A lot of couples these days can only start their families via medical intervention. Many women of advanced ages, with medical conditions that inhibits their ability to produce eggs to be fertilized, rely on egg donation to enable them to start the process of having a child.
If you’ve completed your family, have not yet and have ever considered donating one of your healthy eggs to a family in need, here is a primer of things to consider.
Egg donation isn’t a topic you hear about very often. It isn’t widely talked about in public and, unless you already know someone who’s donated or received eggs, you probably don’t know much about it. In this article, you’ll learn more about what’s involved and find there are many reasons and many things for you to consider before deciding if donating is right for you.
There’s no right or wrong answer to this question. There are financial and noble reasons to donate. Some women donate to earn money to pay for schooling or other interests. Some women feel the call to help otherwise infertile women conceive, carry, and deliver a baby. Others may want to help LGBTQ couples start a family. Many women donate for a combination of these reasons.
Healthy eggs are a very important component to successful egg retrieval and implantation. For this reason, egg donors must meet certain requirements to ensure egg viability. At a minimum, women are required to be:
- Between 21 and 33 years of age
- Free of tobacco products and drugs
- Free of STDs
- In good mental, emotional, and physical health
- Available for 3 months
- Able to self-inject required medications
You’ll be expected to sign contracts to absolve yourself of legal rights to your donated eggs and confirm you understand the risks involved in donating. Additionally, recipients sign contracts to prevent them from holding you responsible for any children born from your eggs.
Other conditions, like your anonymity preference, will be included in the contract. You can choose to remain anonymous or choose to be identified after a child turns 18 years old. It’s important to do what feels right to you. If you desire to have a future relationship with any potential child, it’s best to be upfront about it so you can be paired with a recipient who’s open to it.
You’ll be screened and evaluated through a series of tests to ensure you meet the physical and legal requirements previously mentioned. The testing includes blood panels, genetic testing, psychological evaluations, and medical history examinations. You’ll also complete questionnaires to disclose your professional and education background, and your interests.
The results of your screening become part of your donor profile and help potential egg recipients decide whether or not you’re the right donor for them.
Egg Stimulation and Collection
Once you pass screening, you’ll be ready to have your ovaries stimulated by medicines designed to help produce several mature eggs. You’ll be asked to self-inject the medication your doctor prescribes or find someone to help you do it. Frequent, sometimes daily, trips to the doctor will be necessary to check your body’s response to the medication. At these visits, you’ll likely have blood drawn and have a transvaginal ultrasound to carefully monitor your health and to accurately time the release of your eggs.
Medication will then be used again to trigger your ovaries to release the mature eggs you produced. While under light anesthesia, your eggs will be retrieved using a thin needle and – if it isn’t a fresh egg donation – cryogenically stored until your eggs are matched with potential parents.
Recovery and Side Effects
You’ll have a recovery period during which you and your doctor will monitor your progress and identify potential side effects. Common physical side effects may include light bleeding, abdominal pain and cramping, or constipation. Your experience may vary, but most egg donors resume their normal activities within a few days.
One riskier side effect, which can occur before or after retrieval, is Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS). With OHSS, high levels of HCG dilate your ovarian blood vessels, causing swelling and fluid leakage. The sooner your doctor can diagnose OHSS, the easier it can be treated and managed, leading to a faster recovery. Severe abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and sudden weight gain are all symptoms indicative of OHSS.
While egg donation requires obvious physical and time sacrifices, the emotional impact is less obvious. You’ll be prone to experiencing a range of emotions – nervousness, sadness, excitement, joy – that can change over time. This is normal and you should give yourself the time you need to prepare for and recover emotionally. It may help to know your egg recipients are receiving a gift that will have an enduring positive emotional impact on their lives.
Is Egg Donation an Option for You?
Egg donation is an excellent option for many women and might be right for you, too. Only you can decide.