Donor frequently asked questions
If you have more questions about the process that are not listed here, please click on the LIVE HELP button (left side of screen) for more information.
- What are the general requirements for egg donors?
Egg donors should be between 19 and 32 years old and in good general health. Women who are non-smokers, have no history of infertility, and have a healthy body weight and excellent medical history are good candidates for egg donation. However, because the decision to donate eggs is a serious one, we require that potential egg donors undergo a series of physical and psychological exams as part of the screening process.
- What medical treatments must egg donors undergo?
Once our egg donors have cleared all the necessary medical and psychological exams and have been matched with a recipient, they will begin oral contraceptives to coordinate their menstrual cycle with the recipient's. The donor then begins daily hormone injections to stimulate egg production. At the peak of egg production, the eggs are removed in a minor procedure and combined with the sperm in a lab to create embryos.
- How are the eggs removed?
To retrieve the eggs, the donor is sedated, then the doctor removes fluid containing the eggs from the ovaries using a thin needle and ultrasound machine. The procedure normally lasts less than 30 minutes and requires little recovery time.
- How are daily hormone injections administered?
Egg donors independently administer daily hormone injections.
- Are there risks with egg donation?
If you are thinking about becoming an egg donor, you should know that egg donation comes with certain risks to your health and well-being. The egg donation process can take several months and includes time-consuming appointments with doctors, counselors and egg donor agency staff. Some of the medical procedures can be physically uncomfortable and the process itself brings emotional challenges for even the most enthusiastic donors.
Donating eggs is hard work, and anyone thinking about egg donation should know the potential health risks. Good donor egg programs are upfront with egg donor applicants about the risks involved and are happy to answer any donor questions. Stay clear of donor egg programs that do not want to discuss potential health, legal and emotional risks.
- What are the short-term risks of egg donation?
In general, the short-term health risks from donating eggs are similar to those infertile women face when they get IVF (in vitro fertilization) treatments, the medical procedure that creates human embryos from eggs and sperm outside a woman's body.
Once the process is started, egg donors begin giving themselves daily injections of gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist analogues such as Lupron, a medication used to temporarily "shut down" the egg donor's ovaries by suppressing her reproductive hormones. Other gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist analogues include Buserelin, Suprefact, Goserelin, Zoladex, Nafarelin, Triptorelin, Synarel, and Prostap.
The side effects of these medications are known to cause mood swings, headaches, abdominal bloating, weight gain, nausea, and stinging pain at the injection site for some women.
After the egg donor's and recipient's menstrual cycles are synchronized, it is time to stimulate the donor's ovaries to produce multiple eggs, a process known as ovulation induction. This process involves the injection of either follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) or human menopausal gonadotropin (hMG). These medications go by the brand names Gonal/f, Pergonol, Urofollitropin, Metrodin, Humegon, Menagon, and Clomid (which also goes by Milophene, Serophene, Clomifert, Fertomid, Siphene, and Omifin).
- What is Ovarian Hyper-Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS)?
The biggest risk of ovulation induction is the possibility of ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome, a medical condition which can range from mild symptoms such as bloating to severe ones like kidney failure, and even death. Thankfully there are medical treatments for it, but it still poses potential health risks for egg donors. With frequent monitoring this syndrome is very rare.
- What is the procedure for egg harvesting?
When it comes time for the harvesting of the eggs, donors are given a local anesthetic and a transvaginal ultrasound aspiration is performed. Make no mistake, though, egg retrieval is invasive surgery, and donors may be suffer injury to the organs near the ovaries. The Stanford University Egg Donor Information Project estimates that "major injury to the bladder, bowel, uterus, blood vessels or other pelvic structures occurs in approximately 1 in 500 to 1000 surgeries. Surgical risks include acute ovarian trauma, infection, infertility, vaginal bleeding, and lacerations. Additionally, anesthetic complications may occur, although they are rare in healthy women. In one study of 674 women who underwent egg retrieval, 1.5 percent required hospitalization due to complications occurring during or after surgery."
- Are there any long-term risks with egg donation?
Since the procedure only been used in the last several decades, the long-term health effects of egg donation are unknown, and no long-term studies of egg donors have been performed. Much of what we know about egg donation risks is culled from studies of infertile women who use IVF treatments.
- Can egg donation cause future infertility?
Since no long-term studies have been done, doctors cannot say with any certainty. But that means that they cannot rule out the possibility that egg donation can result in an increased risk of infertility.