RSC Bay Area sees huge spike in demand for Asian eggs that can’t be met, both in Asia and the U.S., most likely due to cultural factors
San Ramon, Calif. (November 16, 2015) – Spurred by an influx of fertility tourists from Asia and low numbers of eggs donated by Asian women, one San Francisco fertility clinic is struggling to keep up with patient demand for ethnic egg donors. For Asian Bay Area residents struggling to conceive, the shortage could mean added waiting periods during a treatment where time is not a luxury.
At Reproductive Science Center of the Bay Area (RSC) – responsible for the nation’s second successful birth of a baby from a frozen embryo – less than 20 percent of patients who are seeking an Asian donor through RSC’s in-house egg donation program will be matched with a donor. However, RSC believes that this year they will fulfill 80 percent of egg recipient requests seeking Caucasian eggs. RSC also partners with ethnic-specific donor agencies to offer patient’s more opportunities for ethnic-specific matches outside of what’s available via the in-house donor program.
“Since 2012, our clinic has seen the demand for Asian eggs increase by 40 percent,” said RSC endocrinologist Dr. Mary Hinckley, who recently returned from lecturing medical students in China about fertility options in the United States, including egg freezing. “Currently, just six percent of the egg donors in RSC’s in-house donation program are from women of Asian descent.”
In 2013, 13 percent (1,067) of all in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycles in the Bay Area (8,504) involved the use of donated eggs.
“We have a growing disparity in the need for Asian egg donors, especially in the Bay Area where the population of Asian families is on the rise,” said Hinckley. She adds that cultural factors are the most likely reason why Asian women are more reluctant than others to donate their eggs.
Infertility is still largely stigmatized in much of Asia, creating a cultural obstacle for some women to even consider being involved. Young Asian women who have donated eggs say they would never tell their parents. The idea of a young woman giving up a part of herself to give to a stranger would be considered taboo by many Asian women, no matter how well-intended the offer.
These are cultural factors that appear to be resistant to increasing costs for compensating an Asian egg donor. Egg donor agencies have reported Asian egg donors continue to request well over the $10,000 maximum set forth by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).
RSC offers egg donors $7,500 compensation for time, travel and their commitment (the pay is not actually for eggs, as it is illegal in the U.S. to sell tissue). This figure is in line with guidelines established by the ASRM. Yet advertisements for Asian egg donors can often offer much higher fees, particularly when they are seeking donors for couples desiring specific traits.
Though RSC is sticking to its fee schedule, they are advertising for Asian donors. A recent effort to advertise for “Asian” egg donors on Facebook was blocked because using the term ran afoul of the social media company’s advertising guidelines prohibiting racially charged content.
“We’d like Asian women to donate eggs for humanitarian reasons, which is the motivation for many women who donate eggs,” says Hinckley. “It can be very rewarding emotionally to help others create a family.”
For more information regarding egg donation, please visit rscbayarea.com/donation/egg-donation; real-time updates available at Facebook.com/RSCBayArea and Twitter.com/RSCBayArea.