Egged on: Navigating the world of secondary infertility and egg donation

Join us on this journey into our hearts, a petri dish and (hopefully) my uterus.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Chlamydia comes back to haunt me

It was the summer of 1986. I was selling 45s at my friend's band's record release party. I walked up to a guy I had heard about. A friend of a friend said he was someone I might want to meet. I asked if he wanted to buy a record. He replied with , "only if it comes with your number."
It turns out, he didn't need my number. We went to a party. Then another party. Then back to his apartment.
He was my attempt at a one-night stand. And he was only the second guy I ever slept with.
About four months later, I tested positive for chlamydia. He claimed it wasn't him.
I wasn't very good at the one-night thing. We developed a friendship and ended up getting together for 'dates' whenever I was home from college. We'd have long talks on the phone while I was away.
In the summer of 1988, the night of the first home game under the lights at Wrigley Field, we slept together again. And a few months later, I again tested positive for chlamydia.
Twice. From the same guy.
And I was supposed to be a smart, responsible girl.
So all I could do at first was laugh when I got the call Tuesday that my donor -- that sweet looking, hard-working, bright ambitious twentysomething I have become attached to -- has a boyfriend who tested positive for chlamydia.
It just seemed so ridiculous.
She seemed so responsible. The first couple she donated to left with 30 eggs and are pregnant with twins. She seemed like a great investment.
Damn that boy.
After my doctor's office talked to the CDC and consulted with other professionals and read up on STDs, they decided that we can't work with her anymore.
That puts up back at square one. And that's when I broke down and cried.
I'm mad/frustrated/depressed/confused/overwhelmed.
I'm also remarkably grateful to her for being so responsible to call the agency and tell them she was exposed to the STD.
She could have gone to get treated and moved forward as if nothing happened. That could have caused terrible complications for me and a potential baby.
Or she could have been tested, come up negative, then get a positive test on retreival day. That would have cost me a bundle of money.
As it is, I don't think it costs me anything if we just go with another donor (she hadn't met with the attorney yet and she hadn't had her first doctor's appointment).
If we drop out of the process all together, we get everything back except $500 for the egg donor agency and $700 for the lawyer. We'd get $11,600 back, I think.
This has made me realize how much we are depending on a young financially strapped stranger to be honest and responsible. And it's a litttle scary.
I have started rethinking the whole thing.
My husband says we should just move forward: plenty of people do it without any complications at all.
For now, I'm just reviewing the contract. And reading the stories on blogs.
But, I have to admit, I haven't found anything at all like this.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Found this one on some site devoted to all things German. It's a look at an outdated overly restrictive German law on egg donation.,2144,2999675,00.html

Germany's Egg Donation Prohibition Is Outdated, Experts Say

The recent birth of a baby by a 64-year-old woman in Germany has sparked debate about the Embryo Protection Law, which prohibits egg donation. But with rising infertility rates, Germany may need to rethink its policies.
The 64-year-old German woman who recently gave birth to a healthy baby girl made headlines around the world. But her age did not set a precedent. Last year, a 67-year-old Spanish woman became the world's oldest mother when she gave birth to twins, topping the record from the previous year of a 66-year-old Romanian who also had twins.

The unnamed German became pregnant with the help of in-vitro fertilization (IVF), using an egg donated by a 25-year-old and the sperm of the German woman's husband. The treatment was conducted abroad, as donating eggs cells for pregnancies is illegal in Germany.

The prohibition of egg cell donation is part of Germany's "Embryo Protection Law," which was passed in 1990. Sperm donation, however, is permitted.

Mothers more important than fathers?

The reasoning behind the ban on egg donation was that both the genetic mother and the woman bearing the baby were presumed to be responsible for the child's existence, said Ulrich Hilland of the Berlin-based Federal Association of German Centers for Reproductive Medicine.

"The law could be interpreted in such a way that it is assumed that mothers have a stronger emotional connection to their children, due to pregnancy, than fathers," Hilland said.

The law aimed to prevent the separation between the genetic and the "social" mother -- the woman who would later raise the child. Surrogacy is therefore also prohibited in Germany.

Quality risks

Christina de Wit of the German National Ethics Council, in Berlin, pointed to another reason for banning the donation of egg cells.

"Harvesting eggs from a donor is an invasive operation requiring extensive hormonal stimulation beforehand, so that many eggs mature," she said. "That means that the whole process involves medical risks; that's not the case with sperm donors."

