Most women donate their eggs in order to help couples that cannot become parents on their own. While some donors are family members, the majority are anonymous women, often who have had children of their own or have seen people they know struggle with infertility. These anonymous donors want to share the joy of parenthood with those in need, and cite a deep gratification knowing their egg donation made a different in someone’s life.
Qualified egg donors are healthy women between the ages of 21 to 31 who have completed a thorough medical history and genetic questionnaire.
Whether known or anonymous, all egg donors must agree to screening in regards to:
Any woman interested in donating eggs should know their rights and obligations as outlined in the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s Ethics Committee report “Interests, obligations, and rights of the donor in gamete donation.”
1. Required screening
An intensive medical and psychological screening process is necessary before a potential egg donor is accepted. The woman must be capable of dedicating time and energy into the process, undergoing certain forms of fertility treatment herself in order for the eggs to be retrieved.
The screening procedure includes:
The egg donor will undergo ovarian stimulation to increase egg development, monitored by ultrasound and blood tests. This is the same process as the initial stage of in vitro fertilization (IVF).
The egg donor will receive a series of hormone injections that will synchronize her menstrual cycle with the infertile woman recipient. The donor’s egg development is monitored and when the eggs are mature enough, the donor will receive a final hormone injection before the retrieval process.
When the donor’s eggs reach maturity, the final hormone injection will prepare the eggs for retrieval. A transvaginal ultrasound-guided needle is inserted into the ovary to gently remove the eggs. This process generally takes 30 minutes, and is a simple, painless procedure. Conscious sedation medications are given to sedate the patient, prevent pain and prevent the patient from remembering the procedure. The eggs are then combined with sperm from the infertile recipient’s male partner or donor sperm for IVF.
Once the eggs have been retrieved, the donor will need someone to take her home and watch her overnight. The donor can resume everyday activities the next day. However, donors should abstain from sexual intercourse a week prior to and following egg retrieval to avoid getting pregnant.
1. Ovarian Hyperstimulation
The medications used in the egg retrieval process cause the ovaries to produce more eggs than normal. In about 10 percent of women, this can cause ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS): the ovaries create too much fluid, which can leak into the abdominal cavity. In most cases, women with OHSS experience only mild symptoms, such as abdominal discomfort, bloating, and weight gain. These symptoms generally resolve without treatment when the menstrual period begins. In rare circumstances, symptoms are more serious, causing severe pain, decreased urination, and shortness of breath. Very rarely, OHSS may also cause blood clots, kidney issues, and excessive fluid present in the abdomen or chest. Severe cases like these may require hospitalization.
Rarely, the medications and procedures necessary for egg donation can cause damage to the ovaries. As a surgical procedure, egg retrieval requires anesthesia, which can cause an allergic reaction. Bladder, bowel or reproductive organs may also sustain injury during the actual egg retrieval process, and infection may also occur, which can lead to infertility if left untreated.
Some women experience mild side effects from the medications required for egg donation, such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, bruising, and mood swings. However, once the cycle is over, these symptoms usually go away without treatment. Rarely, egg donors may bleed or develop an infection after the retrieval process.