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My partner and I were recently told by our fertility specialist that my eggs are no longer viable and our only chance of getting pregnant is through the use of donated eggs. After considering known versus anonymous egg donation, we decided we’re more comfortable using a known donor. How would you suggest I approach my younger sister about being an egg donor for us, without making her feel pressured?

Written by our mental health expert, Emily Koert, Ph.D. Candidate and Registered Clinical Counsellor. 

Many people in your situation express anxiety about how to ask someone in their life for this very special and precious gift. They worry about being rejected or putting the potential donor in a position where they feel they don’t have a choice to decline. In some ways it is similar to asking a relative to donate a kidney or lung or bone marrow – only in this case it is about creating rather than saving a life. Either way, these aren’t easy decisions to make and it isn’t easy to ask someone – even a family member – to help.

That said, even if you have a very close relationship with your younger sister, rather than asking her directly whether she’d be willing to donate her eggs to help you have a child, a good option may be to write her a letter so that she has some time and space to consider your request before responding. Tell your sister what it means to you to have her as your donor. Let her know that egg donation is the only option for you to experience a pregnancy and emphasize that whatever her decision, you don’t want her to feel awkward or to have the request in any way negatively affect your relationship. Offer to provide some information about the physical and emotional aspects of egg donation so that she can make an informed decision. Your fertility clinic may provide pamphlets on the egg donation process, or you can find resources on the site by clicking here, here, and here.

Although you’re likely eager to move forward with treatment as soon as possible, your sister may need some time to think it over. This decision is a complex one – one that shouldn’t be rushed. It can be difficult to wait and to be patient when your desire to have a family is so strong and you’ve already waited so long. However, it is important that you give your sister the time she needs to fully consider the implications of your request so she can make an informed decision. It could be devastating to your relationship if she rushes into a decision she isn’t fully comfortable with. So you need to be patient.

While you are waiting for her answer, focus on self care – which will be helpful to keep your anxiety in check and in preparation for a future pregnancy. It’s also important that you prepare yourself for the possibility that your sister might say no. Although using your sister’s eggs is your preferred option, it’s good to have a “Plan B” – both for your sake so that you’re able to cope with whatever answer your sister gives you, but also so that your sister doesn’t feel pressured into saying yes because she’s your only hope for having a child.

If your sister agrees to donate her eggs, I’d strongly encourage you and your respective partners to meet with a counsellor who has expertise in third party reproduction. During the session you need to come to an agreement about roles, responsibilities, boundaries, and expectations if treatment is successful, about the use and disposition of any surplus embryos, and about future disclosure to your child or children as well as your sister’s children (if she is a mother). If treatment isn’t successful, both you and your sister will be disappointed and may benefit from working through your feelings with a counsellor.

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