Deciding to become an egg donor is one of the most selfless things a woman can do. You are giving something that is physically microscopic but carries with it an unimaginable weight. Something that has the beautiful ability to transform into life itself. Being an egg donor means that another woman will have the chance to become the mother she’s always dreamed of being, because of you. You are giving people the opportunity to become a family.
This is no easy choice. Determining if it’s right for you can be difficult. But with a little bit of understanding and information, however, you may see why this path is the perfect one for you.
At Donor Egg Bank USA, we regard this decision with an unbelievable amount of respect, and we are excited for the opportunity to help you through the process.
In 1983, the world of reproductive technology changed significantly with the first reported donor egg pregnancy in the United States. While IVF had its beginning in 1977, thanks to Nobel Prize winner Robert Edwards, it was not until several years later that donor egg technology would make its landmark appearance on the medical scene.
This new possibility gave certain women a sense of freedom from their own bodies. No longer faced with limitations based on things such as genetic abnormalities, age, or illness, these women would have the chance to become mothers using someone else’s viable eggs.
While donor eggs are not quite as well-known and widely used as donor sperm, in today’s day and age they are becoming a valuable option for so many types of families and individuals.
There’s not one black and white reason women choose to donate their eggs.
Maybe it’s a matter of generosity, maybe it’s to alleviate the financial burden of student debt, or maybe it’s even to treat yourself to the backpacking trip across Europe you’ve been dreaming of for years. Maybe you have a friend or relative who has struggled with infertility and the issue is close to your heart.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter why you make the decision to donate your eggs, nor is there a wrong or selfish reason to do it. The sacrifice made by egg donors is not inconsequential.
Before you’re ready to start the physical process of donating your eggs, you must first be verified as a viable candidate for donation. A willingness to offer someone else a precious gift is not the only pre-requisite to the process. Since donor egg IVF is a pricey venture for those who will be receiving your eggs, there are certain requirements that must be met to ensure your eggs are likely to produce a successful pregnancy. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
• You must be between the ages of 21 and 32.
• You cannot be using drugs or tobacco products.
• You must be free of all sexually transmitted diseases, including: HIV, hepatitis, and chlamydia.
• You must be in good health, both physically and emotionally.
• You must be willing to have expanded genetic screening.
• You will need to meet with a psychologist and take a mental test
• You need approximately four months of availability to complete the process.
• You should be prepared to self-administer injectable medications.
To prove that you meet these requirements, you will be asked to undergo various medical processes, including psychological evaluations, drug screenings, ultrasounds, and blood work.
While these tests can sometimes feel invasive to certain candidates, they are an essential part of the process. There is nothing easy about becoming an egg donor, but the difference you’ll be making in someone’s life makes it seem like such a small price to pay. It is, however, vital to have a thorough understanding of the intense course you are about to undertake before getting started.
Each of these tests helps prove to the clinic that you are a worthwhile candidate. Much of the information will be provided to prospective parents to assist them in making their all-important decision. For their consideration, you will even be asked to provide an overview of any medical conditions that exist in your family.
Once you’ve passed your initial screenings, you’ll be ready to start the actual egg collection portion of your donation.
After preliminary screening has been completed, your doctor will prescribe a regimen of medications that will stimulate your ovaries to produce multiple mature eggs. You will be instructed on the best way to administer these shots, along with suggestions on how to make them more manageable. Many women find the first few shots difficult, but they are relatively pain-free and will become easier to handle after only a night or two.
Throughout your cycle of stimulation drugs, you will report to the clinic for testing to monitor your body’s response. These monitoring visits will consist of bloodwork and transvaginal ultrasounds. The number of necessary monitoring appointments will vary for each woman. While some women only need to come in once every few days, others will be required to have daily visits. Not only are these vital to the potential success of your collection, but they are also crucial to your own health throughout the process.
One of the primary risks of these stimulation drugs is Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS). The bloodwork and ultrasounds undergone during these appointments work to lessen the chances of patients developing OHSS.
