Experts provide information regarding egg donors and the process of using them because at least 15% of couples in South Africa struggle with infertility. In addition to this, they debunk a few myths that are commonly believed concerning fertility and the donation of eggs.
According to data from the year 2020, South Africa holds the 84th spot on the global total fertility rate (TFR). According to the findings that were collected in 2011, Statistics South Australia has affirmed that at least 15% of South African couples struggle with fertility issues. There are no statistics available at this time that show the percentage of women who are open to the idea of using egg donors. When Thulisile Gulwa was 19 years old, she gave the first of her egg donations, and when she was 21 years old, she gave another one.
She stated that problems that affect women and the experiences that women go through when dealing with those issues are something that she is very passionate about. When she concluded that she wanted to donate her eggs, she did so with the hope that she would play a role in facilitating the beginning of a new family for another woman.
Presenting a Workable Solution
According to Gulwa, “I chose to donate my eggs because I sought to do something that I believed could assist a woman in the world who wanted to have a child.”
Gulwa concluded that it would be best if she kept her choice to donate her eggs a secret from her family. She explained that the reason was that she had the impression that they wouldn’t understand and that they would either try to dissuade her from doing it or criticize her for doing it.
Because I have a severe fear of needles, my partner had to give me the injections for me because that was the only unpleasant aspect of the procedure. In the days leading up to the egg collection, you will need to give yourself injections of hormones to stimulate your body’s natural production of the egg-nourishing progesterone hormone. “You can feel your eggs growing in your abdomen, and the physician will check how far along in their development your eggs are before they are retrieved,” she explained. “It’s an exciting time!”
Eggs from Gulwa’s cycle resulted in two healthy pregnancies, one with each of two different donors. She stated that the experience was enjoyable for her because she knew it brought her closer to achieving her objective of assisting another woman. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck South Africa, she was planning to make a third donation; however, she was forced to postpone her plans. We spoke with industry professionals to gain a better understanding of the procedure and the specifics of what it entails. These professionals shared some useful information with us and debunked some myths that are commonly believed.
If I Make a Donation, Will That Affect My Ability to Have Children in the Future?
Yes. Dr. Yossi Unterslak, who works at the Veda Vitalab Egg Donation Agency, is both a gynecologist and a reproductive specialist. He claimed that a woman’s future fertility would not be affected in any way by her decision to donate eggs.
When a woman is born, she already has all of the eggs that she will ever have. She is given a limited number of eggs while she is still in her mother’s uterus. These eggs are with her when she is born, but they will no longer be viable after a certain age. When she hits puberty, every month a cluster of eggs will display itself on the exterior of the ovary, and one of the eggs will be picked by the ovary to be the egg that will ovulate for the month. Once she reaches puberty, she will have the ability to have children. The remaining eggs will perish as a result. This occurs every month. According to Unterslak’s explanation, “if none of them is recruited to ovulate, then all of them will perish.”
“When a woman donates eggs, we can make all of them mature and all reach the point where they are advanced for ovulation by injecting the progesterone hormone, which already exists to enhance this process. This allows us to make sure that all of the eggs are ready to be used. Therefore, instead of just one egg ovulating and the others being lost, the entire batch of eggs will make it through the ovary and reach maturity at the same time. After this, we will be able to retrieve the entire batch of eggs that were going to be discarded anyway.
What Are the Prerequisites for Getting Involved as a Donor?
Donor Coordination is one of Charlene Sibanda’s responsibilities at the Veda Vitalab Egg Donation Agency. Seven years have passed since she began working in the capacity of coordinator. When contemplating becoming an egg donor, prospective donors are introduced to her as the first person they see. Donors in the running will be led step by step through the application process by her. She mentioned that having a high school diploma or matriculation certificate is one of the essential prerequisites.
They are required to have a body mass index (BMI) that is lower than 29, another factor that we consider. They are also required to be clean of any drugs. For us to proceed with the treatment, potential donors will need to be located in South Africa. We conduct drug tests to look for evidence of even the most common substances, such as cocaine and the like. If they are successful, then we will move on to testing their blood. These examinations are designed to identify any sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, hepatitis B and C, and syphilis if they are present. They are referred to the counselor once they have completed these tests.
