Donor Story: Sophia
Sophia is a current med student living in Ontario, Canada. She enjoys playing the piano, figure skating, and baking. Sophia has donated twice now and talks with us about her most recent donation experience.
To start out, can you tell me a bit about yourself, your background, where you’re calling from? Yeah sure! I'm Sophia. I'm currently in medical school - it's my first year. I go to McMaster University in Ontario. I grew up in Los Angeles. I lived in Santa Monica for a very long time, pretty much first grade all the way up until university. I did university at USC. Currently I'm living in Niagara, Ontario which is not in California and very cold!
Congrats on med school! I have some friends in med school and it definitely seems like a grind. Yeah it's a fun time!
So can you tell me a little bit about how and why you became an egg donor? Where did you hear about it and what prompted you to go through with it? Yeah sure! So I think I first actually heard about it when I was in university. We had a gynecologist and talk about IVF in general and at the end she was like, hey and if you are a young, female - which half the class was - this is something you can do if you need help paying for tuition or you want to help people start a family or all of the above. So that was like the first exposure. I didn't know very much about it then, but I think through shadowing her and working with her a little bit, found a little bit more about the medical side. And then I saw a few ads on social media my junior year of university and that's how I started with this.
Nice ok! And so going into the application process or the donation process did you talk to your family or friends about it? If so, what was their reaction? Yeah, so of my family I've talked to my mother about it. She was pretty receptive. I think she was more concerned about I guess the side effects of the IVF medications more so than anything else. I didn't really tell most of my friends about it until after I was either in the process of the cycle or like finished with it. I just didn't really feel like it was something that I really needed to discuss with them. But like after telling them about it, I didn't feel like there was any judgment or anything - it was all supportive and just I guess interest too.
That's good to hear. Did you yourself have any specific worries or concerns about becoming an egg donor or about the egg donation process? Honestly no. I think from like the medical standpoint I heard about what it was from the mentor that I had. So I wasn't very concerned about like any of the side effects from any of the medications. I think for me it was just like could I make this work with school and would it be okay if I had some time off to recover from the procedure or if I'm like tired during injections - I was more worried about what effect it would have on my life in like those two weeks than any of that. But I think overall, they were able to work with my schedule and it was totally okay.
Ok good! Yeah, I know that the med school schedule can be very demanding. Did you run into any difficulties or was it pretty smooth to work around your school schedule? I think it was really flexible. I really appreciated that like both AsiaWest and the clinic I was working with - I just gave them the time for my winter break and they were like ok we'll make that work. So I appreciate that because I don't think I would've reasonably been able to do it during the academic term.
Yeah that makes sense. So overall how was the donation process for you? How was the clinic that you went to? I thought it went really smoothly! This was actually my second cycle, so I kind of knew what to expect in terms of how I would feel throughout the injections and whatnot. The clinic itself was really nice. This one was in San Francisco. I felt like they had a really good portal for communication. I felt like I could always reach someone which was nice. Yeah, I have no complaints.
Ok good. And did you experience any side effects for this donation? Any pain or discomfort? Mmm hmm. I think definitely like the last few days of the injections and like the week following the procedure - definitely a lot of bloating and cramping and with that just like discomfort that comes with all of that. I think this time I just had a lot more skin breakouts than expected. The first cycle they said like yeah it's likely you might have a little bit of acne, you might have oily skin. I didn't really experience that, but maybe this time it was like that with the stress of school with like winter break and everything - the host of things? I haven't broken out like this since I was in middle school so that was a little different than the first time! But like nothing bad, nothing serious, nothing that they didn't warn me about.
Ok cool. And so remind me, was this an anonymous donation? This was, yeah.
Were you looking to doing just anonymous donations or are you also open to semi-open or open donations? Mmm hmm! Yeah, I'm very open to whatever the intended parents or I parent would be comfortable with. But yeah, I think they elected to make it an anonymous donation, which I'm more than happy to respect.
Ok cool. And so obviously there's a lot of misinformation about egg donation or just a lot of things people don't know about it when they're thinking about egg donors, so for you - now that you've gone through it a couple times - are there any myths about it that have been dispelled for you? Or things that people might think about egg donation that you didn't find to be true? I think initially for me I just thought it'd be a lot more time intensive than it was. And I think it's good that when you sign up to be an egg donor they warn you about the time commitment and they tell you that you should block off like at least a full week of your life to like not really be actively doing anything - I think that's good. But you can still obviously do other things while that was happening, so like I definitely attended a few virtual lectures and things - it wasn't like unreasonable to still have a life. It's not like you're in a hospital for a week! So I think that was a big thing for people. Like obviously you can't go like rock climbing or maybe go do aerials, but you can still do sedentary activities during that week!
Yeah! That makes sense. So for you overall, what was the best part about being an egg donor? I think honestly just knowing that I'm helping people start a family. I think especially for me, I know in terms of my like life plan I suppose, the biological clock is kind of ticking and I don't know if I'll be at a place where I want to have children prior to turning thirty. So that's just something I've thought about a lot and I'm at a point where I can help people, so just like that aspect is really cool and rewarding. Knowing that you're helping people grow their family - that's just something really cool.
Totally! So now that you've done it a couple times, are you thinking about donating again in the future? Yeah, I'd definitely consider doing it again if the schedules align and the dates are flexible - I'm very willing to do it again.
And in terms of compensation, was that something that you're putting towards something specific or just kind of saving for a rainy day? Med school tuition!
Med school tuition! That's what I thought! Yeah! I wish I had a more exciting answer, but no. School!
No that's great! I would say a big portion of our donors are putting it towards school so that makes sense. And how was working with AsiaWest specifically? I think it's been going well! My coordinator is Mara and she's been really nice and communicative which I really appreciate. Yeah!
Good! And then finally, if you were to give advice to someone who is interested in becoming an egg donor, what would it be?
Hmmm... I guess just be open to it. Do a little bit of research. Find out if it's something that you're willing to put your body through because it is like a lot of biological adjustments and if that's something you're comfortable with I think it really is a pretty rewarding experience.
Yeah. Did you feel like because you're a med student you sort of already knew about some of the biological processes? Did you do a lot of your own research beforehand? Yeah I think I did. I think one thing that might scare some other people, assuming they don't have any other like condition where they give self-injections - I have like no fear of needles. I am totally fine with blood! But you have to give blood almost every day during your cycle and you have to give yourself injections in your abdomen, and if you're not a fan of needles I don't know if this is the right thing for you!
Note: this interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.