg donor as an income stream and ‘helping out’, while others cannot fathom the thought of parting with their eggs, or even using this method, if they find out that they cannot have children easily. While some of us may have our own views, ask yourself, what extremes would you take to have your own family? And would you sacrifice your eggs to ensure happiness for someone else?
Check out the rest of this week’s issue (20/06/11):
- Things that make you say, “Only in T&T”
- Rain = Sex: The Weather for 20 Toes Theory
- Walking a Fine Line with Mental Illness
- John John: Cita’s Grandson does Soul
- In Defence of Creole: Loving our Dialect
Look out for a new issue of Outlish.com every Monday!