Donor R.S. is a dental student living in Philadelphia. She is active and loves dancing, paddle boarding, and traveling. R.S. has donated twice and shares her experience donating and working […]

July 16, 2021 // Evan Billups // No Comments //

Donor R.S. is a dental student living in Philadelphia. She is active and loves dancing, paddle boarding, and traveling. R.S. has donated twice and shares her experience donating and working with AsiaWest. R.S. is of Chinese ancestry.

Can you tell me a little bit about how and why you became an egg donor?  Where did you hear about it and what prompted you to go through with it?
I was just like scrolling through Instagram or Facebook one day and I saw the ad. I clicked it out of curiosity, because I don’t think I’ve ever heard or seen anyone… none of my friends had ever talked to me about it. I kinda looked into it, like what it was, and gave it some thought. I searched if it would be potentially harmful, if this was something I would be potentially interested in.

The first thing I saw on the internet was this lady’s daughter died from like some vaginal cancer and she was an MIT student and donated like six times! But that’s the one case. I think the number is too low to be convincing. Though I know that to this date, there is no long-term research on egg donation after donating years later, it didn’t scare me away. The number is so low.

And then I thought about what family meant to me and would I be interested in doing this, and I spoke to my friends and family members, and I think it’s more like a “Why not?” question to me. Because I feel like it’s a beneficial thing to the intended parents, to whoever wanted to have a family but couldn’t. And [it’s beneficial] to me. I get compensated as gratitude, as appreciation, which I can use to travel or pay towards my college or my dental school.

So in identifying whether I would feel weird knowing that there’s another human being that exists with half of my genetics, the answer is no – of course! That’s why I decided to do it! I think family means a different thing to me. That’s my philosophy.

What specific worries/concerns did you have about becoming an egg donor or about the egg donation process?
I guess from a scientific standpoint, the lack of research. Maybe society doesn’t care enough or the population is just too little. So I feel like that area definitely could be improved on. If there is more data that egg donation has no harm based on this research, on this data, people will feel more comfortable in participating and helping other people.

However, just knowing the fundamentals of the science, of course you are stimulating your ovaries, producing extra growth factors. Like any extra cells in your body has the potential to have mutations. So for me, I’m in the healthcare field, so I feel like thinking logically it’s a risk I’m willing to take. But maybe some people who didn’t have my background would potentially need more education [on the subject].

Yeah, you’re in a STEM field and seem very science and data driven!
Yes, evidence-based!

Going into the donation did you talk to your family or friends about it? What was their reaction?
They were surprised but not too surprised because my friends know that I’m kind of crazy! (laughs) But crazy in a way that I’m always doing things that they’ve never heard of. I don’t mind trying new things – I’m very comfortable with things outside my comfort zone. They asked me questions like “Do you feel comfortable?” or “Do you feel like you have a family out there? What would happen if the kid wanted to get to know me in the future?” So I think they bring up these topics to make me think more about it. If anything, they helped me think more thoroughly and come to a final conclusion.

What was the donation process like?  What was the clinic like?  
I donated twice. The first time was with a clinic in San Francisco and this time was with a clinic in Tacoma, Washington. I feel like the San Francisco was a long time ago, but this one I think I got more blood drawn or something! I don’t know, maybe they go through different procedures.

How might donors expect to feel physically throughout the donation process both times?  Did you experience any pain or discomfort?
The first time was in 2018 so it has been a while. So the second time I did it, it could be an illusion, but I feel like I had more blood drawn and then afterward I was bloated and in more discomfort. I wasn’t sure if it was because it was the second time or if this time my body responded more from the drugs? Or the two times could be very similar and I just don’t remember the first time!

Do you know if maybe they retrieved more eggs the second time and that could be it?
They did! So I think the first time it was 22 eggs and this time was 27. It was definitely a little bit more.

Did you go right back to your regular activities or did you take some time to rest?
I think the first time I flew to San Francisco and then afterwards I went on a trip to San Diego. So I was a bit bloated for two days. It wasn’t too much of a discomfort. It could be because I was outside and traveling so I had more endorphins than I normally do!

The second time I donated and then I had to take an exam, so I was preparing for my exam, studying. After I donated I flew back to Philadelphia like the next day. So mentally, physically, I was more strained than the first time; that could also contribute to my discomfort level.

