Can I Sell My Eggs? It’s Complicated.
Every month, my ovaries — with a lot of hullabaloo, I might say — deign to release some eggs, hoping to rendezvous with some sperm and go set up camp in my uterus. The problem is: they don’t know that their landlady isn’t too keen on producing kids.
There are plenty of unloved children in the world, and my 24-year-old self would rather adopt some than go through a pregnancy. The aforementioned eggs, therefore, are going to waste every month, their existence culminating in some societally stigmatised, much-reviled period blood.
Why not give them to someone who can use them, and in the process, I pocket some cash?
If only it were that simple.
There is no law governing egg donation in India yet; the latest version of the Assisted Reproductive Technologies bill is stalled in the Rajya Sabha, after having cleared the Lok Sabha in 2018. So, for now, the industry is entirely unregulated; centers are free to follow, or not follow, guidelines provided by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
It’s not a bad gig, though, if you can get it. The process of egg donation takes nine to 10 days and can pay between Rs. 25,000 to 30,000, according to Dr. Mona Shroff, fertility physician at the Surat branch of Nova IVI Fertility IVF Centre. It has a risk factor of 1 to 2 percent — of which an even more minuscule portion of donors might face future fertility complications, according to Insider. In the United States, it is illegal to pay for the eggs, but donors are compensated for their time, energy and inconvenience, the amount usually ranging between US$10,000 to 15,000, the article adds.
Donors are normally tested for any and all diseases and infections, and depending on the Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) center, for their intelligence and personality as well, Dr. Shroff said.
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Without a codified law, ICMR guidelines for ART centers are not universally implemented in all institutions. The guidelines so far restrict the age limit for egg donors from 18 to 35 years old, and require the donor to be a “healthy woman,” having “normal genitalia” and a “uterine cavity” free of infection. There are, however, many unsaid “ethical” norms that centers implement to vet their donors.
It is, for example, considered “unethical” to harvest eggs from unmarried women. The idea is to err on the side of caution and make sure the woman’s fertility is not compromised in the future, according to Dr. Shroff.
Which, fair. But this is not a situation where an annoying uncle in my family is trying to disabuse me of the charmingly youthful notion that I don’t want to marry and have kids of my own, assuring me condescendingly that I will change my mind. This is a decision based on logic and years of figuring out my version of an ideal life, none of which should be up for discussion in the first place because, to put it simply: my body, my eggs, my rules.
“Ethically, we don’t let unmarried women donate,” said Dr. Rupal Shah, ART expert and managing director of Blossom IVF and Fertility Centre, Surat, attributing the practice to deflecting social issues that might plague the woman post-donation — namely, being vilified for losing her hymen.
The egg harvesting process, which is a minimally invasive procedure, involves injecting hormones into a woman’s ovary, where typically 12 to 15 eggs are waiting for spermfest. In a natural cycle, one egg dominates the others, which self-damage in the name of sacrifice. The injected hormones, however, enable the growth of all of the 12 to 15 egg follicles, which are then aspirated out with a needle prick that is inserted through the vagina. This could perforate the hymen, if the woman hasn’t had penetrative sex, or ridden a bike, or a horse.
“Over concerns of how society views premarital sex, it is unethical for unmarried women to donate,” Dr. Shah said.
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So, to sum up: I, the generous, money-seeking egg possessor, will be denied the chance to sell my eggs in the case the procedure avails its minimal risk and robs me of the chance to mother beautiful children, whom I do not want. In the meantime, the ART industry will be in charge of making sure society doesn’t persecute me for not having a hymen (which is not even a virginity determinant, and the concept of virginity itself is a myth — please get with the program), and ensuring that I am not left loveless and childless in the future. This infantilization of women is an absolute violation of my right to exercise my own agency. To be sure, such restrictions are not put on sperm donors, who are free to make their painstaking contribution, with or without a partner.
What’s more, even the government wants to get in on the action. The ART bill, also called The Surrogacy Bill, if passed will codify into law that only women (between ages 25 to 35), who are married and have one child of their own already, shall act as a surrogate or donate their eggs.
Until then, there are some centers that accept donations from unmarried women, though those are not the most well-respected centers known for their safety standards. It is entirely possible that those centers — which circumvent the ‘ethical’ norm of harvesting from only married women — flout societal or medical guidelines in other ways, such as increasing injection doses or not providing appropriate care to the donor post-harvest.
In an eggshell, these prohibitions are patriarchal nonsense, but an unmarried woman could donate to one of these less-regarded establishments… at her own risk. I might just be too chicken.