When a couple is having trouble conceiving or carrying a pregnancy, sometimes a “third party” is enlisted to help. These women—egg donors and surrogates—are giving one of the greatest gifts of all. Find out why they do it.
The phrase “third-party reproduction” sounds so impersonal. But the egg donors and surrogates who help couples achieve their dream of parenthood are anything but. These women are giving of themselves in the most personal way possible. And most times the couples who are the recipients of these gifts are strangers
Who are these women? Why do they do what they do? If you’re cynically thinking it’s just for the money, think again. Donating eggs or carrying a pregnancy involves real health risks that money really can’t compensate for. Egg retrieval is a surgical procedure that requires weeks of shots and discomfort followed by another couple of weeks of recuperation. Pregnancy and childbirth, of course, with the preliminary hormonal treatments and recuperation following delivery, affects at least a year of the surrogate mother’s life (and her family’s). The majority of women who carry a child for another woman are “gestational surrogates,” meaning the child inside them was created with the egg from either the intended mother or another donor. Traditional surrogacy arrangements, in which the surrogate also provides the egg, are much less common today, because both the intended parents and the surrogates have concerns about issues of attachment if the baby is both genetically created and carried by the same woman.
For both egg donors and surrogates, the fees that are paid are meant to cover medical fees as well as pain and suffering. Laws from state to state vary, and some are more surrogate- and donor-friendly than others. Fees also vary, with areas such as California paying as much as $25,000 for a surrogacy and $8,500 for egg donation. It’s unlikely that anyone would agree to be a surrogate or egg donor for strangers without compensation, but money alone can’t explain why women put their lives on the line to do it.
Conceive talked with six egg donors and surrogates and asked them to tell their own stories of why they do what they do.