Why an Egg Donor Registry Isn’t Needed

The FDA treats egg donation similarly to organ donation. In this way, many find it surprising that there exists no registry of egg donors to track their long-term health. The thoughts of proponents of such a registry are that, without long-term tracking, experts have no way of monitoring long-term health and any potential ill effects from the act of donating eggs.

As an intended parent, you may have emotions relating to the matter. After all, no one would want to endanger the health of a young woman who is helping to create their family. We get that. However, it’s important to understand why such a registry is not needed, and would not benefit donors long-term.

Primarily, we need to understand the motivations and comfort zones of these donors. The vast majority of these women wish to remain anonymous. If required to reveal themselves by way of a registry, this could greatly reduce the number of women willing to become egg donors. Additionally, the bureaucratic costs of creating and maintaining an active registry are prohibitive. To impose a registry would very likely increase the cost of acquiring an egg donor for intended parents as well as reduce the compensation available to donors. This, again, could result in fewer women willing to participate and a greater difficulty funding the process for those who are seeking a donor.

Aside from issues contributing to the emotional pull on donors, critics argue that a registry for long-term monitoring is in the best interest of these donors, despite their desire to remain unknown. While the logic behind arguing for long-term health monitoring is sound, in theory, it is not necessary in practice.

Doctors have been monitoring the impacts of IVF on women for years. This includes samples of women in every age bracket, those with and without fertility issues, and even in women who carry genes linked to increased risk of breast cancer. The result, across the board, is that there is no increased risk of cancer development as a result of hormone treatments related to IVF. Since IVF procedures completed on intended mothers mirror those used on prospective egg donors almost exactly, the call for study on egg donors is unwarranted. Doctors could only get and study this data at the loss of anonymity of donors.

Finally, egg donation is not medically equivalent to organ donation. Though treated similarly to organ donation for tax purposes, it more closely resembles bone marrow donation medically. In both procedures, the patient takes injections to stimulate cell production in preparation for a minor surgical procedure. During the procedure, doctors extract cells from the patient using a needle. To date, there have been no long-term consequences linked to cell donation. As a result, no one keeps a bone marrow donation registry.

All this is not to say that egg donation is not without risks. Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome and ovarian torsion are both legitimate concerns. Both of these conditions tend to present immediately, or at least within the first several weeks, following the procedure. These potential complications are also quite rare and occurring less and less frequently as reproductive medicine continues to evolve and fine-tune its process. So long as doctors monitor donors through this short recovery period, the odds of developing any long-term ill effects from their donation are slim to none.

Dr. Kim Bergman

Kim Bergman, PhD, a licensed psychologist of 26 years, has specialized in the area of gay and lesbian parenting, parenting by choice and third party assisted reproduction for over two decades. Dr. Bergman has created a comprehensive psychological screening, support and monitoring process for Intended Parents, Surrogates and Donors. She is the co-owner of Fertility Counseling Services and Growing Generations and is a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the American Psychological Association, the Los Angeles County Psychological Association, the Lesbian and Gay Psychotherapy Association, and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. She is on the national Emeritus board of the Family Equality Council. Dr. Bergman writes, teaches and speaks extensively on parenting by choice. Along with co-authors, she published “Gay Men Who Become Fathers via Surrogacy: The Transition to Parenthood” (Journal of GLBT Family Studies, April 2010). Dr. Bergman’s is the author of the upcoming book, Your Future Family: The Essential Guide to Assisted Reproduction (Conari Press 2019). Dr. Bergman created her own family using third party assisted reproduction and she lives with her wife of 35 years. Her two daughters are in college.