Conceiving Through Egg Donation (6 of 10): Egg Donor Profiles

Posted On October 26th, 2008

Click here for Conceiving Through Egg Donation (5 of 10): Using a Private Agency.

Evaluating Egg Donor Profiles

Choosing an egg donor, just as with every other part of the IVF (in vitro fertilization) process, can be stressful. Unlike other components of assisted reproduction, there is no science to it. Some people have very clear ideas, and others have no set criteria at all. You may consider this choice overwhelmingly monumental, and feel pressure to make the “right” decision. But there is no right or wrong here. You just need to make a decision you feel really good about.  Most prefer egg donors who bear some resemblance to them, but they also want to feel an emotional connection. I suggest approaching the selection process with a list of prioritized criteria, but have your gut cast the deciding vote.

Different agencies present their profiles in various formats. We offer photos and summary profiles on our site. (Most recipients want to see photos, but those who don’t can choose an option not to view them.) Clients then request more information on the profiles that interest them, which we send by e-mail. Our more comprehensive profiles provide information gathered from the application as well as the interview, plus whatever additional photos of the egg donor candidates we may have on file.

In order to protect the privacy of the egg donor, we assign each one a code. We do not name the schools that they attended (but describe them as “selective 4-year private liberal arts college,”  “large 4-year state university,” “Ivy League university,” etc.). We are particularly keen on protecting our donors’ privacy, but other agencies are less so. Some may reveal the candidates’ first names, and provide copies of their actual applications which may include names of schools, friends and family members. As long as the egg donor agrees to this, it is ok. We gather photographs of each candidate, from infancy (if available) to adulthood, and to take our own whenever possible. If you have additional questions about the donor regarding anything that may be important to you (such as height and eye color of her aunts and uncles, education levels or professions of her grandparents, or whatever), we ask the egg donor on your behalf. Any egg donation agency should do this for you.

Egg donation agencies have various screening protocols; you should ask each agency what their screening involves. After the application review, we interview egg donors in person whenever possible. If not, we interview them by phone. Transcripts of grades and test scores are often obtained, but are important for validation purposes if the donor candidate claims high academic achievement. We use the candidates’ social security numbers and birth dates to conduct routine background checks. The best applicants are not only attractive and intelligent, but are responsible. Showing up to interviews on time and responding quickly to phone calls and e-mails are signs that a candidate is serious and committed.

Before you get too attached to any one profile, make sure that the donor is actually available. Some data bases have hundreds of candidates, some of whom may be reserved by other clients while others may have been on the site for years without any follow up. Even if none interest you right away, it’s a good idea to talk to one of the program managers for recommendations of profiles that meet your criteria, in case you missed some. Also, if they are in the process of screening new candidates, they can contact you if another possible match becomes available.

All egg donor candidates will be physically fit and healthy with good family medical histories. So apart from excellent health, think about the other qualities you would like in a donor. Most people take physical resemblance as the leading factor: these include height, body type, hair and eye color, skin tone, and ethnic background. This is a reasonable starting point.

Secondary considerations may be education, special talents in athletics, music or the arts, interests, personality type, and motivations for donating. Typically the high achieving recipients focus on test scores and grades or prestigious college degrees.  Most people understand that there is a lot more to test scores and fancy schooling than innate intelligence, which is itself a result of both genetic and environmental factors. But I think what drives this focus is the need for the egg donor to be like them both physically and mentally. There is a sense that even if high grades and test scores are not transmitted by DNA, the donors are of a “stock” or class similar to theirs.  It’s just another way to establish an emotional connection. And most people do want some sense of connectedness to the donor, which is impossible to formulate intellectually or measure physically.

Photographs, more than any other component of the profile, facilitate that inchoate emotional connection.  You can evaluate resemblance, the primary criterion, much more accurately through photographs than by written description.  Probably one of the reasons that IVF clinics do not show photographs of egg donors to their patients is that it throws the whole criteria curve off, making photographs inordinately more important than other factors. IVF clinics do not want to forfeit that much control in the matching process to their patients. But when working with a private egg donation agency, you do get that advantage.

Furthermore, although most people do not care to admit it, aside from resemblance, it is important for their donor to be pretty. In fact, we have found that egg donor selection is a bit of a beauty contest, and people will pass on some very high achievers if they don’t find them attractive. This is especially true when the male partners become actively involved in making the choice. Alas, for women especially, life is always part beauty contest, and one could argue that good looks endow real measurable advantages.  But luckily, not only is beauty subjective, but true unattractiveness is rare. Appealing physical features are infinitely various. Most of the energetic, ambitious, and intelligent women who apply are indeed attractive, even if they are not fashion models.

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