Some German politicians say the recent case demonstrates that egg donation prohibition in Germany should be lifted. Others point out that the prohibition prompts "reproduction tourism" by forcing women to go abroad to fulfill their wish for children.

"We see risks in quality-control here," Hilland said. "Women who go abroad cannot be assured that the testing and therefore the selection process among egg donor candidates have been sufficient."

Outdated law?

The current German law is one of the most restrictive in the world. It stipulates that only as many embryos may be cultivated as may actually be implanted (up to three per IVF cycle).

Embryos may also not be examined to determine sex before implantation, nor is pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), otherwise known as "embryo screening," allowed -- the latter ban a likely result of Germany trying to come to terms with its Nazi past.

Furthermore, the freezing (cryopreservation) of embryos for later implantation is restricted. Only eggs in the very early stages of fertilization -- the pre-nucleus stage -- may be frozen in certain cases.

The Embryo Protection Law itself was smart, because it defined the legal parameters of in-vitro fertilization and aimed to prevent the manipulation of human life very early, Hilland said.

De Wit agreed.

"The law was originally intended to protect life at its initial stages, but unfortunately, it is rather outdated," she said. "A nearly 20-year-old law no longer corresponds with the huge advancements made in science and reproductive medicine."

Financial problems

However, it's not just the Embryo Protection Law that is restrictive.

"Even if the law were changed to allow egg donation, only a fraction of women would take advantage of it," de Wit said.

An issue affecting many more women and couples wanting children is the drastic cutback in insurance companies paying for assisted reproduction technology (ART) treatments.

Formerly, Germany's public insurance companies -- or compulsory health insurance funds --covered the entire costs of up to four IVF and ISCI treatments and six intrauterine inseminations (IUI). In the wake of sweeping reforms, however, as of 2004 the funds only pay 50 percent of up to three IVF, ICSI or IUI cycles, and only for married couples when the woman is 40 or younger. Other age restrictions also apply. (ICSI, or "intracytoplasmic sperm injection," is a method involving the injection of sperm into an egg via an ultra-fine needle.)

Unmarried couples must cover all costs themselves. And they are heady.

A married couple's average share per cycle currently runs around 1,300 euros ($1,900). Thus, less affluent couples have been essentially barred from trying to get pregnant through ART.

Looking ahead

"We have a birth rate of 1.3 children per woman in Germany," Hilland said. "Children are desperately needed in this country, so any measure to improve the birth rate would be desirable."

German doctors say they now perform around 40 percent fewer ART treatments than before the reform, even though the success rate by IVF is around 25-35 percent for each try, meaning that several treatment cycles would likely see a couple's wish for children fulfilled.

The reforms were supposed to save the public health insurance funds up to 100 million euros yearly through sharing ART costs with couples. But according to Hilland, some 10,000 fewer "ART" children have been born each year since the reforms.

Considering that one in seven couples suffer from infertility and that Germany's population is aging dramatically, that number is nothing to sneeze at.

Louisa Schaefer

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The voice of evil

As a journalist, I truly believe that the best way to protect our freedom is to let everyone on every side have a chance to speak out.

For those wondering what a Watergate ex-con says about building families, you can turn to the "Christian Post."

Nixon's hatchet man, Chuck Colson, tells us that assisted reproduction creates families with five parents, designer babies and murdering mothers.

What would you expect from a guy whose Wiki entry calls him the evil genius behind an evil administration.

