So what's the deal with donating eggs?

In recent years, it has become common for celebrities to give birth in their forties and even older, the most recent being Janet Jackson at the age of 50. How they manage to achieve this feat is never disclosed. I spoke to Lawrence Gobetz, a doctor from the Vitalab Fertility Clinic in Sandton about conceiving after forty. Gobetz says in these cases the women are most likely using donor eggs, because their own eggs are less likely to be viable at that age.

As foetuses, female babies each have about 6 million eggs and are then born with about 1 million, with thousands of eggs being lost every month. By the time a woman hits puberty she has about 350 000 eggs left. Dr Gobetz says a woman’s eggs are at their most fertile when she is aged between 16 and 22.

Of course, no 16-year-old is ready to be having a planned child, as she is no more than one herself. And at that age girls are not thinking of putting their eggs away for freezing, let alone being in a position to afford it; it is a costly procedure.

We’ve all seen comedy films about men donating their sperm for a quick buck. What we never see is women donating their eggs. Gobetz says egg donors are in high demand. Vitalab looks for women between 21 and 32 years of age. The procedure is at the expense of the egg recipient, while the donor receives R7 000 and upwards for her eggs. Women should familiarise themselves with what is involved physically and mentally in the donor process before comitting to becoming one.

In other cases, a woman who is not ready to have children yet, or has no partner at the time but wants kids in the future, might freeze her eggs for use when she’s ready.Not all couples who want children are able to conceive naturally and too many of them unknowingly leave it until too late. They wait for “the right time”– the necessary funds in a bank account, or the right-sized house – only to find they’ve put it off too long.

Egg donors are helpful for the couples who have put it off till too late, as well as for those women whose egg production is inadequate even at the ideal age.

  • If you are interested in assisted conception or in becoming an egg donor, contact Vitalab on 011 911 4700.

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