Egg Donation 101

How Are Donors Chosen?

Critics of egg donation say parents are using it as a means to genetic engineering -- finding a genetically perfect person to donate an egg so their child can be taller, have perfect skin, or be a genius. But Dr. Scott explains that most infertile couples who use egg donors really just want a healthy baby with 10 fingers and 10 toes, like any natural birth parent.

"Recipients are not necessarily concerned about whether these women are beautiful or not," Dr. Scott says. "But they don't want to burden their child with health issues or stigmas like being overweight. Healthy and intelligent almost always end up as the number one and number two factors the recipient parents are looking for in a donor. But beyond that, recipients look for very different things. Someone who looks basically like them, or has a similar religious background, for example."

Someone who looked like her was just what Kathy found when she began her search for an egg donor. "I was all over the board when I first started pursuing it. I didn't think physical characteristics were that important to me -- I wasn't looking for a clone of me," Kathy says. "But when I actually saw pictures of potential donors, it helped me discern that there were certain characteristics I was leaning toward: fairer skin, fairer eyes, both of which are in my ethnic background."

Potential egg donors go through an extensive battery of health tests and psychological examinations before they are considered for most programs. And, Dr. Scott admits, many potential donors are turned away if their health history or psychological makeup is less than perfect.

"The reality is that we actually reject most women who apply to be donors, because they have a disqualifying factor. If someone's father died of a heart attack at age 32, or if the donor has a family history of diabetes or schizophrenia," they would likely be rejected, says Dr. Scott. "We're very picky."

But for the women who do become donors, their anonymous gift to recipient parents is priceless.

"I feel like I hit pay dirt. This is the family I've always wanted," says Kathy. And of the woman who made it all possible, she says, "I often pray for her, and I thank God she gave us this."

*Some names have been changed to protect the anonymity of the women who chose to be interviewed for this article.

Originally published on AmericanBaby.com, July 2004.

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