OHSS tends to occur around ten days after beginning injectable stimulation drugs. While certain women have a higher chance of becoming hyperstimulated, any woman undergoing the egg collection process is potentially at risk. New drugs such as the use of Lupron can significantly decrease the likelihood of hyperstimulation and is becoming more widely used in the United States.
Women that have low body weight, are under thirty years old, or have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome are typically at greater risk for OHSS. While the cause of OHSS is not fully understood, many experts believe that an increased amount of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in a woman’s system can play a large role. Higher levels of HCG may have negative effects on ovarian blood vessels which can cause them to leak fluid and lead to swelling in a woman’s ovaries.
It’s not only important to administer the correct dosage of medications prescribed by your doctor and keep the monitoring appointments they make for you, but it’s also crucial to understand and recognize the symptoms of OHSS, including:
• Abdominal pain and cramping
• Nausea and vomiting
• Sudden weight gain
Most commonly, OHSS will resolve itself within a week or so, but some severe cases require medical intervention and lead to your egg collection being canceled. Making sure to let your nurses and doctors know how you’re feeling and if you think you may have developed OHSS is vital to preventing further complications.
When the team of experts at your clinic have decided your ovaries are ready, they will direct you to administer a “trigger shot.” This shot releases a necessary amount of medication into your system to stimulate your ovaries to release the mature eggs to be retrieved. The timing of this step is crucial, so be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions exactly.
On retrieval day, you will report the clinic’s surgery site where you will be put under light anesthesia and your eggs will be removed from each follicle using a thin needle.
Upon collection, your donated eggs will be frozen using a high-tech process known as vitrification that protects them from any ice-crystal formation during freezing. They will then be stored until ready for use.
Recovery after an egg retrieval will differ for each woman, depending primarily on the number of follicles she has and the number of eggs collected. Most patients return to work the very next day. The most common side effects of an egg retrieval procedure are light bleeding, abdominal pain or cramping, and constipation.
A woman’s decision to donate her eggs is wrought with emotions… but what kind of emotions, exactly?
The correct answer is there is no correct answer. There are no certain terms to define how you should, or should not, feel throughout this process. Depending on the type of person you are, your life experiences, and your reasons for donating, it’s completely acceptable to feel any number of ways. Confident, hesitant, scared, nervous, joyous, determined… any of these may fit at any given moment. And because you feel one way today, does not mean you won’t feel something else tomorrow. Allowing yourself the space to confront these feelings and accept them will make for a more successful cycle.
Maybe you’ve seen the devastation that infertility can cause first hand through a friend or family member, and feel exhilarated by the opportunity to actively do something to benefit another person going through similar circumstances. Maybe you desperately need money for tuition and while you’re anxious about this choice, it feels like the best move for you personally.
At Donor Egg Bank USA, we see women choosing to donate for a million different reasons and with a million different ways of approaching this process. At the end of the day, they are all the correct reasons, and they all benefit the final goal – helping a couple become a family.
So you’ve gone through the testing and egg retrieval process. Your donated eggs are now being safely stored until they’re selected for use. What happens now? Once you’ve signed on the dotted line and given up your eggs, you no longer have a legal claim to them. This means that you will not have rights to what happens to the eggs, where they go, and how any children conceived using them are raised.
While this can be difficult for many donors to fully accept, you should always keep in mind the beautiful gift that’s coming from your selflessness. Your sacrifice is making someone else’s dreams come true. These individuals, who have struggled so immensely to become pregnant, will finally have the chance because of you. When you reflect on your decisions throughout your life, you should always find comfort that no matter how challenging this process may seem, the fruits of the labor are well worth the difficulties.
Know that years down the road, when a mother is gazing upon the face of her child with such love and devotion, it’s a moment that you helped create. Your sacrifice will never be forgotten and in life’s quietest moments, that mother will think about you with an appreciation that can’t even be put into words.
Donating your eggs is not a simple choice to make, but it is one of the most extraordinary things you will ever do.