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Donors’ Attitudes About Egg Donation

By Hilary Marshak, MSW, LCSW
Published in Resolve for the Journey and Beyond, Winter 2009

Over the past 15 years I have performed hundreds of psychological evaluations of both potential egg donors and potential recipients on behalf of fertility clinics. Working with this population has been a tremendous gift to me. I have been privileged to share in their ideas and attitudes in addition to the facts of their lives. It has often struck me that if the intended parents were privy to the donor assessment meetings, what they  would hear would likely be extremely comforting.

Many of the intended parents with whom I have worked, in both my counseling and evaluation roles, feel some anxiety about the possibility that donors will wish to be involved in their children’s lives or try to contact them at some time in the future. This is a normal fear, arising out of concern for the child and his or her possible confusion as well as out of their own anxiety that the child will somehow not feel that the birthmother is his or her “real” mother and will therefore be susceptible to abandoning his or her birth family in favor of the egg donor. As a counselor, I have observed that this fear seems to diminish throughout the pregnancy; once bonding has occurred it becomes a non-issue. This is especially true in the case of an anonymous donor, where an ongoing relationship is not any part of the arrangement.

What I have heard from the vast majority of both anonymous and known potential egg donors I have interviewed indicates the opposite. Here are some quotes from donors I have interviewed, in response to the question, “How do you feel about donating your eggs?”

  • It’s like donating an organ. It’s not a baby.”
  • I don’t have any attachment to my eggs.”
  • It’s just tissue to me.”
  • I wouldn’t have any interest in meeting the person who got my kidney—why should I want to know about my eggs?
  • I don’t want kids—at least not now – why shouldn’t someone else use my eggs?
  • My eggs just go to waste every month. I feel better using them for something good.”

To the question, “Why are you donating eggs?” these, or variations thereof, are the typical responses:

  • I have an aunt (friend, cousin, sister) who was infertile and I saw how hard it was.”
  • If I need it someday, I would want someone to help me.”
  • Motherhood is a God-given right.
  • This is a beautiful way to help someone.”
  • People who go through all of this to have a baby must really want one. They’ll probably be really good parents.”

My personal favorite was the earnest and guileless young woman who blurted out, after I discussed the issue of compensation with her, “You mean you get money for this?!

Hilary Marshak earned her Masters degree from New York University and is a member of the Mental Health Practice Group of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). In addition to her private psychotherapy practice which specializes in infertility, she is the founder of MyDonor.net, an egg donor matching agency licensed by the New York State Department of Health. She can be reached at 212.349.0011 or hilarymarshak@hotmail.com.