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The Parents Via Egg Donation Organization: September 2010

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Differences Between Egg Donors and Sperm Donors.

What I love about Pamela Madsen from the Fertility Advocate is that she asks out loud those questions that only others dare to think.  As I read her article about the difference between sperm donors and egg donors I was honestly surprised to read that sperm donors aren’t required to go through a psych screening or take an MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory: a self-report personality inventory consisting of 550 items that describe feelings or actions which the person is asked to agree with or disagree with; many scales estimating traits and qualities of personality have been developed using MMPI items)
Another top notch attorney Amy Demma Reproductive Attorney and founder of Prospective Families  went on to ask a very reasonable question -- she just wanted to know why a nineteen year old young man would be allowed to donate sperm, “to possibly share his genetics with dozens (?) of families, to potentially create more genetic half-siblings than he, his partner and his own children (should he partner and have a family of his own) ever know of but not be required to meet with a mental health professional? Why isn’t mental health screening a part of donor sperm screening? In this particular regard, why are sperm donors viewed differently than egg donors?”
I like Pam had to stop a really think about this.  Why is it that men don’t have to jump through the same hoops as women do when it comes to donating their genetic material?  Why are the standards different? It starts with the difference in ages.  The age for a sperm donor is 19 for men and 21 for women who donate their eggs.  The reasons we hear are that it takes a certain amount of maturity to embrace the tough regime of daily injections and that most 19 year old women aren’t responsible enough for that.   I am here to tell you I disagree.
My bigger concern was the psychological aspect.  Regardless of whether you are a man or a woman when you donate your genetic material it’s floating around out there.  Taking an MMPI and talking to a therapist about how you feel about all of “this” is really a reasonable and appropriate thing to do.  After all we require our egg donors to do it.  Why not our sperm donors?
So I asked the California Cryobank these questions and this was their reply:
“We follow the regulations of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), American College of Medical Genetics (ACMG) and several other agencies for qualifying donors to... our program. Psychological screening is not a requirement; however, it is performed at our facility in several ways. According to the New York State Department of Health, http://www.nyhealth.gov/publications/1127/#psychological, the psychological screening process “should help (a donor) evaluate your desire to donate and to think through these issues. You should have a chance to ask questions and express any concerns.”
In our program, we use a written donor consent agreement for this purpose which we review with the donor applicants in detail. During the informed consent process, we discuss all the requirements of the program including the fact they are donating for the primary purpose of causing pregnancy. We give the donors the consent agreement to take home to review further even if they feel they are ready to sign the agreement right away because we require that they have time to consider the issues involved.
In addition, each donor applicant is evaluated by a physician and genetic counselor to determine if he is eligible to participate in our program. We do not accept a man as a donor if he has a personal or family medical history that could indicate an increased risk for mental health problems in his offspring. This includes findings such as an applicant who has been diagnosed with a serious psychological disorder, abuses drugs or alcohol or has several relatives who have dealt with substance abuse, uses psychoactive medications, is not mentally capable of understanding or participating in the process, etc.
These evaluations are performed to assess the overall health of a donor applicant (physical and mental). If we find anything in the donor’s history that would indicate an increased risk for a serious medical problem in his offspring, we would not accept him into our program. We also follow up on the donor’s medical history and that of the offspring in our program so that we can keep our clients informed of any new medical information that could be relevant to the health of their families.”
While I liked their reply and I thought it was informative -- it still didn’t answer my question about why sperm donors aren’t required to see a psychologist before they donate. 
As I dug deeper and researched further I went to the State of New York's website and read the guide they put out for women who are thinking about egg donation.  There is nothing for men.  Zero.  And while I don’t have the answers as to “Why” there is a difference.  My knee jerk reaction is pretty simple.  When men donate it’s not invasive.  It’s a short and most often a pleasurable experience with the results provided into a cup that’s passed on to a lab whereas a woman who donates eggs endures much more.  Aside from all the medications she takes, there are lab appointments, doctor appointments, and finally an invasive medical procedure  that requires the egg donor to undergo anesthesia to have her eggs harvested, and it doesn’t end there is the recovery period that has to happen as well.  So okay women have to go through more than the men to donate their genetics but that still doesn’t change the fact that a man doesn’t have feelings about his genetics and perhaps it would be a good thing of the guidelines were changed and a psych screen by a therapist and an MMPI were required.
I’m just sayin.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

When We Change Our Minds Regarding Anonymous Egg Donation

Back in 1999 when my spouse and I decided together to find an egg donor and have a child through egg donation the only way we could do that was through anonymous egg donation. I remember being terrified of actually knowing our egg donor.

