FOX23 Investigation: The risks of donating eggs

TULSA, Okla. — Quick Facts:

  • Ads offer women $5,000- $10,000 to donate eggs
  • Risks from egg donation include short term risks like bleeding, no studies done in United States on long term risks
  • American Society for Reproductive Medicine guidelines say not to do it more than six times in your life, but no one tracks or enforces that
  • FOX23 talked with two Oklahoma women who donated eggs and wish they knew more about the long term effects
  • FOX23 also interviewed the directors of Tulsa Fertility Center who say they take a conservative approach to egg donation
  • WATCH FOX23's Michelle Linn's full report on FOX23 News at 5:45

It can be rewarding to help a couple realize a dream, but what if it comes at a cost?

“It turns out, I don't think they've really studied egg donors,” Pamela Olson, an egg donor, told FOX23.

"You almost don't know what to worry about because there's so little research on it," Dustyn Morgan, another egg donor, said.

Morgan donated eggs in 2014 and 2015. Olson did it in 2010, and both donors wish they knew more about the long-term effects.

People can go to Google or Craigslist and find ads offering up to $10,000 for egg donors, and they don't mention risks.

FOX23 found another site, "We Are Egg Donors," that gives a first-hand account of some of those risks.

"When I read their stories, I'm like, 'I had a pretty easy process compared to some,'" Morgan said.

Dr. Stanley Prough at Tulsa Fertility Center monitored Morgan in Tulsa as she went through four cycles coordinated through clinics in Texas.

"Your ovary goes from this big, to this big, so they get bloated, they have pelvic pressure, their ovaries hurt," said Prough.

"I was terrified of needles, so that was the biggest hurdle to get over," Morgan said.

The process includes hormone injections, as many as three times a day, until it's time to retrieve the eggs.

Dr. Prough's clinic averages about 20 egg donors a year. They harvest an average of 14 eggs each cycle.

"I never felt like I was just the donor, I felt like their patient as well," Morgan said.

Prough and his partner, Dr. Shauna Mckinney, said their clinic takes a one-to-one approach where the donor stands in for the fertility patient, but that's not how all clinics do it.

"The facility is stimulating them only to try to drive, 20, 30, 40, or more eggs. They can sell them per egg, or per grouping of eggs. For us, that's not ethical," McKinney said.

Dr. Prough said his clinic compensates all donors $5,000. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine recommends at least $5,000, but no more than $10,000.

Six years after she did two cycles as an egg donor, Olson is now struggling with her own fertility.

"We've tried three IVF cycles, and they've all failed, so I may actually wind up using egg donors myself," Olson said.

The American Society of Reproductive Medicine lists bleeding, infection and ovarian hyper stimulation as possible short-term complications. Ads FOX23 found don't mention that, and there are have been no studies done in the United States on possible long-term risks.

"It's not clear, it maybe would've happened anyway, but I'll probably never know," Olson said.

Right now, there's no registry to follow egg donors and track health problems that may pop up years later. Health advocates say that needs to change to fully understand what risks egg donors might be taking.