You Can't Fool Mother Nature
Sat, Jan. 12, 2008 Posted: 10:14:46 AM EST
Note: The following commentary contains sensitive information that may not be suitable for children.If you haven’t thought much lately about just how rapidly the very nature of the family is changing, consider this: It is now possible for a child to have five parents. That includes egg donor, sperm donor, surrogate mother, and the mother and father who raise him. It is not only possible, but for some children, it is a fact of life.Washington Post reporter Liza Mundy explains this and much more in her book Everything Conceivable: How Assisted Reproduction Is Changing Men, Women, and the World. I cannot recommend this book strongly enough, especially for would-be parents who may face difficult decisions about childbearing in the near future. Mundy is not writing from a Christian viewpoint or even from a pro-life viewpoint, but she covers the murky field of reproductive technology, and its effects on families, thoroughly and unflinchingly. And she takes seriously the ethical dilemmas that arise in a largely unregulated field where technology is changing rapidly—while most of those involved are still trying to figure out the moral implications.Unlike the well-worn abortion debate, Mundy points out, she is describing a situation where parents desperately want children—and yet the very depth of that longing, when combined with the latest scientific advancements, can, as I have mentioned before on “BreakPoint,” turn children into commodities. The situations Mundy describes are startling. She writes about children who think of an unseen sperm donor as “Daddy” and long to find out if they look like him. She describes women who want children so badly that they will let an unscrupulous doctor transfer an excessive number of embryos to their wombs. And she witnesses “selective reduction” procedures where those mothers watch on a screen as one or two of their multiple fetuses are killed before their very eyes.While sympathetic to the people she talks with, Mundy cannot help but notice the inherent problems. She acknowledges the irony of parents trying to select egg donors and sperm donors with the best looks and the highest intelligence—qualities they want passed down to their children—for the express purpose of building a family not based on genetic relationships. “Every day,” she writes, “families are formed by parents trying to hold in their head the competing notions that genes, while important, aren’t” important.Mundy also sees how the emphasis on parents’ rights can wreak havoc on the lives of children—to the point where she even hears some members of Planned Parenthood, of all people, uneasily wondering if they ought to start focusing more on children’s rights. The biggest irony of all, of course, is that a biblical worldview teaches us that there is no escaping the Creator’s design for our lives and our families. Even those families doing their best to be different—homosexual couples, mothers who deliberately decide to exclude fathers, or couples trying to create “designer babies”—often end up trying to create a family as “traditional” and normal as possible. Make no mistake: The desire for giving life is stamped on our souls by the Giver of life Himself—in whose image we are made. But as the book Everything Conceivable makes clear, when we try to remake things in our own image and on our own terms, we do a tragically poor job of it, no matter how sophisticated the technology. _________________________________________________From BreakPoint®, January 8, 2008, Copyright 2008, Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. “BreakPoint®” and “Prison Fellowship Ministries®” are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship
Chuck Colson Christian Post Guest Columnist

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Idle time

We're all set. The checks have been chashed. The papers have been signed. We're just waiting to match up my cycle with my donor's cycle so we can get on with the procedures (More on procedures later. I'll post a Chicago Sun-Times story that does a good job of explaining it in a simple way. Also, thers was a recent Chicago Tribune story. Not sure why both Chicago papers discovered egg donation in the same week).

This waiting period is the perfect time to start the wild speculations.

When I was pregnant, I started out normal. No overwhelming anxiety that the baby would be born with some fatal defect. No fear that my child would have a mental impairment or physical disability. Well, that was the case until about the 7th month. Until then, I was just sure I was having a healthy little girl. All of the sudden, I had a "Crying Game" transition and became convinced that my child would be born with both sex organs. No reason to believe that. I knew the chance of that happening was something like one in 16 million. But that's all I could think of until the moment she was born.

Must have been the hormones.

This time, my unreasonable fears are starting already -- weeks before we even start the hormone injections.

There are reasonable fears going into this process. And I think I've addressed those.
What if my donor backs out? (She's donated before, so she already knows what's involved. She clearly wants to do this again.)
What if my donor lied about her health history on her paperwork? (She acknowledged that her father has Crohn's disease. She was reviewed by our doctor. And, let's face it, mine isn't all that impressive.)

You get the idea.

Then there are the crazy ones:

My donor gave eggs to a couple in August. They're pregnant with twins. That means my kid(s) will automatically have two biological half-siblings they most likely will never meet. Will they grow up and want to hunt down those lost family members?

What if those babies are born with some kind of terrible medical thing? Will the docs want my baby to give them a kidney or something?

What if they screw something up in the lab and don't use my husband's sperm? Then the baby will not have a bilogical tie to either of us (though, with our medical history, that might be a good thing).

Again, you get the idea. These worries are all the result of having too much time between the day we picked the donor and the time we start the process.