The insecurities I had were huge and many. “Would my child love her more?” “Would my husband love her more?” “Would she want any child I had” “Would my child want to seek her out and know her?” “Would she want to become a member of our family?” “Would my in-laws love her more and regard her more of my son’s mother than myself?” The list went on and on and on. My anxiety dreams were just way over the top. It was crazy.

In late February of 2000 we were cycling, the first week of April we had the retrieval and transfer. By the middle of April I knew I was pregnant.

An odd thing occurred during my cycle – the donor and I exchanged letters and cards. Of course they went through the clinic kind of like mail that’s exchanged in prison. Everyone reads it and censors what they feel isn’t appropriate. But the letters and cards continued to exchange until I gave birth in December of 2000.

As a new mother I was so busy with caring for a newborn. Between those early round the clock feedings, teething, potty training, and diaper changed the thoughts of our egg donor became a faded memory. I wasn’t preoccupied with her anymore; I was preoccupied with being a mom, and the part of using an egg donor to have my child wasn’t forefront, it was raising my child.

My child like most children asked lots of questions. There were hard questions, easy questions, funny questions, and thoughtful questions. But when he began to ask questions about his egg donor sadly I couldn’t give him many answers. The only information I could give him was the profile I received from my clinic. Now at the time I thought the information provided was richly detailed, thorough, and complete. However, as I began to answer my child’s question I realized just how lacking her profile was.

As I began to address his questions my child was no longer satisfied with knowing her just as donor #153. He gave her a name. A made up one, but a name nonetheless. He was and still is intrigued by the fact that her family is from Norway and England. He wonders if he inherited her artistic abilities, his incredible intellect, and his height. He wonders if he looks like her at all. All very reasonable questions coming from a child who is interested in his roots.

Taking all this into account I contacted my clinic and shared with them my son’s desire to know more about his donor. An adult photo. A name. Something. I also had a desire to know who she was, to perhaps even meet her. I wanted the opportunity to hug her, and say “thank you” for the most wonderful gift in the world that she gave to me – my son.

In a perfect world everything would have worked the way I wanted it to. They would have contacted the egg donor, she would have contacted me, we would have met, and she might have met my son. However, that’s not what happened. Our clinic was nice enough when they told me no, but it was still a huge disappointment. I understood their reasons. All parties entered into an agreement of anonymity. We had to respect her privacy just as she respected out. For us to barge into her life now would be inappropriate and possibly damaging to her. And at the end of the day I certainly didn’t want that.

And so here I am almost 10 years later the founder of an organization that provides support and education for parents and parents to be who are growing their families through egg donation. I find myself needing support and feeling like I am missing the mark as a parent because I can’t provide answers for my child.

Had I known ten years ago I would be feeling the way I do today about anonymous egg donation I think I would have waded through the uncertainty and faced my insecurities head on and selected a known egg donor.

It’s safe to say I have come full circle.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010


What We Offer

PVED offers a FREE SECURE forum (We Totally Get How Important Your Privacy Is To You) for moms, dads, and parents-to-be to converge and converse about every aspect of egg donation. This is the place where we let our hair down, ask questions, compare clinics, agencies, statistics, and talk about everything and anything to do with egg donation. The biggest part of what we do happens within these forums. These forums are not for physicians, nurses, social workers, therapists, egg donors, egg donor agencies, or lawyers.

Membership Requirements

To become a member you must meet one of the following criteria:
  • You are inquiring about egg donation for the purpose of becoming a parent via egg donation
  • You are already cycling
  • You are pregnant via egg donation
  • You are already a parent via egg donation

Boards Available on the PVED Forums

Within our forum we have available the following individual boards:

Registration Process

To register for membership please do the following:
1. Download and complete the application form (MS Word document).
2. Copy and paste the contents of your completed member application into the body of an email addressed to moderators@pved.org. One of our staff members will look over your application and call you if needed to approve your membership.
3. Click here to register at the PVED forums. We will contact you once your application has been received and your registration is approved.
We look forward to serving you. If you have any questions, concerns, or issues with the forum please email: moderators@pved.org