Egg Donation: Risks For A Natural Mama

You want to give back to society with the extra that you have, and make a little extra money, seems easy, right?

There are many ads that pop up on Google, Facebook, the radio, and more, encouraging women to do a great service by donating their eggs and market the process as short and simple for $6000+ WHAT?! What a deal!

…..but here is what they DON’T tell you.

The process of egg donation is as follows, the same as the first half of IVF, known as a stimulation protocol:

Before you can even think about medications, you have several steps to go through, that are unpaid, and sometimes, out of your own pocket, to start. This includes a fertility screening through vaginal ultrasound and may even include a saline hysteroscopy. Blood tests will be drawn and a general pelvic exam will be performed. You will be checked for blood type, drug use, titers, infectious diseases, and general health. You and your partner will likely be required to go through an STD panel. You will be checked for genetic disorders and your family history of health issues will be analyzed in depth. Then you will go through a psychological screening to make sure you are sane, consenting to this process and have intentions beyond the dollar value. You will have an opportunity to speak with the reproductive endocrinologist that will make your protocol and perform your retrieval, it is very important that you ask and they share all the potential risks you can encounter. If they do not disclose this to you in full, RUN AWAY.

You will be put on birth control until you begin your medication protocol. This is to align your cycle with the recipients cycle, so they can immediately get the recipient pregnant, with your eggs, if there is a parent on stand-by! Otherwise, it is done so that the clinic is in control of your cycle and dates that they will begin specific medications, to align with scheduling convenience of the retrieval procedure.

First, you will need a medication to suppress your body’s natural LH (luteinizing hormone) surge and ovulation, until a bundle of eggs are ready to be released. This may be a GnRH-agonist or GnRH-antagonist. The medications that may be used include Lupron, Ganirelix, Cetrotide, Firmagon, Elagolix, Plenaxis, Zoladex, Trelstar, Vantas, Synarel and more. These same medications are used to prevent puberty in children that may want to go through hormone therapy to shift gender.

Side effects of these medications include bone softening, headaches, nausea, low libido, dizziness, hot flashes, weight loss or gain, yeast infections, swelling, skin peeling, severe depression, seizures, urinary tract blockage, liver damage, and incontinence of bowels. These medications have been linked to an increase in diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

These medications are typically injections that will need to be injected into your lower abdomen daily.

Next, they will give you a FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) product to stimulate the production of multiple eggs. Examples of medications you may use for this, include Follistim, Bravelle, Menopur and Gonal-F, which are also injections. Side effects may be headache, bloating, pain, vaginal bleeding, fever, severe swelling, fatigue, dizziness, stroke, labored breathing and hives. This is done for about 7-12 days until the clinic has deemed that enough eggs have been developed.

Then, you are given an HCG “trigger shot” for final maturation of the eggs, for extraction. They have to monitor you very closely at this point for several risks, including OHSS and release of eggs pre-extraction.

This stage is where OHSS (Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome) can occur. This is a very serious syndrome, involving risks such as rapid weight gain, severe abdominal pain, extreme nausea and vomiting, blood clots, lack of urination, ovarian torsion, hospitalization, and even death. It can develop anywhere from 1-10 days of the trigger shot. It occurs only 3-6% of the time, fortunately, but it is something to be mindful of.

Using a reproductive endocrinologist familiar with Prolonged Coasting can decrease your risk of developing OHSS, should you decide to move forward with egg donation.

When eggs are ready to be retrieved, the doctor will use a speculum to slightly open the cervix and insert a needle with suction, guided by abdominal ultrasound, to gently pull the eggs out. This procedure can be slightly uncomfortable and cause bloating and cramps immediately to follow. Infection and injury is also a minor risk of the egg retrieval. If you have had any reactions to a form of anesthesia, be sure to let the doctor know, or you may not want to move forward with egg donation, as they may use a form of anesthesia on you for the procedure.

Doctors say that an egg donor can return to their normal activities, the day following the procedure, but based on egg donor experiences, recovery can take about a week or so before the woman actually feels normal enough to get back to her routine, some can hardly even get out of bed. So, be sure to prepare effective childcare and work coverage, if you choose to move forward with egg donation.

Make sure, that the egg donation agency you go through, provides you with health insurance and life insurance coverage, in the event that something terrible happens to you as a result from medication or any procedures within the donation process. This is absolutely essential and if they do not provide this, they are not reliable.

In the long-term, many egg donors have reported that they have developed breast, colon, ovarian and/or cervical cancer. There are not enough studies to prove direct correlation, but many studies are following egg donors closely, due to the reports. This will be crucial to know, in years to come, so there can be true informed consent in the egg donation process. All agencies, until it is proven, are legally allowed to say that there are no long-term effects of egg donation. It is important to keep this in mind, regardless of the fact that there are not enough studies to fully back the claim yet, and also be mindful of the fact that egg donation can permanently disrupt your own fertility, and you should be done with your own family 100% before moving forward with egg donation.

It also must be known, that egg donation agencies will write-off your compensation as a tax reduction on their part, and you will receive a 10-99 in the mail, come tax time, so be prepared to put aside 15% of the income you receive as an egg donor, to give back to the IRS or be prepared for them to come looking for it!

Egg donation can be a beautiful thing, and make someone a mother, do not get me wrong, I get it… BUT it is important for you to also have complete informed consent, because the egg donation agencies are looking out for their pockets, not for the individuals trying to help someone.

Best of luck!

-Taylor

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