KA is a Health Policy Analyst from Dallas, Texas. KA has a degree in Biochemistry and Public Health. Here, she talks about how she applied to be an egg donor […]

July 8, 2024 // Evan Billups // No Comments //

KA is a Health Policy Analyst from Dallas, Texas. KA has a degree in Biochemistry and Public Health. Here, she talks about how she applied to be an egg donor (through a class!) and why support is such an important part of the egg donation process. KA is of Pakistani descent.

Can you start by telling me a bit about yourself, your background, where you’re calling from?
Yeah! So I’m from Dallas, Texas right now. When I signed up to be an egg donor, I was actually in Atlanta, Georgia – that’s where I was doing my Master’s program in Health Policy. What actually got me kind of excited and got me to become an egg donor was, I was a TA for a Women’s Health Policy course and we were talking about how egg donors are super important, kind of niche and taboo certain in cultures. When we said that I was like wait – I’m part of one of the cultures that it’s a little bit taboo about! 

And so actually we had our entire class sign up to be egg donors and go through it – it was an extra credit opportunity, (and we had plenty of opportunities throughout the semester), but that was one of the ones where if you are able to do so and you know you can, sign up! 

I didn’t get a call back until months and months later when I had already moved back to Dallas, Texas which is my home, and here I am today!

Wow that is so unique! I’ve never heard of something like that. So did everyone sign up?
Everyone who was willing and able to. So we didn’t want anyone to feel forced into doing this as their extra credit, so we provided a couple of other opportunities of like volunteering, going to the Capital and hearing a legislative session relating to women’s health policy – we did a bunch of different options. The [egg donor] survey did take a couple of hours to go through and fill out that first questionnaire, so we tried to choose [extra credit options] that were around the same time commitment give or take. It was about the same amount of effort, so we definitely didn’t want to force anyone into doing it, just to get the extra credit points. 

But it was definitely a big team effort and it definitely got me really excited about the opportunity too, because you hear about it and you’re like “Oh that’s great!” But when you have the support of literally an entire class of seventy people being like, “This is a really good opportunity” it like fortifies it in your mind of like, “You know what? Yeah I can do this!” So that was actually really nice – it kind of gave me the push I needed.

Oh that’s so fascinating! Cool! So going into the donation process or the application process – clearly you were talking to some of your classmates about it – but did you talk to your family or friends? If so, what was their reaction?
Yeah, so I talked to my then fiancé (now husband) at the time, like, “Hey – how do you feel about this?” Because this is half of his “child” too right? So I was like before I even get started with this, this is a conversation I need to have with him. And we both kind of had the same mindset of, we don’t necessarily see it as any different than donating like blood or anything else where it no longer belongs to me – I don’t see it as mine once it’s taken out…

And then after that, I kind of just told my parents once I already got selected like oh by the way, I’m doing this. They have a similar outlook to me and we believe in science, we believe in health. If I can look up and show you research studies that say this is fine and safe, they were fine and safe with it – they didn’t care too much about it in that aspect.

Yeah, that makes sense! Did you yourself have any worries or concerns about the egg donation process?
I think like a moderate amount like anyone else, where I definitely felt like I had to do my research. My undergrad was in Biochem and Public Health, so I think that kind of helps me be more likely to donate. I feel like I’ve seen statistics out there where when you are in healthcare or anything like that, you are going to be more likely to be one of the people to donate because you know the effects of how it can help someone. 

That seems fair! So how was the donation process like for you? What was the clinic like that you went to?
Yeah, so I would say I had one of the more painless donation processes. The clinic that was local here in Dallas that I went to for those first monitoring visits – it was like right down the street from where I worked – so I literally would just walk there during my appointment times and walk right back to work. So that was really easy for me! But very short and simple – those appointments were like ten minutes long so I didn’t really have too much interaction with them.

But the clinic I was working with in San Diego – they were very, very helpful. We had like a very long start out meeting for the very first appointment that I had. At first it was just with nurses, and then they had someone else who I believe is their egg donor coordinator – she came and sat down. We talked for like an hour and a half about every little concern I had. 

And again, having the background that I do have, I was able to like question some medications and things like that, because I work at a hospital right now. I know what I know! So I feel like I definitely took advantage of that one-on-one time to kind of ease any questions that I had, and they were more than happy to do that too. 

Even on the day of retrieval, the nurse I worked with in the surgical center was so, so nice. She like wrote down a list of places I should go to eat! She’s like, “Oh you can drink afterwards, you can do this, you can go there, you can go to these bars!” – she was giving like a full list of everything. She was like, “Oh you can walk with a drink on this beach!” And I was like “Ok!” She was so, so sweet. I remember as they were putting the mask on me for the anesthesiologist, she was like rubbing my arm like, “You’re gonna do great!” and that’s the last thing I remember.

That is so sweet! How lovely!
I know! I loved her!