Is There Any Kind of Payment Involved?
Yes. The pay range for women is between R7 000 and R10 000 per month. It is unique to each organization or medical clinic.
The South African Society of Reproductive Medicine and Gynecological Endoscopy (SASREG) provides agencies and clinics with recommendations regarding the appropriate amount of money to pay a woman in exchange for her eggs. According to Sulaiman Heylen, the President of SASREG, the sum of money that is offered as compensation is not intended to “buy” or “exchange” a woman’s eggs for money, but rather to “extend sympathy and a blessing to the donor for her choice to donate,” in recognition of the fact that she decided to donate.
“It is essential that women consider donating their eggs for the correct reasons, and not just for the money,” he said.
What is the Maximum Number of Times I Can Donate My Eggs?
In South Africa, the number of donations or live births that a donor is allowed to perform is capped at six. According to Sibanda’s explanation, it is contingent on which of the two occurs first. If a woman has not yet given birth to her maximum number of children, she is eligible to donate blood up to six times during her lifetime. In some cases, we have come across donors who, as peculiar as it may sound, have already reached the limit even though they have only made two donations. This is because they have either twins or multiples, bringing their total number of children up to six.
What Are the Advantages of Getting Involved as a Donor?
According to Sibanda, the most important thing to keep in mind about the benefits of becoming an egg donor is that you will be a part of providing the recipient of their eggs a miracle that they might not have had if it were not for you.
Donors are also entitled to a free consultation and examination with a gynecologist after their donation. Your potential for future fertility will be evaluated during the process of egg donation. Sibanda explained that this is because one of their top priorities is the well-being and reproductive health of the client. The final advantage is monetary payment, which serves as a token of appreciation for the time and effort contributed by an egg donor.
Facts Versus Myths
Myth: Someday, the child will search for me and make an effort to locate me
According to Sibanda, the process of organ donation is hermetically sealed and airtight so that the personal and medical data of both the donor and the family of the recipient can be kept private.
Heylen has validated that the South African restrictions on reproductive medicine safeguard both the benefactor and the receiver by mandating confidentiality before the beginning of the process.
Myth: My lost child will turn up somewhere in the world
Unterslak admitted that the fact that a woman donated her eggs indicates that she is a biological relative of the child to whom the eggs were given. On the other hand, he asserted that there are aspects of a child’s environment, history, and background, as well as the personality traits that they develop, that are impacted by the family that they are currently living with and their parents.
In addition to having someone’s DNA, there are a lot of other things that go into making a child your own. The field of study known as epigenetics examines how external factors, such as our environment, can affect our genes. Egg donors are required to go through counseling to ensure that they are receiving the mental health care that they deserve. Therefore, a social worker will be there to walk them through the process and explain what they can expect psychologically once it is over. They will receive emotional support from her, and the clinic will provide support physically. To explain epigenetics, Unterslak used the analogy of two twins who developed independently over their lifetimes.
“We can take 2 identical twins who were born simultaneously to the same parents, who share the same DNA, adopted at birth to 2 distinct families, and each will grow almost looking like the family that adopts them, but they’ll be acting like the family that adopts them, not their biological one,” he said.
Misconception: The procedure is a gruesome one that involves cutting
The process does not involve any sort of cutting at all. Unterslak detailed the procedure by stating that a vaginal ultrasound is performed. The egg is removed from the ovary after a needle is inserted through the vaginal wall, through the vaginal skin, and into the ovary. The fluid that is removed from the ovary contains the egg. The procedure causes absolutely no discomfort whatsoever. Our egg donors have been sedated, and they are currently in a profound state of sleep. They are unaware of their surroundings, are not in any pain, and wake up in the hospital ward. He estimated that it would take between ten and fifteen minutes to complete.
According to Unterslak, the patient may experience some post-procedure pain for a brief period; however, adequate pain relief will be provided for the subsequent few days, and the patient will experience significantly less discomfort by the time they return home.