By: Eloise Drane and Carrie Bloedorn
1. What inspired you to start your egg donor program?
In early 2011 Carrie started receiving calls from prospective parents asking her to send donors to India to cycle. After contemplating it over, she decided to move forward. It was apparent there was a definite interest and need for American donors to donate overseas. Carrie, then traveled to India to begin her due diligence on what she believed would be a growing trend. Since that initial trip in June 2011 Carrie has been to India 7 times and Eloise has been twice.
2. How does the program work?
The International Egg Donor program is similar to egg donation programs in the USA. Donor screening is done locally. The main difference is that donors are required to stay in India for approximately 3 weeks as the actual IVF process takes place in India.
3.What makes India such a good destination for surrogacy and egg donation?
India is a good destination for surrogacy and egg donation largely because the expense for surrogacy in India versus surrogacy in the USA is about ¼ the cost. The cost savings is not in working with an American donor to donate in India. The savings is in the combined cost when utilizing a surrogate and egg donor. Overall the process of surrogacy and egg donation is significantly less expensive than in the USA.
4. Why are Americans harder to convince to try India vs. other foreign travelers who are more open to it?
There are several reasons why Americans are less apt to go abroad for surrogacy than other foreign travelers. Many Americans will agree our medical system is unparalleled and therefore don’t need to leave home for medical tourism abroad. In addition, Americans have more options for egg donation and surrogacy unlike citizens from countries such as Canada, Australia, and UK. Commercial surrogacy and egg donation is not allowed or extremely difficult to find. It is easier to find qualified surrogates and egg donors in the USA. Often citizens of these countries and various others must look outside their home countries for more immediate options for family building. To date Family Journeys International has worked with Intended Parents from 11 different countries. We anticipate that number to continue to grow.
5. Why do IPs want to use American donors? What are the upsides of using an American egg donor?
Intended Parents who commission surrogacy in India are from all over the world. America is a melting pot full of people from every race, religion and ethnicity. This makes American donors the best pool of donors to fulfill the needs of a global community.
6. What are the benefits of using your service over one say in Ukraine?
American donors are unlike donors from other countries around the world. Family Journeys International has donors that are more ethnically diverse and Intended parents find donors that are a closer match to own family lineage. An additional benefit of American donors versus a donor from the Ukraine, or even perhaps South Africa, is the American donors through FJI are required to go through an in-depth screening process similar to the requirements needed to cycle within the USA. Donors are screened for hormones, basic health, infectious diseases, drugs/nicotine, genetic screening, and psychological evaluation. A donor’s screening is an incredibly important part of the entire process. While a surrogate will carry a precious miracle for 9 months; the donor’s genes will be half of the child’s genetics and that will carry on for generations to come – a family lineage, a lifetime.
7. What issues arise when you choose to not use a non-Indian egg donor, pluses, minuses?
Currently Family Journey International does not offer Indian donors. While plans are in process to recruit Indian donors in the near future, we are currently coordinating cycles with only American donors at this time. However, we do assist couples who choose Indian donors, or any other foreign donor, as we offer comprehensive international surrogacy packages regardless of if an American donor is selected or not.
8. Do the Dr.’s in India respond positively to this?
The doctors in India are very positive about foreign donors. They are aware their patients are from all over the world. They understand that many Intended Parents desire to have children of the same ethnicity and require non Indian donors. The Doctors in Indian want their patients to have the most choices, best care, and best possible outcome for their family building
9. Where do your donors come from?
Family Journeys International donors are from all over the USA. We also have some donors in Europe and China; but they are typically American citizens studying or working abroad.
10. Is there a waiting period for one of your egg donors?
There is not a wait to work with one of Family Journeys International donors unless the donor is currently in cycle. We are consistently recruiting new donors for our domestic and international programs. About 50% of FJI donors are willing to donate abroad. FJI has also partnered with other reputable agencies in the USA and the Intended Parents can request donors from their database as well. The partner agencies don’t coordinate any of the international cycles. They release the donors to FJI for the cycle abroad.
11. How often do you do cycles in India?
FJI sends about 4-5 donors to India per month. 3-4 times a year FJI will do group cycles. The donor groups are accompanied by Carrie.
12. What sort of screening do the India donors do compared to donors that cycle in the US?
At this time, FJI does not work with Indian donors and can’t discuss what screening is done on them. That would be information that would need to be provided by the IVF clinic in India.
13. What is the benefit of using an egg donor who goes to India vs. freezing a cycle in the US and shipping the embryos?
There are several benefits in sending a donor over to India to cycle. The first benefit is the option of having a fresh cycle. Statistics show fresh cycles have better success rates. The second benefit is there is no worry about embryos being held in customs for an extended period of time or getting lost in transport. We have heard many horror stories of embryos being lost in transit or delayed in customs, and the by the time the embryos reached, they have thawed and are no longer viable.
14. Do you get more eggs/embryos if you do a cycle in the US compared to how they stimulate in India?
We do sometimes see a slight decrease in number of eggs retrieved in India; however, this varies by the clinic, doctor and medications protocol. We believe the decrease in eggs retrieved is because donor cycles on foreign egg donors in India are Antagonist Cycles. It’s important to remember that it’s the quality of the egg that maters and not just quantity.
15. What is the experience for the egg donor like when she works with your company to go to India?
Comfort and safety of donors is Family Journeys Internationals top priority. Sending a donor overseas for 3 weeks is nothing like sending a donor across country for a few days. It is a significant undertaking to understand the layout of the country, safety issues, and possible language or cultural barriers. FJI is not a one man show when it comes to caring for our donors abroad. We have developed close relationships with the staff and management at all our preferred hotels as well as our drivers and support staff. We have people on the ground in India to handle any issues that may arise with the donors that require immediate attention. Donors stay in American standard accommodations and we provide access to everything the donor needs to make her stay comfortable and safe including handling her transportation needs and providing a local cell phone. We handle every aspect of the donor’s journey.
16. How are the egg donors treated in India
The egg donors are treated extremely well in India. India is a very pro American country. Donors are extremely pleased with the way they are treated by the doctors, their staff, and the Indian citizens as well.
17. Are there preferred clinics to work with? What makes one better than another? How would someone in the US figure out who is the best?
Family Journey International does have preferred clinics in India. We have worked with over a dozen clinics in the last 2 years and have done our due diligence to ensure the safety as well as quality of care, expertise of doctor/embryologist is to the standards that our clients are accustomed to. They way to find out who is best it to speak with a lot of current or past patients. There are a lot of people out in the blogosphere willing to share their trials and triumphs of their journey abroad.
18. Do screening processes differ depending on where the egg donor is from? (United States vs. India vs. Ukraine, etc.)
FJI has not worked with South African, Ukraine, or Indian donors yet and so we cannot comment on screening foreign donors from a personal perspective; however, we have done much research on foreign donor screening practices. We have found information on foreign donor screening on multiple agencies websites, speaking to foreign donors who have completed screening, Intended Parents who have cycled with foreign donors, and through staff at India clinics. South African and Eastern European donors are usually screened for only infectious diseases such as HIV, HEP B & C, Syphilis, and CMV. India donors are often screened for quite a bit more than their SA or Eastern European counterparts. India doctors will screen for hormones, very basic health, and infectious diseases. With American donors we take it a few steps further and add hormones and basic health with the addition of drug/nicotine screening, testing for STD’s in addition to infectious diseases, genetic screening, and psychological evaluation.
19. is the cost of adding on an American egg donor to an Indian surrogacy?
Adding an American donor to an India surrogacy cycle is approximately between $19K-33K and is inclusive of all agency fees, donor compensation, donor screening, legal agreements, and donor travel.