Here's that story from the Chicago Sun-Times:

In vitro fertilization: Egg donor gives 'ultimate gift'

Chicago woman finds donating her eggs not only helps others, but it pays well, too
January 15, 2008
After watching friends go through the agony of infertility, the young woman decided she would try to help other couples have babies.
So she became an egg donor.
The 28-year-old woman, named Heather, was surprised to learn that donating eggs isn't just an altruistic act. Donors also receive substantial fees. The going rate in Chicago: $7,000.
Heather, who asked that her last name not be used, has earned $14,000 for donating eggs to two couples. The payments allowed her to pay bills and increase her savings. But while the money is welcome, Heather said she did it mainly to help.
"It's the ultimate gift," she said.
The use of donated eggs is becoming increasingly popular. The number of in vitro fertilization attempts that involved either donated eggs or donated embryos increased from about 5,000 attempts in 1995 to more than 16,000 attempts in 2005, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The major reason a woman's fertility plummets after age 35 is the diminishing quality of her eggs. Using donated eggs from younger women can greatly increase the odds an older woman can still have a baby.
About 12 percent of in vitro fertilization attempts in 2005 involved donated eggs.
"It's a more popular approach than it used to be," said Dr. Angie Beltsos of Fertility Centers of Illinois.
Paid by insurance
Heather is an unmarried fitness trainer who lives in the south suburbs. Internet research led her to Chicago-based Alternative Reproductive Resources. ARR recruits donors and supplies couples with eggs. ARR charges about $12,000, with $7,000 going to the donor.
By comparison, donors generally receive up to $10,000 on the East and West coasts, but only $3,000 to $5,000 in the South, said ARR president Robin von Halle.
The in vitro fertilization procedure costs an additional $10,000 to $15,000. IVF is especially popular in Illinois because a state law requires many insurance plans to pay for it.
Through attorneys, Heather has signed contracts with the couples, whom she hasn't met. Each couple agreed to pay the $7,000 fee and never seek child support from Heather.
Heather, in turn, gave up all rights to any child born from her eggs. She will not know the identity of any such child, and vice versa.
Heather underwent a battery of physical, psychological and genetic tests. She gave an extensive family medical history and provided pictures of herself from infancy to the present.
She used birth control pills to synchronize her cycle with the prospective mother's. To increase her egg production, she injected herself with fertility drugs two or three times a day for a week.
A doctor used a needle to remove eggs from Heather's ovaries. The eggs were fertilized in a dish with the prospective father's sperm, and one or more of the resulting embryos were implanted in the mother.
A risk: Torn ovaries
Donating eggs is far more difficult and risky than donating sperm. Egg donors face such risks as bloating, shortness of breath, blood clots and torn ovaries.
Heather said she experienced sharp mood swings and temporarily gained 20 pounds.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine said paying egg donors is an ethical way to "acknowledge the time, inconvenience and discomfort." Also, allowing payments increases the supply of eggs, enabling more infertile couples to have babies.
But the society's ethics committee also acknowledged there's a risk such payments could devalue human life by treating eggs as mere property.
The higher the price, the more incentive a donor has to disregard risks to herself and to conceal negative information, the ethics committee said. And if the price gets too high, only rich couples would be able to afford donor eggs.
The committee said payments greater than $5,000 "require justification," and amounts over $10,000 "are not appropriate."
Heather donated 10 eggs to one couple last July and nine or 10 eggs to a second couple last November.
If all went well, both couples would now be expecting children.
"If I can give that gift to have a family, it would make me feel wonderful," Heather said.
Heather is uncertain whether she will ever want to have a child of her own.
"There are a million reasons to say yes," she said, "and a million reasons to not have a child."

The baby-making market
Beware when shopping for egg, sperm donors
By Leslie Mann
Special to the Tribune
January 13, 2008

