Why Donors Do It
Psychological screening of prospective donors is a common practice across the country, because the experience of giving up one's genetic material can be very emotional.
"I filled out a lot of paperwork -- I answered questions about my childhood, about my life, and my perspective on a lot of things, and that's how the agency matched a couple with me," says Annie, who donated her eggs three times. "I like to think when they make a match, they make a good fit with my personality, and the personality of the couple. And I think that's the most important thing, rather than your resume."
Madsen explains, "Giving eggs is a lot of work; women have to go through a lot. We want to make sure we're getting women to do this for altruistic reasons as well -- we don't want them to just see the money."
Though most donors -- and most recipient couples -- prefer to remain anonymous, donating an egg is not about adoption, but about giving a childless couple the opportunity to experience pregnancy and childbirth. And for women like Annie, the money becomes secondary -- a necessity to cover medical costs and health risks.
"The second time I donated, the couple sent me an anonymous card thanking me. They said they felt immediately that we were perfectly matched, and they felt really good about it. It was really emotional, and I was so happy that I could give them something like that," Annie says.
Dr. Richard Scott, Director of Reproductive Medicine Associates, revels in the young women who choose to give their eggs to these couples.
"If you go and ask women why they donate their eggs, you'll find a very substantial portion do it because they know someone who went through infertility," he says. "I think people sometimes look at these woman as mercenaries, and I have to tell you, they're not. They're extraordinary young women, and it's a real treat to work with them."
Dr. Scott has been dealing with egg donors since the mid-80s, and he says that he learned the hard way not to reveal to donors the outcomes of their donations because the donors were so dedicated to helping these couples.
"We stopped telling our donors whether the recipient got pregnant because when it failed, which happens 30 percent of the time, the donors were getting depressed, and felt they had done something wrong. They felt responsible. The women who donate their eggs are very heavily invested in the outcomes, and they really want these couples to succeed," Dr. Scott says.
Annie is glad to remain anonymous. "There could be no babies out there. There could be three. But I think it's better that way. I don't think I need to know."