Becoming an egg donor is an empowering and rewarding decision for many young women, but it’s important to understand the possible side effects of egg donation. Many women wonder if egg donation affects fertility later on in life. The truth is, most side effects are minor, but it’s important to approach your choice armed with as much knowledge as possible. Continue reading to learn about possible egg donation risks and what you can do to make the experience as smooth as possible.
The Process Behind Egg Donation
First, let’s begin with an overview of how egg donation works. The specific steps for becoming an egg donor can vary from agency to agency, but the overall process usually looks pretty similar. Below is an outline of the process to become an egg donor with Family Inceptions.
Step 1: Application
To find the best-fit intended parents for you, we have a 2-part questionnaire to complete so we can get to know everything about you – personality, lifestyle, background, overall health, and your expectations.
Although your answers will be seen and analyzed by our team, it’s important to be open and answer honestly. The goal is to get to know you on a deeper level so we know if this is the right fit or not. We aren’t looking for perfection, we want to know the real you! Be sure to take your time on this, and of course check for spelling and grammatical errors before submitting.
Step 2: Interview and Pre-Screening
This is where we really begin the journey to becoming an egg donor. We’ll schedule a phone or video interview to discuss all the details like compensation structure, risks, procedures, and how egg retrieval works. Come with all of your questions and concerns so we can be sure to address them.
We’ll also gather information and paperwork that is needed to continue the process. We will need consent forms, medical records, and educational records. The main goal of the pre-screening process is to make sure you are medically and psychologically ready to commit to becoming an egg donor. It might seem like a lot of legwork, but these steps are necessary to minimize any possible egg donation risks.
Step 3: Find A Match
Once you have successfully gone through the application and interview process, it’s time to get matched with the intended parents! This can take anywhere from 1 week to 6 months. We want to ensure that it’s the best fit for everyone involved, so it can take some time before a match is found.
Step 4: Medical and Psychological Screening
When a match has been made, the next step is to undergo a medical and psychological screening. These costs are covered by the intended parents and will be done at a fertility clinic of their choosing. If you have to travel out of town to their clinic, all of your travel expenses will be covered as well.
The medical exam involves a physical exam as well as blood tests to rule out any infectious diseases or genetic conditions. The psychological screening is conducted to identify any emotional or mental health issues, to determine motivation, and to make sure you understand the risks and implications that come with being an egg donor.
Step 5: Legal Contracts
Once you’ve received medical and psychological clearance to proceed, we move on to the legal phase. It’s important that your best interests are kept in mind, and that all expectations and responsibilities are outlined in a legally binding Egg Donor Agreement. You should be provided with legal counsel to help you navigate this process. At Family Inceptions, we take care of this for you, providing you with a skilled attorney.
Your legal contract will include language outlining the rights and obligations of all parties. Provisions for future contact (if any), travel reimbursement, timelines, and privacy considerations will all be a part of this agreement.
Step 6: Egg Donor Medication
For your ovaries to begin producing eggs for retrieval, injectable medication will need to be administered. You’ll work closely with the fertility clinic to track the cycle and know when and how much medication needs to be taken. Throughout the medication process, which typically lasts about 21 days, you may attend up to 15 appointments at the fertility clinic to monitor your progress and egg production.
Step 7: Egg Retrieval
Typically, the procedure for egg retrieval only lasts about 30 minutes, but it can take up to an hour or two. You will be mildly sedated for a pain-free experience and will need to bring a friend or family member to drive you home. It’s recommended that you rest for a full day after the procedure. Our donors say they are usually able to go about their normal routines in 1-2 days.
Complications During The Process
Will egg donation hurt? and What is the risk? are two of the biggest questions we get asked by potential egg donors. These are very reasonable questions, and of course you need to be informed of all possible risks. We recommend educating yourself on the topic using reputable, non-biased sources such as ReproductiveFacts.org or the New York State Department of Health’s egg donor information booklet. At Family Inceptions, we believe all egg donors deserve to be fully informed rather than swayed by an agency or egg bank’s marketing.
So what are the actual risks of egg donation? The good news is that so far, no long-term risks of egg donation have been discovered. There are a few short-term potential risks and discomforts that should be considered and understood before you decide to become an egg donor. Let’s talk about each possible complication.
If you have a serious fear of needles, egg donation may not be the right choice for you. Prior to the egg retrieval, you’ll need to give yourself daily injections. These injections are necessary to deliver the medications that will prepare your body for the procedure. Most of our donors tell us that these shots weren’t as bad as they expected!
Of course, you will experience the minor side effects that come from any injection or blood draw. You may experience minor bruising and mild discomfort at the injection site. We recommend using a little bit of ice to numb the area prior to injecting the medication.
Another minor discomfort to mention involves ultrasound examinations. Throughout the medical phase of egg donation, you will receive several ultrasounds to monitor how your body responds to the medication. These will be transvaginal ultrasounds, a method in which a probe is inserted into your vagina. The device uses sound waves to create an image of the inside of your pelvis, so there is no radiation involved. There are no medical risks involved.
You may feel mild discomfort when the probe is inserted. Some women say it is similar to the discomfort during a Pap smear; others say it’s not as bad as their annual pelvic exam.