Thanks to his low sperm count, Chicago resident Jason and wife Megan (not their real names) were unable to conceive. They considered adoption, but Megan wanted to carry their child. So they used donor sperm.The result: a bouncing baby boy, born in early October. So pleased are the couple, they purchased additional vials of the donor's sperm for future pregnancies.Megan and Jason are among a growing number of people who are choosing donor sperm or eggs to conceive, doctors say, though exact numbers are hard to come by. The number of donated eggs transferred to patients rises yearly, up to the most recent 13,327 in 2005, according to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART). No group tracks sperm-donation numbers, but those in the industry say, anecdotally, that they also rise yearly.Before people consider this route to conception, though, doctors recommend these steps:* Learn the lingo. If you don't know ART (assisted reproductive technology) from IVF (in-vitro fertilization), learn the industry's acronym-laden language. Fertility Centers of Illinois (, 877-324-4483) publishes a handy glossary.* Count your pennies. One reason Illinoisans have more than their share of donor births is because our state law requires insurance policies that cover more than 25 people to cover infertility treatment. If you have your own health insurance, though, you may have to foot the bill yourself. That can cost $10,000 to $25,000.* Make sure this is right for you. "This is a forever decision. You are not bringing home a puppy," said Pam Madsen, director of the American Fertility Association. "Be sure that you want to do this, as opposed to surrogacy or adoption. If you aren't sure, you aren't ready."Contrary to myth, Madsen added, choosing half of your child's genes through an egg agency or sperm bank doesn't guarantee a perfect baby.* Determine whether you want your donor to be open or anonymous. And decide if you plan to tell your child of his origins."We chose a donor through an open program because it gave us lots of information about him," explained Megan, whose clinic was Advanced Reproductive Health Centers in Orland Park. "In addition to seeing pictures of him and reading his biography, we have his and his family's full medical history."As part of the openness trend, Megan said, they "will give the child the choice of learning about the donor if he wants to when he's older." With mutual consent, this can lead to a meeting.Alyssa (not her real name) of Chicago, on the other hand, knows the basics about the egg donor -- a medical student, 25, healthy -- who gave her twins but chose an anonymous agreement. She does not know the donor's name or whereabouts and does not plan to tell her twins that they were conceived with donor eggs.In his book "Genius Factory," David Plotz traces the history of the industry, the trend toward openness and adverse effects of secrecy."At first, no one told," Plotz said. "But the kids found out and resented their parents. So increasingly, couples now tell, in part because they know it is healthier and in part because there is less stigma. Also, there are more lesbians and single women using donors, and they have no fathers to protect."Donor recipients can learn from the adoption community, said Marie Davidson, staff psychologist at Fertility Centers of Illinois."There is a plethora of information from adoption studies that supports disclosure," Davidson said. "Some plan to keep it a secret, but there's always a friend or relative who slips. There are great children's books and other resources to help parents tell their children, starting at an early age, so they don't drop a bombshell later."* Research the donor sources and their claims. Sperm banks have been around longer then egg-donor agencies, so they are easier to investigate. The banks tell you, through their Web sites and brochures, everything from the donors' physical characteristics to their medical histories. A catalog from California Cryobank, for example, says donor No. 5741 is a psychologist with brown hair, blue eyes and O-positive blood. He is 6 feet 1, 210 pounds, of Irish/German heritage, and his sperm scored at least one pregnancy so far.An egg-donor agency, on the other hand, doesn't keep frozen inventories and catalogs. Rather, it matches you with the egg donor. Then the donor proceeds with the medical steps necessary to harvest her eggs.Donor sources are not licensed in Illinois, so to check their credentials, make sure the egg-donor agency follows the ASRM (American Society for Reproductive Medicine) guidelines or the sperm bank is accredited by the American Association of Tissue Banks.Both sperm and egg donor sources' claims, though, are tough to verify. In fact, organizations such as the Donor Sibling Registry refute many of their claims in their chat rooms."Even if the donor source is reputable, the information it gives you is a snapshot in time of the donor, who may be 18," warned Wendy Kramer, co-founder of the registry. "You don't know that he may have cancer at age 25 or a heart attack at age 30."* Interview doctors. Donor conception is fraught with emotional and psychological issues, so find a reproductive endocrinologist who has empathy and a string of credentials.Ask how long the doctor she has been doing this. What are her success rates? Will she recommend donor sources, or should you do your own search? Does your opinion jibe with her and her opinion about openness/secrecy? Does her staff include a psychologist (a trend), or does she outsource this service?* Find a lawyer. Call the area bar association for a lawyer who specializes in reproductive law. For a known donor, the lawyer will draft a contract between you, your spouse, the donor, the donor's spouse and the fertility clinic. If you work with a donor bank or agency, you will sign a contract with it.- - -Resources for parentsFor more information about egg or sperm donors or other infertility issues, contact:Resolve,, 703-556-7172International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination,, 703-379-9178American Fertility Association,, 888-917-3777Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology,, 205-978-5000American Society for Reproductive Medicine,, 205-978-5000Donor Sibling Registry, donorsiblingregistry .comDonor Conception Network,, 011-44-0208-245-4369Egg-donor agencies include:ConceiveAbilities, http://www.conceiveabilities/ .com, 773-868-3971The Center for Egg Options,, 310-726-9600Alternative Reproductive Resources,, 773-327-7315Center for Egg Options,, 847-656-8733Sperm banks include:California Cryobank,, 800-977-3761Fairfax Cryobank,, 800-338-8407Xytex Corp.,, 706-733-0130

Sunday, January 13, 2008

If it's a business, someone's got to be making money

Egg donation is big business. More importantly, it's big unregulated business. There are few laws related to who can do it, how it's done, how much the donor is compensated, etc.

