Why Egg Donation Is Truly A Sisterhood of Grace

Part I

Many women struggle to conceive because of reproductive health issues. One of the options people can consider for conception is seeking the help of an egg donor.

We sat down with Embryologist and Director of HART Fertility Clinic & EDSA, Kimenthra Raja, and the Egg Donation Coordinator for DESA, Kinny Ramoeng, who took us through the process of egg donation.

Kimenthra has been an Embryologist for over two decades, while Kinny has been in her field for more than seven years. Both are incredibly passionate about the work they do in empowering and changing the lives of thousands of families in South Africa. 

We had the privilege of chatting to them about their beloved egg donors and why they think being an egg donor is a very satisfying act of kindness.

Who can become an egg donor?

Kim: If you are a young, healthy woman, between the ages of 19 and 29, you can become an egg donor. Egg donors donate their eggs to women who cannot fall pregnant naturally, due to infertility.

Who are the donors?  

Kim: We carefully screen our donors; we do not allow just anybody into the program. We have very specific criteria that we look for in a donor. 

We do acknowledge that applicants are young women, and we are mindful too that Millennials like to be young, wild, and free. We are certainly not in a position to judge people’s lifestyles; however, we seek reasonably responsible young women. We won’t consider anyone who has substance or abuses alcohol. And we cannot accept anyone who has any mental health issues.

Kinny: One of the critical aspects of being an egg donor is the fact that the applicant is reliable and a woman of integrity. The actual egg donation process is a straightforward one that slots into your day to day life, but it is about being able to rely on that donor from start to finish.

Kim: We don’t police our donors, but we do work on an honour system. When we recruit a donor, and we explain the process, we specifically focus on the recipient involved. The donor needs to understand that it is not only about the money invested by the recipient and her family but the emotional investment, too, that we would expect the donor to respect and honour. The donor needs to be responsible and take this process seriously.

We have incredible donors overall; donors who understand the process and respect how difficult choosing an egg donor by a recipient can be. Our donors want to make a difference. Egg donation is more widely accepted nowadays, and so too are young people’s motivation to contribute more to society selflessly.

What is the egg donation process from start to finish?

Kinny: A potential egg donor will contact us for an interview that is managed by myself. I explain how the process works and what it involves, and I answer any questions they may have. The applicant will fill in a detailed application form.

If egg donation is new to an applicant, it can be overwhelming at first. So our initial meeting is focused on ensuring the applicant feels comfortable in knowing that there is always someone readily available to answer any questions or concerns they may have. 

The application form has three general sections; personal medical history, then lifestyle, and finally, family medical history.

What if they don’t have any information regarding their family medical history?

Kim: That is no problem at all.

Can a potential donor be excluded if they don’t meet all the requirements?

Kim: Not necessarily, we encourage our donors to acquire as much information as possible but we don’t disqualify anyone. 

Unless of course, an applicant has severe medical conditions, mental health issues in their family, or any substance abuse issues.

Every donor that comes in is an individual with a unique background, and so we accommodate them where we can. The questionnaire that they fill aims to encompass their whole life. It’s quite an in-depth form that allows the donor to find out things about themselves as well.

Kinny: We recognise that each donor is unique. We all have different cultural and family dynamics. The form is not there to exclude anyone but more to inform the recipient about their potential egg donor. Perhaps there is a certain condition that runs through their family that they should be aware of, as they parent a child with someone, with the donor’s genetic material. 

We also delve into the donor’s personality traits and interests. We believe that filling out the form is a cathartic exercise!

Kim: It is essential to mention that egg donation is an anonymous process so the questionnaire paints a very clear understanding of who the donor is as a person. The recipient then feels more confident when selecting a donor that they feel they resonate with. 

Kinny: Once the form has been completed, we book an appointment for the applicant to see our fertility specialist for an ultrasound scan. This is to check if her ovaries and uterus are healthy and active; and that there are no abnormalities in the reproductive system. This particular scan is crucial.

They then meet our psychologist. In this confidential and safe space, the applicant will through their own and their family’s mental health history. What would exclude someone is if they or any member of their family have any mental health illnesses, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

In terms of mental illness, what about clinical depression? Would a donor qualify?

Kinny: Yes, absolutely. But it’s important to us that the donor is in a wholesome space. It is also possible to donate if an applicant is on medication.

What if a donor isn’t clinically depressed but going through a “low” period in their lives?

Kim: This would not disqualify a donor, but if they are suicidal or something severe, we would need to address that.

Kinny: Our primary concern is what is best for the donor long-term. 

Can a recipient be picky about choosing an egg donor?

Kim: Absolutely! There is a database that recipients go through, and they can select their perfect donor from there. As mentioned earlier, donors are anonymous; however, their profiles do include full details about themselves, medical / family history, and we include baby pictures of the donors on their online profiles too. Recipients can then choose one that either looks similar to them or has similar personality traits.

Have you ever had an instance where a single recipient has used an egg donor and a sperm donor?

Kim: Yes. We experience that all the time! Egg donation is available to anyone who wants to have a child. Single women, same-sex couples, interracial couples, anybody can have a baby!

Do you also cater to same-sex couples who are looking for egg/sperm donors and or surrogacy options?

Kim: Of course! We urge everyone to come forward. We’ve met and welcomed people from all walks of life, from different cultures and backgrounds, all races, and of course, our fantastic LGBTQ community!  

We have advocated LGBTQ parenting from the start, and so this is very close to our hearts. We will continuously strive to promote Human Rights but also share as much information as possible regarding common misconceptions about LGBTQ parenting!

Be sure to keep an eye out for PART-TWO  of our “Why Egg Donation is truly a Sisterhood of Grace” interview next!