USA Egg Donation and Surrogacy Mysteries Unraveled

Thanks to our UK partner, Fertility Help Hub, we sat down and answered some questions about how egg donation and surrogacy is different in the USA than many other places in the world.

Why do people find themselves coming to you?
I don’t think many people start their quest to have a child by thinking about who they will pick to become their egg donor, or which lucky woman will get to be their gestational surrogate. When receiving the diagnosis of needing ‘third party fertility’ (that means using a donor, either egg or sperm, or a gestational carrier) to help them along that path, there is a grieving process that can take many people by surprise.

And then they find themselves in a situation of having to make hard choices - who will be their donor, which fertility clinic will they work with, how do they find a gestational carrier? These are all things that we can help with.

You work with people needing help becoming parents all around the world, but tell us more about the stumbling blocks and perception around it?
To those outside of the country, the USA has earned a reputation for being a premier destination for fertility treatment and therefore there are a dazzling array of options. There are hundreds of egg donor and surrogacy agencies, attorneys, therapists, fertility clinics vying for business. It can seem like everyone’s out to make a buck on the back of infertility misery of thousands of future parents.

However, we’ve found that there are more checks and balances - there are legal contracts and FDA requirements set up in place and therefore there is less chance that things will go wrong, if you arm yourself with information.

We know there are huge costs involved, often beyond what most fertility patients can afford. The compensated model of gamete donation and gestational surrogacy has harsh critics and often gets a bad reputation by misleading articles implying that everyone is in it for the money. While there may be a nugget of truth in some of this reporting, there is a common thread that we see amongst everyone working in this field - the desire to help others to have a child.

Getting a diagnosis of needing an egg or sperm donor, or a surrogate can be devastating. It can be confusing to know which companies to trust, where to go for treatment and how much it’s all going to cost. That’s where we come in - helping you figure it all out.

For many in the UK, prices in the USA can be totally out of reach. Why is this the case and what are your thoughts on this?
The costs are definitely higher here - egg donors and gestational carriers are compensated, attorneys need to be paid and of course insurance can be a big cost. Traditionally, compensated donation and surrogacy have always been the case here. This gives us the opportunity to promote a transparent approach - all parties have contracts through an attorney, and we strive to make sure there are no surprises along the way.

So while it can be looked upon as a ‘business’, there’s a reason for that - a lot goes into a match with either a donor or a surrogate, and the professionals who do this matching - from the agencies to the attorneys, clinics and mental health therapists - have the same goal; to help people form families. At Donor Concierge, our premise has always been to take the burden of the search off of the intended parents. We actually help our clients save money by making sure they are choosing the best candidates -those who are likely to be approved by their fertility doctor, and those who have been vetted and are ready to go through this journey with them.

What’s your advice for anyone finding themselves in this situation, at whatever stage they’re at?
After more than 20 years working with thousands of people facing all the decisions of choosing a donor or matching with a surrogate, I developed what I call a ‘12 Step Program’ for third party fertility. These tips will help you reach what I call ‘the other side’ of egg donation and/or surrogacy;

  1. Admit you are not in control of this journey - you will need the help of many others.

  2. Understand that infertility is not a failure but a physical reality like the color of your eyes.

  3. Come to an understanding that a power greater than yourself has a plan for you and that only once you have moved through your pain can you appreciate your options.

  4. Let go of trying to control things (see number 3 above).

  5. Learn that there is freedom in trusting that there are many people, who want to help you.

  6. Allow yourself time to mourn your losses.

  7. Experience the denial and isolation as part of this journey, but remember you are not alone.

  8. Rage, as you will, at yourself, your partner, your doctor and everyone else who seems to be able to have children so easily.

  9. Remember that there are many people who can help you on this road and while they can't feel the pain you're feeling, most have a deep understanding of what you are experiencing.

  10. Allow yourself to experience sadness when the road to parenthood looks and feels like a painful, uphill battle because at times it is.

  11. Realize that you can only move forward in acceptance of your reality when you have completed the process of mourning your loss.

  12. Remember, more often than not, you will have the child who was always meant to be yours, even if the timing may not be what you had in mind, and the child you're welcoming isn't the child you thought you'd have.

We know it’s not perfect, but we can make it just that little bit easier.

By Gail Sexton Anderson, Founder and CEO of Donor Concierge, USA