My doctor told me her clinic won't work with couples who want to pay more than the $7,000 recommended by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (I think that's what it's called). They won't work with women over 50, either. Both the donors and the recipients have to undergo a mental health evaluation, consult with a lawyer and sign a mountain of paperwork.

There are stories of couples who contact to pay tens of thousands of dollars for things like a perfect SAT, clean medical history, blond hair, blue eyes and a model's build. The reputable docs say they won't allow that. But, ultimately, the industry is completely unregulated.

In all, the cost is sort of alarming. The medical procedures are paid by my insurance (Blue Cross HMO). The donor agency gets $5,100 for recruiting the donors, screening them, getting them a lawyer and health insurance, maintaing the records and coordinating everything with the doctor. The donor gets $7,000. It will cost us $700 to freeze the embryos that aren't implanted the first time around. And the lawyer cost us $700. What's that? $13,500. All for a 65 percent chance of conception. I think the chance of success from donor to live birth is roughly 40 percent.

I find comfort in knowing that our donor's first cycle left a once-infertile couple pregnant with twins. But I also think it's a little strange knowing that twins that are due in April are genetic half-siblings of the child(ren) we're hoping to have.

I found the following story in ABC news. It deals with the economics of egg donation -- on a very superficial level. (Like all TV news.)

But it does raise some interesting questions -- especially related to the lack of regulation and the number of times a woman can donate.

Egg Donation: Is It Worth the Big Money?
Egg Donors Make Big Money but Take Big Risks
Jan. 11, 2008—
Maryland resident Lisa Mullins wishes she had photos of all the babies that have been born from the eggs she has donated. Lisa has been through the donation process seven times, giving more than 100 of her eggs.
"It's addicting. It's the feeling." she says, "The gratification that you get from it."
Mullins says she derives joy from helping parents who are not able to conceive children on their own. She has also been paid handsomely for her trouble: as much as $8,000 for a single donation. Mullins has used the money she has made to create a college fund for her own four children.
But Mullins is not the only one profiting. Egg donation is a $38 million a year industry. Prospective donors advertise themselves online, listing everything from photos to IQ scores. The demand is staggering. It's estimated more than 6,000 babies are born in this country every year from donated eggs.
Some ethicists have called egg donation "the Wild, Wild West" of the fertility market. That's because there is no national registry or database to identify the donors and track how often they donate. While the American Society for Reproductive Medicine cautions women not to undergo the process more than six times, there are no laws to regulate this, and therefore no ways to really prevent women from possibly endangering their health by undergoing the process more times than is recommended.
Donating eggs is a very extensive procedure. A woman has to inject herself with fertility drugs every day for up to a few weeks so she produces multiple eggs instead of just one a month. Then when she's ready she goes to the operating room, where a doctor uses a thin needle to remove the eggs from her ovaries while the donor is under sedation.
Manhattan resident Julia Derek says she has donated eggs 12 times. "It's dangerous," Derek says, "because it's too much money involved so it's easy to get carried away and do it more times than is recommended."
In her book, "Confessions of A Serial Egg Donor," Derek writes that she developed a serious hormonal imbalance as a result of her donations, and she claims that a donor agency, which gets a commission for each donation, helped push her into it.
"[The donor agency representative] said other people have done it up to 16 to 18 times. And they are totally fine," Derek said.
Fertility doctors say that women who do this more than recommended are taking a serious risk.
"You're playing Russian roulette with your future fertility and your future health," says Dr. Robert Stillman, director of the Shady Grove Fertility Center in Rockville, MD, who has not worked with any of the egg donors mentioned in this article. "The more you ovulate, the greater the risk of ovarian cancer. So if these stimulated cycles are more risk, then there may be more potential as [these donors] age in their seventies and eighties to get cancer."
The risk raises questions about whether the money these women are paid is worth the ultimate cost: their health.
Copyright © 2008 ABC News Internet Ventures

Friday, January 11, 2008

To tell or not to tell -- Here's the answer!

Obviously, it's best to tell the children involved .... though I really don't even believe this story. Jury's still out on whether to tell my brother, my boss or anyone else.

