Are you about to apply to become an egg donor? Or have you recently completed your profile?
Fantastic! You’ll want to know what to expect on your journey!
And, as with most new egg donors, your first big questions are probably about what the actual egg donation cycle entails.
Let’s look at the medications you’ll have to take as an egg donor and how to deal with injecting yourself. (We promise it’s not as bad as you might think!)
An overview of the different types of egg donor medications
Being an egg donor means your body will have to mature more eggs than your body would during a normal monthly cycle, which is why you’ll need some help from fertility drugs.
Medication can vary between donors in terms of types, dosage, timing, and frequency. But don’t worry! Your case manager will go over all your medications with you and make sure that all of your questions are answered before you begin the process.
Your medications may include:
Birth control (the oral contraceptive pill)
This stabilizes your hormones and helps to synchronize your cycle with your recipient’s.
Lupron (leuprolide acetate) injection
Lupron stops the production of LH and FSH, allowing other medications to keep your hormones balanced throughout your cycle.
Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) injection
FSH tells your ovaries to grow more follicles, which contain the developing eggs. FSH helps the eggs to mature faster, so there will be plenty available for retrieval. Your fertility doctor will monitor the growth of the follicles with blood tests and ultrasounds, and increase or decrease your dosage as necessary. FSH is usually taken for 7-12 days.
Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) injection
HCG “switches off” your own natural cycle, which prevents premature ovulation and allows your eggs to mature. [Text Wrapping Break]Your last shot of hCG will kickstart a cycle of development that triggers the egg to mature and allows it to be collected from the follicle wall.
Oral antibiotics (post retrieval)
Antibiotics help to reduce the risk of infection after the egg retrieval procedure.
Things to know before taking medication
Medication is an essential part of the egg donation process, so there’s no way around it.
You’ll need to know that many of your fertility medications are administered via subcutaneous injection. Most people are just fine with needles, but some can find them a little uncomfortable. The injections are inserted just underneath the skin into the fatty tissue above your muscle.
You should also be aware that higher amounts of hormones in the body can cause similar effects to PMS. You may experience mood swings, a little weight gain, tender breasts, bloating, and headaches.
In very rare cases, fertility drugs may lead to Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS), in which too many eggs develop in the ovaries. But the chance of this is low – only five percent. What’s more, your body will flush out the excess hormones naturally as soon as you stop taking the medication.
Why are injections needed?
You may be wondering why you have to take injections at all. Why can’t you just take a pill?
First, injections deliver drugs readily into the bloodstream, which is much more effective than oral medication.
Also, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) is a protein, just like insulin, so it can’t be taken orally. Proteins are broken down in the digestive system, so it’s not possible for them to be taken as an oral medication.
Preparing for your first injection
The best way to prepare for your course of fertility treatment is to look after yourself!
For the best chances of a successful donor cycle and retrieval, be sure to:
- Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and omega-3 fats
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, smoking, and other stimulants
- Stop any exercise other than walking
- Get the proper amount of sleep
- Drink plenty of water
Things you may want to have on hand:
- Ice packs to help reduce swelling and reactions from certain injections
- A heating pad for post-retrieval cramping and bloating
- Salty foods and Gatorade, Pedialyte, or another electrolyte-rich sports drink can help drain the fluid that builds up in the empty egg sacs left after retrieval and may help to prevent OHSS
How to make injections easier
Injections aren’t painful, but they can be a little uncomfortable. Here are some tips on how to make the shots a little more bearable:
- Staying extremely hydrated helps to reduce injection pain because the skin is tighter, making it easier for the needle to puncture.
- Ice the area for 15 minutes beforehand. This will help numb the skin.
- Pinch the skin and angle the needle at 90 degrees to prevent injecting into the muscle.
- Imagine your belly button is the center of a clock and rotate injections around it each day. This way you will never inject in the same place twice in a row.
- Breathe deeply and visualize something happy, like the faces of your Intended Parents when they meet their baby for the first time.
- Get someone to help! Your partner or a family member or friend may turn out to be a great nurse.
What you can expect during your cycle
The egg donation process takes around three months, including the time for all your clinic tests and consults with your agency and doctors.
Here’s a quick overview of what your cycle will involve:
Before your cycle
You might need to start injections before the official ‘treatment period’ begins in order to control your cycle. This will either mean injecting a GnRH agonist once a day for a week or taking birth control.
The stimulation phase
The next phase is 8-12 days of fertility injections (once per day). Your FSC case manager or your fertility specialist will let you know the best time of day to do this.
The trigger shot
Your last needle (yay!) is the hCG trigger shot. This is usually an intramuscular injection given 36 hours before the egg retrieval process.
Need more information?
If you’ve still got questions, don’t panic! Our egg donor coordinators are ready and waiting to hear from you! Many of us have already been in your shoes, so we know exactly what’s going through your mind. Get in touch!