Egg Donors Project

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By the Alliance for Humane Biotechnology (AHB)

Women undergoing egg retrieval undertake real yet poorly studied health risks. To retrieve her eggs, a woman first takes one set of powerful synthetic hormones to shut down her ovaries, then another to hyperstimulate them to induce a yield of eggs many times the normal number. Whether this is done as part of her own fertility treatment, or to donate eggs to another woman, or for medical research, the process is the same.

Pressures on young women to donate eggs are increasing. AHB joins other groups calling for more and better studies of egg donor risks so that women may be offered a meaningful informed consent before agreeing to have their ovaries hyperstimulated and their eggs retrieved. AHB calls for a national registry to track the health and well-being of women donating eggs, the prohibition of payment for egg donation, and a moratorium on egg donation for research until the long-term health risks are better understood.

If you, or someone you know, has gone through the egg retrieval process, & is concerned by immediate or long-term health issues, you can contact AHB at Information you share with AHB will remain confidential and be referenced anonymously.


  • Vaginal, intra-abdominal, and intestinal bleeding*
  • Post-anesthesia pain*
  • Ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome, mild to severe*
  • bloating, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath
  • blood clots
  • organ failure
  • death
  • Infertility*

* Possible ovarian and other cancers

Scientists want to create clonal embryos in the hopes of deriving patient-specific embryonic stem cells to study disease and possibly find treatments. No one has ever succeeded in creating human stem cells in this fashion, nor have scientists found ways to prevent embryonic stem cells produced by other means from growing in an uncontrolled fashion and creating tumors.

A woman must inject herself daily with hormones for one to three weeks. These hormones stimulate the growth of ovarian follicles, suppress ovulation, and promote egg maturation. When the eggs are ready the woman is brought into surgery, given intravenous sedation, and a trans-vaginal probe is inserted into her vagina. A hollow needle emerges from the probe, pierces the back of the vagina and is pushed into the ovary, where the eggs are sucked out of each follicle one by one. Where women naturally produce one egg a month, a woman undergoing this procedure typically produces at least a dozen eggs, although reports of harvesting many more than that are not unusual.

CONSIDER THESE WOMEN Harvesting women's eggs requires the hyperstimulation of ovaries, making possible the retrieval of an unnaturally large number of eggs. Around the world women have suffered serious health consequences or death after having their ovaries stimulated using synthetic hormones. Below you can read about a few of them. While strict cause-and-effect may never be established in each of their cases, all such cases signal the urgency for mandating rigorous large-scale studies and instituting registries to track the health of women who have been hyperstimulated.

Some of the women who have suffered serious health consequences or death after having their ovaries stimulated using synthetic hormomes:

* Calla Papademas, Stanford University graduate, marriage & family therapist intern. While a student, then 22-year-old Calla suffered a stroke and brain damage after beginning ovarian hyperstimulation for egg donation, and is now unable to have children. In Nov/07 she participated in a seminar on the hazards of egg donation. Click here to see a video of her story . Also see, "What Are the Costs?"

* A 34-year-old UK woman, left brain-damaged after a stroke caused by a rare side effect of IVF, is set to receive 'very substantial' agreed damages. She became pregnant but then developed ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). Read this story online

* Liz Tilberis, fashion magazine editor, died of ovarian cancer in 1999 at 51. She publicly blamed her cancer on the fertility drugs with which she had been treated in the 1970s. Author of 'No Time to Die: Living with Ovarian Cancer'.

* Gilda Radner, comedian/actress, who had earlier undergone hyperstimulation for infertility treatment, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1986 and died in 1989 at age 42. Author of 'It's Always Something', her personal account of her infertility, her struggle with ovarian cancer and her inspiring attempt to keep an upbeat attitude during her illness.

* Iris Chang, author & journalist, who committed suicide in 2004 at age 36. Chang had entered a deep depression and became bipolar after undergoing hyperstimulation for fertility treatment. Biography: 'Finding Iris Chang: Friendship, Ambition, and the Loss of an Extraordinary Mind'

* Jessica Grace Wing, composer, died of colon cancer at 31 even though she possessed no genetic marker for this disease. In her 20s as a student at Stanford University, Jessica had undergone ovarian hyperstimulation for egg donation. Her mother, physician Jennifer Schneider, wrote an article calling for research on the long-term risks of ovarian stimulation .

* 37 year old Nina Thanki died in 2006 at Leicester Royal Infirmary while having eggs harvested. See:

* In 2005, 33 year old Temilola from London, UK developed Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome after undergoing fertility treatment and suffered a massive heart attack. She was disconnected from life support 5 days after collapsing at a bus stop. See:

* Faith Haugh, the biological mother of 17 children having been hyperstimulated repeatedly to make egg donations to infertile couples. In 2008, at age 37, she was diagnosed with liver cancer, [thereby dashing the hopes of her & her husband to have a child of their own.] See:

* Wendy Wasserstein, author & playwright, sought fertility treatment when she turned 40. Over the next 8 years, she progressed from artificial insemination to IVF, became pregnant at 48 and died of lymphoma at 55. See:

* Alexandra, featured in the film, 'Eggsploitation'. Read her testimony to the Kansas State Senate on Senate Bill 509, 'Women`s Health & Embryo Monitoring Program Act' here:

* Sindy Sindy, featured in the film, 'Eggsploitation'. Read her March 2010 testimony to the Kansas State Senate on Senate Bill 509, 'Women`s Health & Embryo Monitoring Program Act' here:

* Experience of an Anonymous Egg Donor


For more information on the risks of egg donation see:

* Egg Harvesting for Stem Cell Research -- Medical Risks and Ethical Problems
By: Diane Beeson, PhD, Dept of Sociology & Social Services, California State University; and Abby Lippman, PhD, Dept of Epidemiology, Biostatistics & Occupational Health, McGill University, Montreal

* 'Dangerous Harvest,' by Diane Beeson, PhD.,

* 'Cloning: A Risk to Women?'
Testimony by Lynn Millican, RN, BSN, before the US Senate Subcommittee on Science, Technology & Space, March 27, 2003

* In October 2009, California passed the nation's first law requiring egg broker ads to reference the existence of health risks associated with egg donation, AB 1317 To read a summary of scientific evidence supporting AB 1317, click here.

* Our Bodies, Ourselves webpage on egg extraction

* Center for Genetics and Society'swebpage on articles concerning egg donation ">

* Lupron, one of the drugs used frequently in fertility clinics as part of the egg harvesting process even though it was never approved by the FDA for that purpose and has caused thousands of adverse health consequences. Join others calling upon the USA Congresss to investigate Lupron's side effects: For more information, visit the Lupron Victim's Hub .


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