What was your contact for your donations?
Both times the intended parents chose to be anonymous. I personally don’t really care. I made a decision to do this. Like I said, when my friend asked me, “Do you feel comfortable if the kid wants to get to know you one day?”, I think yes. I hope at that time I’m a good example for whoever wants to get to know me! I think it will be very interesting, fulfilling a curiosity on both sides. Like what does half of my genetics look like? I always joke with my friends, whoever the mom is, is going to have a hard time giving birth because I have a giant-ass head!

So would you consider donating again?
I’ve given it some thought, but I think for my current schedule, my time is a lot more strained. This is something that I wouldn’t mind doing when I’m in a comfortable position, when I have the luxury of time! Time is the main thing. But since I am a first year dental student and the summer is our only summer – after that we don’t have summer anymore – I think my time is a little bit strained. And there’s more stress compared to my original position. So currently I would say my answer is no. And I think I’m approaching the limit of the donor age too.

Thinking back, what sort of expectations did you have, if any, going in and was the experience as expected or different?
I didn’t really have any expectations. I knew there was going to be blood drawn and that there would be a procedure. I knew that I would feel bloated a day or two after the surgery. I knew I would be put under. I think I wasn’t expecting going to the clinic that many times for tests, blood drawings, ultrasounds. I think if donors have a very relaxing schedule, it’s not too much of a concern. But like I said, I was in school. I had to really manipulate my schedule and the clinic was like 30 minutes away, so I always had to miss my class and then come back and catch it. But it’s good because we had a time difference so my class was really early! But that was a bit unexpected.

Other than that, there wasn’t really a gap between expectation and reality.

What was the best thing about being an egg donor for you?
I think it would definitely be knowing that you helped someone who’d been wanting to have a family. Just because someone wants a family doesn’t make them good parents, but I feel like at least you know they’re ready to have a family. There’s definitely financial benefits. These would be the biggest things for me.

Thinking about someone who’s never experienced egg donation, are there any myths about it that have been dispelled for you?  Things that people might believe about it that aren’t true?
A lot of people think that there’s a limited amount of eggs and you’re taking them away. But you’re not really. They are the eggs that you don’t really use and are donating. When you go the doctor’s office and they have limited time and energy so they kind of dumb down what they want to tell you, just to reassure you. But I think just Google the menstrual cycle and research how the science works! I feel like it’s an ethical and responsible thing to do for your body, because you are taking a risk that is normally not there.

In terms of compensation, how have you used it or are planning on using it?
I actually don’t have any student debts so money is not really my main motive – it’s just extra money. I did military first so my undergrad is paid for the military. Now I am in dental school – dental school is so expensive! It’s like $600k! But I am doing the HPSP program – it’s also a DOD program – so the military is also paying for my dental school education.

I did give my brother $10k because he was in college. So I helped him out with his living. And now with this round, I think it’s just sitting in my bank account!

Wow, you’re such a good sister! So how did you find working with AsiaWest?
There’s another organization I encountered, but they were not as professional as AsiaWest. They would tell me an intended parent is interested in me, and that it’s final. During that time, AsiaWest also had intended parents that were interested, so I had to tell AsiaWest that I was already doing it for another company. But then the other company later told me, oh the intended parents are no longer interested. So I feel like it wasn’t really professional. And also the way the other company was talking to me, they were kind of manipulating me to accept a lower compensation. And the person who talked to me was someone I kind of know so I felt a little bit uncomfortable, but then at the same time I didn’t feel comfortable enough to reject them completely.

So I definitely feel more comfortable working with AsiaWest. I don’t feel like I’m being shorted on any ends. If anything, they have always checked in on me, asked me how my school is going, how my exams are going!

What advice do you have for someone who’s interested in becoming an egg donor?
Do your own research. If AsiaWest sends you anything, read it. Or ask for any educational links, like how does pregnancy happen, how does the menstrual cycle happen, how do you ovulate. That will be very helpful for potential egg donors, because I think people have more motives if you tell them why they should do something instead of just telling them to do it. Like I think money, especially when you’re at a young age, it’s a big incentive. However, I think if you decide to take a kind of unknown risk – since there is no long-term research – if you’re doing this just for money, I would say to think again. Ten years down the road, you don’t want something to happen and for you to be like, oh I did that for such a little thing that I don’t care about nowadays.

So make sure you do it for the right reason. Of course, I understand that this could be a resource for some people, but that’s the question I ask myself: if I took the money out of the equation, would I still say yes? And if the answer is no, I would say there’s more ways to make money and your life is more than just 20 years old.

Note: this interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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