According to the Office on Women’s Health (OASH), 10 percent of women in the United States who are of childbearing age experience issues with conceiving or maintaining a pregnancy full term.
In many cases, problems with fertility arise due to poor-quality ova (eggs). While sperm donation is much more understood and common, females who make good candidates can also donate their eggs to help women who cannot achieve pregnancy on their own. How do you donate eggs? Who is a good candidate? Below is an in-depth look at the egg-donation process.
Egg donation has grown to be increasingly more common. Even though there is an assumption that monetary compensation is the primary reason for donating eggs, this is actually not the case. Compensation can be a motivating factor, but women choose to donate their eggs for a lot of reasons, such as:
Donating eggs makes it possible for individuals and couples to conceive a child when the female’s natural eggs are not viable. Several situations can mean a female may not be able to conceive successfully with her own eggs. A few examples include older age, poor-quality eggs, previous cancer treatments, and even early menopause. It is common for donor egg recipients to have tried several avenues to conceive by the time they start looking into donor eggs.
The goal of ovum donation is to eventually make a healthy embryo and baby possible. Therefore, all prospective egg donors go through a stringent, screening process to ensure certain requirements are met. The initial screening looks at three primary requirements. You must be a non-smoker between 21 and 33 years of age, cannot have gotten a new piercing or tattoo within the prior six months, and must have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or less.
If you meet all the requirements and your medical tests look good, you may be approved to move forward as an egg donor. It is important to note that participating in an egg donor program will mean you have to sign legal documents that waive your rights to the children that may result from the donated eggs.
Getting prepared for egg donation is also something to consider. The egg-donation process is pretty complex, requiring many steps, procedures, and appointments. There is a great deal that takes place between your initial intake as an approved donor and the actual procedure.
Usually, once your information is gathered, and you are approved as a donor, your egg-donor profile will go into a system. The approved donors in this system are considered by prospective parents looking for a donor. The actual process may not begin until a prospect chooses your egg donor profile.
For the most part, egg donors can continue their normal routines while the process is underway. You will be going for several appointments and will be on medications during the process, and these objectives must take priority. Something as simple as a missed appointment can interfere with the planned process and mean your eggs cannot be donated. Therefore, it is important to make arrangements accordingly with your employer, for transportation, and other issues that could impede your ability to commit to the process.
While not necessary, some egg donors choose to get advisement from an attorney. An attorney will draft legal documents for the clinic that will be discussed at length with you before you begin the process. You are free to consult your own legal counsel to gain clarity on any aspect of the consent forms.
Psychological assessment is part of the process when you decide to become an egg donor, and you may even want to continue some level of counseling as you move through the process. Some women go into egg donation with the expectation they will not have any emotions about the process. Yet, some women do face emotional struggles once the process begins, so having a counselor can help.
As noted above, the egg-donation process is involved. Medical appointments, ultrasounds, blood work, and fertility drug injections are all things to be expected. You will also have very specific instructions that must be followed to the letter during the phase of egg stimulation. It is important to note as well that fertility drugs can mean your usual cycle is less predictable, and it can even mean you are even more fertile. Therefore, you will likely be asked to refrain from sex during the egg stimulation process, as well as immediately after.
After the initial intake, the general process of egg donation includes:
The transvaginal ovarian aspiration process takes about 30 minutes. The doctor will use an ultrasound probe to get a visual picture of the eggs as they work. A needle is then used to remove the eggs from their follicles in the ovaries. Anesthesia, sedatives, or even pain medicine may be given prior to the procedure.
Immediately after the egg-donation procedure, you may have a bit of discomfort and may need a bit of recovery time for that reason. It is normal to experience a bit of spotting, but there should not be substantial bleeding. Some women find that they need a few days to rest after the procedure. However, some women have no issue with resuming their normal routines. So it can be good to plan ahead for a few days off of work just in case.
The risks associated with donating eggs are considered relatively low. Most of the risk and side effects will come along with the medications used during the process and not necessarily the procedure itself. For example, ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) is a condition caused by fertility medication that leads to swollen, painful ovaries. In most cases, this issue subsides on its own, but severe cases can require further treatment.
In rare cases, women may experience injury from the inserted needle during egg retrieval. This can lead to blood vessel damage and a potentially heightened risk of infection, but serious injury or bleeding is a rarity. It is important to discuss all risks for your specific situation with your doctor before opting into being a donor.
If you believe you would be a good candidate to be an egg donor, the Fertility Center allows you to give the gift of life through egg donation. Our screening process is straightforward, and we make every effort to take care of our donors. Feel free to contact the Fertility Center by phone or email to discuss your interest in becoming an egg donor.