So did you experience any physical side effects either while taking medication or after the procedure?
Yeah, so I think the first thing I noticed was like a slow, gradual weight gain from when I first started doing the injections. I wanna say I gained almost ten pounds from the time I started the injections to the retrieval date. And then within a week of the retrieval, I lost like seven to eight of it, like almost overnight it felt like – it was very strange. It was very quick – I didn’t change anything in terms of what like what I was eating or anything like that; it just shed off. 

And then I did have like physical bloating, but I didn’t feel it as much as I thought I would. I think the only other time I felt kind of big and heavy down there, was actually the second or third day of doing injections. After that, my body kind of just got used to it. I think maybe the first day slight cramping, but my period cramps are more noticeable to me personally than those were, so that was really it.

Ok, so did you go right back to your regular activities, work, right after the retrieval?
Yeah, like right after the retrieval we went back to the hotel. I took like an hour nap, and then I was like ready to go. 

I took it slower because she said to take it slower, but within a day I was like, “Let’s go kayaking! We’re still here!”

And remind me – was this an anonymous, semi-anonymous, open donation?
I think it was semi or open. So we do have each other’s emails, but we have not contacted each other yet. 

Ok! And going into egg donation, were you open to a variety of different kinds of contact?
Yeah, I feel like for me personally since I didn’t mind, I think it’s a preference that should belong to the parents.

My friends did kind of tell me like, oh you should probably [be anonymous] just in case you start getting attached, if you find out a child did come to be from your donation – I don’t know if you want that like mental [thing]? But I think me and my husband are on the same page of like it’s the same as a blood donation to me when I’m thinking about this, and it’s good to disassociate. That’s what I do with my patients – if I got attached to every one of my patients, I would be an emotional mess! Some people handle it different ways, I disassociate. So that is just how I learned to handle it.

So I think it really just depended on the parents – if the parents wanted to have that kind of relationship with me, I would be more than happy to. But if they don’t, I respect that – it’s up to them.

Ok cool! So what sort of expectations, if any, did you have going into this experience, and was it as expected or were there things that surprised you?
I honestly thought that there was going to be a lot more of a medical effort, I guess? I was expecting a lot more clinic visits… whether it was here in Dallas or over there in San Diego. I was not expecting it to be as casual where it’s like just once, and then you go again four days later. 

And then the same thing at the clinic in San Diego, it felt the same way too. My retrieval was actually quite a bit early too. They flew me in on Wednesday and they were like, you will probably retrieve sometime between Wednesday and Friday of the following week. I retrieved on Monday. And I was like, “Okay! I just got here! But sure –  I don’t mind!” And then Monday morning we were done with everything. So it was very, very quick. 

I might just be one of the lucky ones again, I don’t know. But I definitely thought it would be a lot more effort on my part. But I think literally the hardest part of the entire process was just getting through that really long survey in the beginning!

Yeah, there’s a lot of questions that you have to answer – it’s information heavy!
Yeah, I remember even when I was doing it – because again, I was the TA so I don’t really get extra credit for doing it – but I was like, “If I’m making my students do it, I should probably do it too!” And it was so long I think I stopped like multiple times – I was like, I’ll just do this later! And then I finally got back into doing it again – it was a long process! 

Whose idea was that extra credit?
I think it might have been mine. So my professor was talking a lot about gender disparities and a lot about racial disparities as well. And this is one of the things where sometimes things that are taboo really affect certain races more than anyone else, and we (being Asian) were one of them…

Unfortunately, I wish we had more Asians in our class that we could help inspire a little more too, but I’m hoping at the very least maybe someone else got selected to be an egg donor or they at least told their friends about it as an opportunity to spread word of mouth. I am able to spread it as well to my friends – I’ve been letting them know like I might be lucky, but I had a relatively painless process and it was just a questionnaire to get through! It feels like you guys did like 80% of the work there!

Yeah! So what was the best thing about being an egg donor for you?
I think just the excitement of just like potentially helping a family in a very different way than what I normally do for work. That was kind of exciting and a very rewarding experience. Again, I don’t even know – it’s so early, we don’t even know if anything has come to be yet. We don’t even know how many eggs they were able to retrieve or anything yet! But just the possibility of it is probably the most rewarding part of it. Just knowing, that you did your part.

Yeah of course. In terms of compensation, is that something you’re putting towards something specific or just kind of saving up?
Yeah, so what my husband does is – he actually works for a hedge fund, so he’s really good with investments. So we literally took half of it and I was like, “Tell me where to invest it!” and he just dropped it in whatever – I couldn’t tell you anything about it, I just know I trust it. And then the other half I just went towards my student loans so that was helpful!

Great – we love that! And then lastly, what advice do you have for someone who’s interested in becoming an egg donor?
I think having the support is really important, especially if you’re a little shaky on it. Reach out to people you know, or reach out to previous egg donors. Reddit was a great way that I found out more about being an egg donor because yeah, you can see the research studies, but you also want to hear about personal experiences. And there was a lot on Reddit and they all had different experiences than my own actually. So I think just educating yourself just definitely puts your mind at ease, especially if you’re someone who likes to plan out your life. 

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

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