I went to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to donate eggs. This was one of the only ways I could travel outside of South Africa on a student budget. Though I absolutely loved my experience, there was a lot that I didn’t know about the process before I embarked on my journey.  Here are a few things I’ve learned:

 1) To ensure you have a good experience, invest time in finding the right donor agency. 

I donated with a company named Traveling Donors. While they were supportive, professional and transparent, many other agencies treat donors with a lack of compassion and respect. For this reason, I highly recommend doing an extensive background check on the agency you choose (by that, I mean you don’t just Google them for five minutes). Look for online forums, Facebook groups and websites that aim to support egg donors. Listen to what other donors have to say about certain agencies. From there, you’ll be able to make a well-informed decision.

While this is important with all forms of egg donation, it’s particularly important when you go overseas to donate, because you’ll probably want more support. Undergoing a medical procedure in a foreign country can be intense without a soothing coordinator to explain, guide and comfort you through the process. Complications don’t arise that often, but if they do, it’s important that your agency is there to support you and ensure you receive the medical attention you need. 

I know of someone who donated overseas with a far less competent agency than mine. After her donation, she had cramps and was vomiting often, but her coordinators were unhelpful. As a result, she had to seek medical attention on her own, in a foreign country, without being able to speak the official language. Though everything thankfully turned out okay (it ended up being just food poisoning), if she had chosen a different agency, she could have found more immediate support instead of having to go through that stress.

Your agency is usually also in charge of arranging your flights and accommodation, and if they’re not communicative about these arrangements, you’ll have a lot of unnecessary anxiety to deal with.

2)  Agencies must be entirely transparent about the money you’ll receive as compensation. 

With most agencies, your intending parents should pay for all of your costs. This includes all medical expenses, flights, accommodation, food, travel insurance, etc. This is a part of the reason why overseas egg donation is so popular – you basically get to travel for free while helping out a family! 

A good agency should let you know if there are any costs you’re expected to cover. In my case, all I needed to pay for was entertainment and transportation to and from the airport. In light of the compensation money I received, these expenses were relatively small.

3) Beforehand, get as many details as you can about the procedure itself and what to expect.

The medical procedure differs slightly depending on location, the health needs of the donor, and the agency they use, but it can sometimes be difficult to get details since donors can be (understandably) private about the medical procedures they undergo. 

In my case, when I got to Puerto Vallarta, I had to have regular scans. These scans were done trans-vaginally, with the main purpose being to measure the ova and ensure that everything was okay. I also had to inject myself with a specific amount of fertility medication every day for twelve days before the actual donation. This means I had to do a few shots at home by myself. It was a relatively easy process, although a bit nerve-wracking at first. 

Thirty-six hours before the actual egg retrieval, my donor co-ordinator also had to give me an injection called a ‘trigger shot.” On the day of the retrieval, I was put under a twilight aesthetic and the ova were retrieved vaginally. My coordinators were there for the entire procedure. After the donation, I felt absolutely no pain. I felt completely normal. 

Since the procedure can be different for everybody, find out as many specifics as you can from your agency. Also, find out whether they will pay for medical attention after your procedure, should you need it.

4) Not every egg donation leads to a positive pregnancy. 

If your egg doesn’t result in a baby being born, it’s okay – it doesn’t mean you’re a failure or that something is wrong with you! It’s just nature doing its thing. It’s entirely possible that your first donation won’t result in a positive pregnancy, but the second or third donation will.  And yes, you can donate eggs more than once, and after you donate you should still be able to have children if you wish to do so!

5) It’s difficult to go through the process without support from your loved ones. 

The entire egg donation process can be really emotional, especially if you have even the slightest doubt about whether you really want to donate or not. When you donate overseas, it can be even more emotional as you might feel homesick and isolated. 

Because of the hormones I was on, I was quite fatigued and a bit emotional. Although Puerto Vallarta was a beautiful place full of friendly people, I felt incredibly homesick. I was always 100% sure that I wanted to do the donation, but I still needed a lot of support to get me through it. 

I struggled to stay in touch with my partner because I didn’t have a phone when I went overseas. I also didn’t have my own international adapter – a rookie mistake which meant I couldn’t charge my laptop. For this reason, I couldn’t talk to my friends and family as much as I wanted.

Don’t make the mistakes I made. Make sure you have multiple ways of contacting your loved ones. Find WiFi zones if there aren’t any in your hotel. Don’t underestimate the emotional part of the process and lean on your friends and family for support!

6) Egg donation is a beautiful, life-changing process.

Going overseas for any medical procedure can be difficult. But it also helped reveal how self-sufficient I truly was, and expanded and enriched my perspective of the world. Throughout the process, I was comforted by one simple fact: what I was doing was pure magic. As an egg donor, I gave an amazing gift to intending parents. I helped people build families. That’s a fantastic, selfless and beautiful act!  

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