There are plenty of reasons to celebrate turning 21. For Ashleigh Griffin, there were about 10,000.
During her freshman year of college, Ashleigh spotted a flier on campus offering up to $10,000 for potential egg donors. That was a mindblowing number to a teenager who was all too used to water or electricity being cut off in her childhood home. And as Ashleigh continued on through undergrad, that number would ring loudly in her mind. But she needed to wait until she was 21 years old before she could qualify.
Whenever things got a little overwhelming, Ashleigh would tell friends and family that “Yeah, student loans suck, but it’s not gonna matter cuz I’ll donate my eggs, and then I’ll get money!”
Once Ashleigh turned 21, the process seemed pretty straightforward. She applied online, found a clinic, and traveled to California for her first procedure. Ashleigh remembers how much trouble the doctors and nurses went through to reassure her about the procedure: “I specifically remember them saying, ‘No study has shown that there are any negative side effects from egg donation.’ I remember them saying there was one very, very, very rare complication called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome,” she said.
Shortly after the egg retrieval, Ashleigh experienced excruciatingly painful swelling in her abdomen. She had ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, the condition medical professionals had told her was very rare. Ashleigh’s case was so intense that she was hospitalized.
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After recovering from her first donation, she did more research and found that the industry around egg donation had quite a few complications – and not just with the health of the donors. “I feel like egg donors should unionize,” she told us. “That was the first time it was real to me, the power differential between me and the clinic.”
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A previous version of this story included a misspelling of Ashleigh Griffin’s first name name.