January 19, 2023
Seetal Savla and her husband had been trying to have children for years. But after three failed rounds of in-vitro fertilization (IVF), the couple was exhausted from getting their hopes up and “having their hearts broken,” she said. She had started treatments in 2017, and it was now 2020.
It was then that Savla’s fertility consultant suggested using donor eggs, to give her a better chance of conceiving. “I was very eager to explore this option,” Savla shared.
But the search would prove to be a difficult one. Savla said the lengthy wait for a South Asian egg donor — as long as two to three years — led her and her husband to rule it out completely; Savla was already in her late 30s at the time. Savla’s U.K.-based clinic recommended a Spanish or Portuguese donor instead.
Savla, who is British Indian, isn’t alone in her frustration in her fertility journey. Though she ultimately chose not to go with a South Asian egg donor for a variety of reasons, her plight spotlighted the severe shortage of South Asian eggs in Western markets. In the U.S., a 2022 study pointed to a lack of Black and Asian American egg donors. A 2022 U.K. report found a similar trend, in part due to “cultural and/or religious beliefs and stigma around donation, particularly among South Asian communities.” Doctors and clinics who spoke to The Juggernaut agreed.
But as people try to conceive and face fertility issues, and with more gay couples opting for surrogacy over the past decade, the demand for egg donors has only increased. Sometimes searching for a South Asian egg donor is a way to ensure their culture is reflected in their children. For others, it might be to draw from a pool of educated women. As people look to complete their families, they instead find disappointment and drawn-out processes in an egg donation market that is mostly opaque and, despite FDA guidelines, is mostly unregulated.