I have exposure to over 60 donor websites and 14 years of experience working with intended parents in need of egg donors. I have recently been asked by a few egg donor agencies what they can do to improve their programs. My experience has taught me that what intended parents look for in donors, regardless of their ethnic background, is a healthy, bright, egg donor who comes across as wholesome and attractive.
Healthy means having a good health history with no serious illness, no addiction issues, no history of anxiety or depression, and no eating disorders. But it goes beyond the health of the egg donor herself. It also means no one in her immediate family has any of these issues. There should also be no cancer in her immediate family. While it is not unusual for a grandparent to have cancer late in life, it is alarming to intended parents to see cancer in the immediate family, especially with her mother or father, particularly those occurring before the age of 40. After the age of 40, while it still may be worrisome to many intended parents, it is not as likely to be of a hereditary nature. Other types of cancer, such as breast cancer on the maternal side, is more likely to be a hereditary issue if it occurs before the age of 40.
Adult onset diabetes in the donor’s grandparents doesn’t tend to be a big concern but juvenile diabetes in the donor’s immediate family is a major concern due to hereditary factors. Another major concern among intended parents is mental illness and addiction. Alcoholism in a grandparent is not necessarily a huge issue and is fairly common. What is of greater concern is seeing a pattern of addiction in the donor’s family. If the grandfather was an alcoholic, and so was the uncle on the same side of the family, that indicates there could be a pattern of addiction, which is a hereditary issue. If the donor’s parents have ever struggled with addiction, that is also a huge red flag for intended parents, and they are unlikely to ever choose that donor. The same is true of any mental health issues in the family such as anxiety, depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia. Unfortunately, there is a strong hereditary factor for all of these mental health issues.
I realize that all of these things are not terribly unusual. It happens in the best of families. In fact, many intended parents may have these same issues within their own genetic families. But if there were a choice to avoid serious health issues, mental health issues, and addiction, all of which have genetic components, wouldn’t you want to avoid them too?
It is often difficult for intended parents to truly assess how bright an egg donor candidate may be. But intelligence is a concern for most intended parents that I work with. Most of my clients are well-educated, having attended college and in most cases, graduate school. They have worked hard and truly value intelligence and drive, and are hoping to find these characteristics in an egg donor. They want to see a spark of intelligence that will help them relate to the donor and feel like this is someone they could like, someone who could fit into their family. With barely more than a few pages of information and a few pictures, intended parents have to make one of the most difficult decisions of their life. One of the most important aspects of this is to see if the donor has attended college. For the most part, most of my clients want to see a BS or a BA; some will consider an AA if the donor seems to have drive, but many really would like to see more.
The jury is still out as to intelligence being nurture or nature. Intended parents know that they can nurture, but will their child feel like they fit into a family of very bright people if the answer is nature? That is why intended parents want to see demonstrated intelligence. Intended parents are hoping to find someone that will remind them of themselves. These are people who have excelled in academics and value that drive in others. If they had the opportunity to get to know these egg donors personally, they might not care what kind of degree they have because they would already know the quality individual that they are, but that is not the case. All they have are a few pages of a donor profile.
Beyond health and intelligence, intended parents like to see wholesome girls. They are often trying to either see themselves or visualizing a future daughter. They don’t like to see egg donor candidates who look like they are trying to seduce the camera or worse yet, their husbands. They want the donor to look like a nice girl they could take home for a family dinner, not someone who would drink too much and wind up dancing on the table. Again, what they want is someone they can relate to, who will fit into their family.
This all brings me to my final point; first impressions count, and when it comes to donors, it may be all that you have to get the intended parents’ attention. If intended parents don’t find an egg donor visually appealing, they will not look any deeper. There are some agencies that are very good at marketing their donors so there are things that you can do to present the donor at her best. Everyone has good hair days and bad hair days; just don’t use those bad hair day pictures. Choose the pictures that show your donor at her best. You don’t have to use every picture she sends you just because she sent it, and if the pictures she provides are not very good, take the time to shoot some pictures when you meet her. If photography is not your forte, send the donor to a studio or hire a photographer to take a few good shots for your site. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.