Twins Unwittingly Got Married in Britain
By THOMAS WAGNER Associated Press Writer
4:55 PM CST, January 11, 2008

LONDON - Twins who were separated at birth got married without realizing they were brother and sister, a lawmaker said, urging more information be provided on birth certificates for adopted children. A court annulled the British couple's union after they discovered their true relationship, Lord David Alton said. "Everyone has a right to knowledge about their lineage, genealogy and identity. And if they don't, then it will lead to cases of incest," Alton told The Associated Press during a telephone interview Friday. Alton first revealed details of the unusual case last month during a five-hour debate about a bill that would change regulations about human embryology.
"I was recently involved in a conversation with a High Court judge who was telling me of a case he had dealt with," Alton said according to a transcript of the Dec. 10 debate. "It involved the normal birth of twins who were separated at birth and adopted by separate parents. "They were never told that they were twins. They met later in life and felt an inevitable attraction, and the judge had to deal with the consequences of the marriage that they entered into and all the issues of their separation." Alton gave no additional details and would not reveal the name of the judge who told him about the case. The High Court's Family Division declined to discuss or confirm Alton's account about the twins. Alton, an independent legislator who works at Liverpool's John Moores University, said the siblings' inadvertent marriage raises the wider issue of the importance of strengthening the rights of children to know the identities of their biological parents, including kids who were born through in vitro fertilization. Under British law, only a mother has to be named on a birth certificate. Such certificates also are not required to identify births that result from IVF or to identify the sperm donor. In addition, British law does not require parents to ever tell children that they were the result of donated sperm. Alton believes this should be changed. Alton said he favors an amendment to the Human Fertility and Embryology bill -- which is still being debated in the House of Lords -- that would require birth certificates of children born from donated sperm to say that and to identify the genetic father. Referring to the twins' case, he said: "If you start trying to conceal someone's identity, sooner or later the truth will come out. And if you don't know you are biologically related to someone, you may become attracted to them and tragedies like this may occur."

Sunday, January 6, 2008

To tell or not to tell -- That is the question

It's a joke among friends. Ya know that whole six degrees of separation thing? Well, for me it's more like three degrees. Maybe two degrees.

I know a lot of people. And I know a lot of their stories.

But I have never met anyone who has donated or received eggs. (At least, I've never met anyone who has talked about it openly!)

People say reproduction is a miracle. To me, it's a science experiment.

But assisted reproduction is not a neat, easy process. Before we could move forward, we had to sign consent forms that asked us to spell out everything from how the sperm would be introduced to the egg to what should happen to any remaining embryos if we die.

I learned a lot about my husband during this process. For me, it was a no-brainer. We donate the embryos for stem-cell research. I'd be fine with allowing another couple to adopt them, though that wasn't an option offered by my fertility clinic.

But my husband, normally very liberal and open-minded, struggled with the idea that his potential offspring -- a fertilized embryo -- would become part of a scientific research. Of course he wanted to do his part for science. He knows how valuable stem cells are in research to fight Alzheimer's and other diseases. He votes for candidates who support stem cell research. He's pro choice, too.

But he paused before he could initial that box that would send an embryo with his DNA into a laboratory.

That made me realize that maybe -- just maybe -- it would be less than wise to let everyone in on the details of our efforts to have another child. I wondered whether my Catholic friends would judge me if we ended up with extra embryos and donated them for research. I wondered whether my family would accept a child that has no DNA connection to me in the same way that my biological daughter is part of our family. I wondered whether my conservative employer, whose health insurance plan is making the IVF process possible, would judge me for what I'm doing.

Ultimately, I didn't care whether my friends judged me. I decided not to tell members of my immediate family. And I inquired about a possible answer to my question about my employer.

I am an editor at a newspaper. It's a great place to work. The paper is independent -- it's not part of a company that's traded on the market. The newsroom is tight-knit. But newspapers are notoriously family-unfriendly. If you can't give it your attention 24/7, you're not very valuable in this industry.

More than that, though, I knew a lot of people in positions of authority had conservative Catholic leanings. So I did a little research.

When I was interviewing the egg donation agency, I asked them about how they find the girls. A big part of that is advertising in newspapers -- college papers, local papers, etc. So I asked if they advertise in our paper.

It came as a surprise to me that our paper refuses their advertising because of a moral conflict with the process. The owners are not a fan of egg donation or assisted reproduction.

In a time when newspapers are desperate for revenue, we're turning away ad dollars because someone hates family building through science. Or maybe newspapers really do just hate families.

Either way, I'm keeping my methods to myself.