How Much Are My Eggs Worth? What To Know Before You Donate

A few years ago, a family member who was having difficulty conceiving with her husband asked if I would consider donating my eggs. She offered to pay for all the medical expenses, stressing how much this would mean for her and the family; and I was forced to ask myself: how much are my eggs worth? The question is not purely financial — but a psychological and emotional one as well. After hanging up the phone and taking a deep breath, a quick Google search informed me that while friends and family often donate their eggs "for free," women can earn thousands on a single cycle. Donors are paid regardless of whether their eggs lead to a successful birth, and there is no cap on how many times one can donate (though six is the recommended limit).

It seems impossible to put a price on such a priceless gift, and compensation varies greatly. There are no legal restrictions on how much a woman can be paid for her eggs. The only strict recommendation was established in the American Society of Reproductive Medicine's ethical guidelines published in 2007. It stated, "Total payments to donors in excess of $5,000 require justification and sums above $10,000 are not appropriate."

This industry guideline was challenged in a class action lawsuit claiming that the language violated federal antitrust laws and constituted as price-fixing in a high-demand market. The case was settled in February 2016, and the leading association of fertility specialists (of which 90 percent of the U.S. clinics are members) removed all language concerning price caps for egg donations from their guidelines.

A variety of factors can influence how much an egg donor is compensated. The New York Times reports that as of last year "most first-time donors in California, New York and Chicago are paid $4,000 to $7,000, more than in other parts of the country." Women who have donated before are usually paid a higher rate — especially if one of their previous eggs produced results.

In a competitive market where assisted reproductive technology is booming, college-educated and Ivy League graduates are targeted with ads offering a large lump sum for their intelligent offspring. Advertisements appearing on Facebook or run through college newspapers have offered up to $50,000 for extraordinary candidates. Some prospective parents working through donor agencies or boutique fertility clinics are willing to pay big bucks for a donor of a specific religion, heritage, or with high SAT scores. One such agency, A Perfect Match, told The New York Times that a first-time Asian donor could expect to earn between $10,000 and $25,000, and a repeat donor could get as much as $50,000.

These lofty amounts may sound tantalizing (especially for paying off all those student loans), but there are risks involved with the procedure. The process, which usually takes six weeks once the donor's cycle begins, can be time consuming and uncomfortable. Health risks involve Ovarian Hyper-Stimulation Syndrome, extreme bloating, weight gain, and moodiness. High doses of hormones are taken so that the donor develops multiple eggs over a single cycle. Donors must give themselves daily injections of medications and brave frequent doctors appointments — so it is not for the faint of heart.

Ultimately, the price on an egg is subjective. It is the donor's decision as to how much her egg is worth. A few months after the uncomfortable phone call, my family member became pregnant through IVF using one of her own eggs. She gave birth to a baby boy and I can't wait to meet him.

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