What risks are possible during the actual egg retrieval process? As with any medical procedure, there is a slight risk of infection, though this is very rare. Any reputable fertility clinic will take extreme care to perform the procedure in a sterile environment, greatly minimizing the risk of infection. You may also be given antibiotics as a precaution. Be sure to ask the doctor about this if you’re concerned.
The most common side effects of the retrieval procedure include mild-to-moderate discomfort. Rarely, you may experience some bleeding. Clinic staff will let you know if they advise taking any sort of over-the-counter medication ahead of time.
Some donors have reported mild to moderate discomfort after the retrieval. Most women report feeling cramps and discomfort for a day or two, which is usually treated with over the counter pain medications. The discomfort can be compared to regular menstrual cramping.
Serious complications can include bleeding, infection, and bowel discomfort, but these are not common. In extremely rare cases, surgery may be required to repair any internal damage to organs or control significant bleeding.
Concerns with Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS)
One of the more serious risks to know about is a condition called Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome, or OHSS.
OHSS is a condition in which a woman’s ovaries swell and fluid leaks into the body. This typically occurs as a side effect to the fertility medications taken to stimulate egg production. In all cases, including egg donors and women who are undergoing traditional IVF treatments, fewer than 5% of patients will experience OHSS.
When OHSS occurs, fluid can leak from the blood vessels surrounding the ovaries. This can result in swelling, pain, nausea, vomiting, and increased thirst. More severe cases can cause difficulty breathing, decreased urination, blood clots, rapid weight gain, severe abdominal pain. The most extreme cases (typically those that go untreated) can result in kidney failure or death.
Doctors know a lot more about how to monitor and prevent OHSS today than even a few years ago. One of the biggest risk factors is a history of PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome)—women who have this condition will not qualify as egg donors. The fertility clinic will take care to monitor the number of follicles and rate of egg production during the visits leading up to your retrieval day. This allows the doctor to adjust your medication accordingly, or in extreme cases, cease treatment to protect your health. Because OHSS causes enlarged ovaries, it can be quickly diagnosed via a transvaginal or abdominal ultrasound.
If you experience swelling, abdominal discomfort, nausea, or rapid weight gain at any point while taking fertility medications, notify your clinic immediately. Mild cases can often be treated by increasing fluids and taking acetaminophen, but always follow the doctor’s advice. When in doubt, call the clinic to be checked.
Dangers Associated With Fertility Medications
There are some side effects associated with the fertility medications you’ll be taking that you should be aware of. Let’s talk about the types of medications you will take as an egg donor and the possible risks involved with each.
First, before you start your cycle, most donors will need to take a medication to stop your normal menstrual cycle. This is to either sync your cycle to the recipient’s in a fresh cycle, or it’s to allow the doctor to better control and track your response to fertility drugs. Side effects may include hot flashes, body aches, fatigue, or headaches.
Next, you’ll begin fertility medications. These are self-administered injections as described above. The purpose of this medication is to stimulate your ovaries to produce multiple eggs. Aside from the physical effects at the injection site, you may experience mood swings, breast tenderness, and slight weight gain.
You will need to abstain from sex during this period of the process, as it is possible to get pregnant before the eggs are retrieved. Some clinics will advise you to only have sex using an effective barrier contraceptive; however, the risk of pregnancy (and even a twin, triplet, or quadruplet pregnancy!) is so high that most clinics will advise you to abstain altogether.
The final medication you will take is called the trigger shot. This is an injection of a medication called Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG), which is the hormone present during the earliest stages of pregnancy. During a donor cycle, it is given at a very specific time in order to fully mature the eggs and prepare them for retrieval. Side effects are uncommon but can include headache, mood swings, fatigue, and swelling or pain at the injection site.
One note about the trigger shot: it’s extremely important to give yourself this shot at the exact time your clinic tells you to. If you miss this tight window of time, your egg retrieval procedure will not be successful. So double and triple check your schedule, and set all the alarms!
The final type of medication you may be given is an antibiotic. You will take this in order to prevent infection during the egg retrieval procedure. Anytime an object is inserted into your body, in this case an ultrasound probe with a thin needle, there’s a slight risk for infection. If an infection were to occur, it could potentially affect your fertility in the future. Infection is extremely rare, even more so when you take preventative antibiotics. The only possible risk with antibiotics is an allergic reaction. Let your doctor know if you have any past history of allergies to medications.
There are no known long-term risks of egg donation. Many women wonder if egg donation in their 20’s will affect their fertility later in life, when they are ready to start a family of their own. Women are born with approximately one million eggs. Of course, as you age, this number diminishes. However, there is no evidence that egg donors experience problems with infertility.
Generosity As An Egg Donor
Our egg donors are extremely generous women who find the act of donation to be both empowering and fulfilling. Because there is no known long-term risk, you can feel confident that your donation will help a hopeful individual or couple achieve their dream of parenthood, while also advancing your personal dreams with compensation.
Of course, we always encourage you to do your due diligence. Ask questions. Consult with your personal OB/GYN or general practitioner, and discuss the pros and cons with trusted loved ones.
At Family Inceptions, we are here to discuss any questions or concerns you may have. We’ve been egg donors ourselves, so we know about the experience firsthand and will always treat your concerns with respect and care. Shoot us a quick message and we’ll be in touch!
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