Fertility clinics offer a hearty sum of money for egg donations, but could giving the gift of life cost you your health? Leah, 30, says she initially decided to donate her eggs after seeing ads as a freshman in college. The opportunity to earn several thousand dollars while also helping a loving couple create a family appealed to her greatly. However, after two successful donations, she says she began to experience severe pain during her period, along with a fever, nausea and vomiting. She visited her doctor immediately, who said she had several cysts covering both her ovaries and diagnosed her with a very aggressive case of endometriosis.
“[The doctor] said, ‘I’ve never seen something so aggressive,” she says. “‘You are going to lose your fertility.’”
Endometriosis is an often painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus grows outside of the uterus. The displaced tissue continues to act as it normally would, cycling through each menstrual cycle and bleeding during menstruation, which causes sometimes severe pain to the woman. Cysts may form on the ovaries as a result of this condition, and surrounding tissue can become irritated and may develop scar tissue. Common causes of the disorder include retrograde menstruation, embryonic cell growth and an immune sytem disorder.
In Leah's case, doctors say she may have always had an underlying cause of endometriosis and the hormones involved with the donations fed the disease, causing it to become extremely aggressive.
Due to the anonymous nature of the egg donation process in the United States, researchers say it is difficult to study the long-term effects of egg donation on the donor's fertility. There is no registry of health information of women who have donated their eggs.
"Leah's story is extremely sad and tragic," says reproductive medicine and fertility specialist Dr. Millie Behera, adding, "But it is also fairly rare."
• Learn more about Leah's story on Mom.me.