The ability to create life is something that many of us take for granted. But for thousands of women and men, conceiving biological children is simply not an option — no matter how much they long to become a mom or dad. That’s where an egg donor can make dreams come true.
Egg donation is an incredible way to help a couple or individual start or grow their family. And while it requires a fair amount of time and commitment on your part, the rewards are well with it.
The egg retrieval process is a critical step in egg donation, and understanding it can help make the experience easier and more successful.
This blog post will discuss everything you need to know about the egg retrieval process, from the steps involved to the potential risks and complications associated with it. We’ll also provide some tips to help make the process as smooth and stress-free as possible.
What is egg donation?
In a nutshell, egg donation is the process of giving your eggs to someone else so they can conceive a baby. To do this, you must first undergo a series of medical treatments and take hormone medications that prompt your body to produce a larger quantity of eggs than would normally develop in a single cycle. The more eggs retrieved, the better the chances of a successful transfer.
What does the egg retrieval process entail? How long does it take?
The egg retrieval process begins with a test to determine your egg count. The most common test for this is an AMH (anti-Müllerian hormone) test. You’ll have this test on the second or third day of your normal menstrual cycle so that your doctor can determine the correct dosage of fertility medications for your body.
You’ll then begin taking your fertility medications, which will include both pills and injectable medications. These fertility drugs will help your body to develop multiple follicles and eggs, which is essential for the transfer process.
You will start by taking birth control pills, then begin taking self-injections of a drug called lupron for 7-14 days. The subcutaneous injections are done at home, by yourself or a partner.
Next, a follicle-stimulating hormone will be self-injected for approximately 8-10 days to grow the egg follicles. You will be monitored daily during this period to make sure your follicles are growing within an acceptable range.
When your eggs are mature, it’s time for the retrieval. The egg retrieval process is done under sedation, so you won’t feel a thing. A doctor will remove your eggs from your uterus via transvaginal ultrasound aspiration (a needle attached to a catheter) and then send them for evaluation by an embryologist.
This entire egg donation process takes around two months from start to finish, with the actual retrieval lasting only a few minutes.
Are there any risks or side effects?
As with any medical procedure, egg donation comes with a few potential side effects. The good news is that these are minimal, and there are no long-term health risks.
Some possible risks and side effects may include:
Your fertility drugs will increase your estrogen levels, which can cause some short-term side effects, such as irritability, mood swings, bloating, fatigue, and other PMS-type symptoms.
Increased risk of pregnancy
Medication will increase your fertility, so you’ll have a higher risk of getting pregnant if you have unprotected sex during your medicated cycle. For this reason, egg donors are asked to abstain from sexual intercourse from the time they start the hormone medication until three weeks after their egg retrieval.
Hormone injections can increase your appetite and fluid retention, which can result in a slight weight gain. This is generally temporary.
Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS)
This is rare, but it’s still something to be aware of. Ovarian Hyper-Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS) can result when too many eggs develop in the ovaries due to taking fertility drugs. The chances are only around five percent because excess hormones are flushed out of your body as soon as you stop taking the medication. [
Symptoms of OHSS include abdominal pain, pain near your ovaries, nausea and/or diarrhea. If you have any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.
Ovarian torsion is even rarer than OHSS: around 0.2 %. It occurs when ovaries swell and begin to twist, which can cause severe pain. Surgery is usually required.
Pelvic infection can occur following egg retrieval if there’s any bacterial contamination, but again, this is rare.
Severe side effects are rare, and the symptoms of most side effects should only last while you are taking injections; however, if you experience any symptoms severe enough to impact your daily activities, you should contact your doctor immediately.
What should I expect as I recover from my egg retrieval?
Most women recover from the egg retrieval process relatively quickly, but it’s a good idea to take things easy in the 1-2 days afterward. Avoid physical activity or heavy lifting, and take a couple of days off work. Low-impact exercise such as a walk is fine.
You may experience some abdominal discomfort following your egg retrieval, such as mild cramping, bloating, or a feeling of fullness. You may also have some bloody discharge (like a light period) or constipation. This is all quite normal and will pass within a couple of days. However, if you feel pain or severe discomfort or develop a fever, be sure to get medical attention.
How to treat discomfort
In general, most symptoms can be managed at home with over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or Tylenol.
Keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of filtered water or gatorade. This will also help to prevent constipation. A heating pad can help with cramps or bloating.
Rest up, and you’ll likely feel completely normal again within a day or two.
If your discomfort persists or worsens, do not hestitate to contact your doctor.
What happens to my eggs after the egg retrieval?
Immediately after retrieval, your eggs will either be frozen for later use or combined with sperm from either the Intended Father or a donor in order to create embryos.
The newly-created embryo is then transferred to the uterus of the Intended Mother or a Surrogate. Generally, any remaining embryos will be frozen for potential siblings or donated as a way to “pay it forward” to another hopeful parent.
Learn more about becoming an Egg Donor with Family Source
As an egg donor for Family Source Consultants, you’ll be looked after by our dedicated team every step of the way. If the egg donation process is something you’d like to know more about, get in touch! The FSC team loves to hear from potential egg donors.