Why might a woman donate her eggs to help someone else have a child?

Ever wonder why a woman would donate her eggs to a family member, friend or even a total stranger? The most commonly assumed reason is for financial compensation, but a woman may be motivated to donate her eggs for a number of other reasons.

Policies on egg donation differ between countries and may affect a woman’s motivations to donate her eggs. In Canada, donors cannot be paid for their donation, and can only be compensated for any expenses that are incurred during the donation process. Donors also must be “known” – their identities are not kept anonymous. Known egg donors will often donate to a family member or friend who is having difficulty conceiving. Known and uncompensated donors are generally in their late 20s to mid 30s, partnered, already mothers, employed, and middle-class.

Many egg donors share altruistic and empathic reasons for donating their eggs – they understand the desire and yearning to have children and have a strong desire to help another individual and/or couple to realize their dream of becoming parents. Similar to individuals who donate an organ or bone marrow to save a life, those who donate eggs for altruistic reasons do not donate for any reward except the satisfaction of giving the ultimate gift to another person/couple – helping them to have a child. Donors may have experienced motherhood themselves and want others to have this opportunity, or they may have had a close family member or friend struggle with infertility. Especially in the case of known egg donors who donate to family members and/or friends, research shows that a sense of empathy and a desire to help are the primary reasons for agreeing to go through the risks and challenges of the egg donation process.

In the United States and other countries where compensation for egg donation is legal, and anonymous donation is more common, these donors tend to be younger, single, and haven’t yet had a child. They are more likely to cite financial reasons for donating, such as needing money to pay for college. However, money isn’t the only motivating factor. Like known donors, anonymous donors can have altruistic reasons for donating – genuinely wanting to help those who cannot conceive on their own.

Additional motivations that are cited by egg donors include increased self-esteem, a desire to make up for past reproductive losses, feminine solidarity, and for those who have yet to have children, a desire to test their fertility.

Read two women’s experiences of being an egg donor here and here.

Read research conducted on egg donor’s motivations and the egg donation experience here and here.

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