KQED’s Forum: The Benefits and Risks of Egg Donation and Freezing
There is a growing number of women who want to freeze their eggs and an increasing demand for donor eggs. According to the latest CDC data, in 2015 more than 72,000 babies were born in the United States from harvested eggs — either via egg donation or egg freezing. This shift brings up a lot new choices and dynamics for women and families that we all need to become more aware of in order to navigate them in healthy ways.
In most cases, it’s really hard for women to get pregnant over the age of 37, and in the Bay Area most women are starting to try to get pregnant at 36. Every woman needs to know what the reality is.
On May 4th, I joined Diane Tober, an assistant professor and medical anthropologist at UCSF School of Nursing and the creator of the upcoming documentary “The Perfect Donor” on KQED’s Forum to discuss the benefits and risks of both egg donation and egg freezing.
Who Egg Freezing Will Help and the Importance of Fertility Screening
On the show, I describe the process of egg freezing, who will best benefit from it and the importance of fertility screening to track your fertility. I explain that 100 % of my patients over 40 wished they had the opportunity to freeze their eggs. They wished that they had been able to sit down with someone and tell them how precious fertility is and how fertility aging is just something that we all face. Just because celebrities are having babies over 40, and even up to 50, doesn’t mean that technology has advanced to that point. In most cases, it’s really hard for women to get pregnant over the age of 37 and in the Bay Area, most women are starting to try to get pregnant at 36. Every woman needs to know what the reality is.
The New Role of Egg Donation: Why I Launched Freeze and Share
We also discussed how egg donation plays into this new fertility landscape. Since more women are having children older, there is now a higher demand for donor eggs. Dr. Tober discussed her research on the motivation for women to donate eggs. “What I see is the need for compensation but also the desire to help somebody, and some people don’t necessarily want to have their own children,” she said. But Tober also explained that there needs to be more research on egg donors and suggested that we need a registry to track egg donors health over time.
The increase demand for egg freezing, and the need for donor eggs is what motivated me to launch my Freeze and Share program. Another reason is to give egg donors the opportunity for better medical support and to freeze their eggs. I’ve seen too many of these women face fertility challenges when they try to get pregnant. I want egg donors to have the opportunity to freeze their eggs at the same time that they are sharing them. There should be an expectation that an egg donor gets half her eggs frozen for herself.
“We’re in this murky territory where people are in these liminal states of being family and not being family at the same time,” said Dr. Tober.
We also discussed the relationships between egg donors and the families to whom they donate. Many families worry that egg donors will see the children born from their donor eggs as their children, but I think it’s important to understand that while egg donors are part of the story of every donor-conceived child, DNA doesn’t make a family.
“For some people DNA does mean family,” Dr. Tober added. “I think we really need to expand the way we think about family to include these donor connected relationships because it is a family in a way and isn’t in a way. We’re in this murky territory where people are in these liminal states of being family and not being family at the same time.”
Listen to the full KQED show here. And tune in on July 27th, where Diane Tober and I will continue this conversation on The Egg Whisperer Show. Episodes are live-streamed on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and on iTunes on Wednesdays at 7PM PST.