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There are risks. And many women's health advocates worry that five-figure payments lure women to sell without seriously assessing those risks. The most hazardous side effect, Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS), is a complication occasionally seen in women who take certain fertility medicines that stimulate egg production. The symptoms of OHSS can include bloating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive weight gain, shortness of breath, and sometimes kidney or liver failure. In addition, during the procedure, the patient is in immediate danger, as a careless doctor can puncture the donor's bowel, bladder, or blood vessels. And while the long-term physical effects of egg donation have not been well studied (the practice has only existed for about twenty-five years), some evidence suggests an increased risk of ovarian cancer and early menopause. Women can only produce so many eggs in their lifetime.
In a November 2008 study of eighty U.S. egg donors, two-thirds reported only positive feelings about having donated their eggs. Fourteen percent had negative feelings. For some women, money was their sole motivation, but others said they did it purely out of altruism, and they were proud of having helped someone conceive. A significant percentage couldn't recall being told about any physical risks, such as OHSS, before donating their eggs.
Health advocates worry that huge payments lure women to sell without seriously assessing the risks.
According to the CDC, around six million U.S. women have trouble getting pregnant. Contrary to rumor, these rates aren't actually rising. But demand for donor eggs is rising, as assisted pregnancies become less taboo. The procedure is difficult and maybe dangerous, but it may give many couples the chance to have a family. Ethically speaking, there are arguments both for and against it. But understandably, young donors may be thinking more about their student loans than altruism.
Nita plans on donating again; asked if she would ever consider doing it for free, Nita paused and answered, "Probably not. There are lots of appointments, lots of travel time. It took me six months from calling the clinic until finishing the application and being accepted, then another three to be chosen. You have to be committed if you want to do it."
Grace, on the other hand, will not be returning to a fertility clinic. After her first and last harvest, she ran into some problems. "I once read that sometimes people react to anesthesia in bad ways." Right as she was going under, Grace got scared, and in her dreamlike state blurted out, I'm on antidepressants and I've done acid before! Her eggs were still collected, and she was still compensated for them, but she was told she could not donate again. "They told me I deceived them," she says. "That I was only doing it for the money."
"No shit, I did it for money!" Grace continues. "Can you show me one fool who wouldn't?" n°
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR:|
|Mira Ptacin is the founder and host of "Freerange Nonfiction," a monthly reading series in NYC that brings together up-and-coming and established writers on stage. She recently got married and completed her first book, Poor Your Soul, which is a memoir about the uterus and the American Dream. Mira loves all dogs and most people.|