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What human eggs are worth: egg donors share their stories

An illustration of a large globular cell made up of an amalgamation of smaller globes that is a very light green color with a purple circle in its center and an outline of purple globes. There are smaller, light green circles around the outline of the larger globe and even smaller light green circles floating around the border.. The background of the illustration transitions from very light purple at the top to a darker purple at the bottom.
Charnel Hunter

Egg donation in the U.S. is a multibillion dollar industry designed to provide infertile folks with the eggs they need to conceive. But how do we decide what human eggs are worth — and how do the characteristics of the donor factor into the equation?

When Julie Ventura’s best friends sat her down and asked her if she would be interested in being their egg donor, she was shocked. Out of all the people they could have asked, why would they want her eggs? Although she knew little about the process, she wanted to help her friends, to give them the opportunity to build the family they’d dreamed of. She said yes.

After a weeks-long process of daily shots that left her bloated and uncomfortable — and a less-than-smooth egg retrieval surgery that gave her a six-week stint of internal bleeding — Julie is now Aunt Julie to a pair of young twin girls. While she doesn’t regret her decision in the slightest, there was a lot she didn’t know about the process before she chose to donate. Host Anita Rao talks with Julie about the physical and emotional experience of donation, her unique position as a known donor and questions about potential long-term health risks. Julie is the founder of a nail artist training program called Nail KnowHow.

Egg donor Claire Burns also joins Anita to talk about her own donation experience and her broader concerns with the industry as a whole, specifically around compensation for donors and a lack of medical studies on how donation affects the body. Claire is the co-founder of We Are Egg Donors, an online community and support group. She’s also a Canadian playwright, actor and advocate.

Plus, Anita meets Daisy Deomampo, associate professor of anthropology at Fordham University. Daisy has interviewed many donors about their experience, with a particular focus on the Asian American community and questions of race and value in egg donation.

Special thanks to Emily Arocha and Emily Derrick, members of We Are Egg Donors, for their contributions to this episode!

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Gabriela Glueck is a producer for Embodied, a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, health and relationships.
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist, host, creator, and executive editor of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health.