Egg Donation Risks: What Are the Side Effects of Becoming an Egg Donor?
Egg donation is becoming a commonplace and routine part of fertility treatment for thousands of women, largely because the old stigmas are breaking down and public opinion is catching up with the wonders of science and medicine. If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably heard that donating your eggs can be an amazing way to help families struggling with infertility while making up to $10,000 a cycle. Once you start considering the idea seriously, though, the biggest question on your mind is probably whether it’s actually safe to be an egg donor. Is there a catch somewhere? What are the possible side effects or risks you need to keep in mind before you take the plunge?
If you’re not familiar with fertility medicine, the idea of donating eggs can sound a little science fiction, and even a bit scary. In reality, however, doctors have been doing this for a long time. The ovarian stimulation and egg retrieval process of egg donation is just the first part of an In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) cycle, and IVF has been around since the 1970s, so it is tried and tested. In the decades since the first IVF baby was born, the process has been refined, perfected, and extensively monitored for safety. For most women, going through an egg donation cycle is very safe. The donation process is actually the exact same process as IVF or freezing your eggs – the only different is you’re donating them.
Lower your risk factors with a thorough egg donor screening process
- The very first stage of any egg donation process starts with a thorough screening to make sure you are a good candidate. This is important for your own health, not just to ensure that you can produce high quality eggs.
- At the fertility clinic, the doctors will perform several blood tests and scans to check that your hormone levels are all where they should be and that your ovaries are healthy and functioning normally. These screening tests will let the doctors catch any potential problems before you start taking medication to stimulate your ovaries, which helps to remove a lot of the risk.
- There are also certain precautions you will be asked to take (refraining from drinking alcohol or having sex during the donation cycle) which will also help to lower your risk factors.
Read more about the egg donation process.
What are the risks and side effects of donating your eggs?
- Blood draws and injections
- Fertility medication side effects
- Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS)
- Egg retrieval complications
Like any medical procedure, egg donation is not 100% risk free. A good egg donation agency and fertility clinic will go out of the way to make sure that you are totally informed so that you can fully consent to everything before you begin. There are a few side effects and very rare complications that you should know about.
- Blood draws and injections: You will need several blood tests during the cycle, and you will also need to inject yourself with fertility medications. If you’ve ever had a blood test or an injection before, you know that it can be a little uncomfortable and that sometimes there can be redness or a small bruise at the site, so you should be prepared for that.
- Fertility medication side effects:The fertility medications that you will take to stimulate your ovaries are actually hormones. The good news is that they are just larger doses of substances that your body already makes, timed to put your cycle on the right schedule and in amounts that will encourage your ovaries to mature more eggs. But because you will be taking more of these hormones than usual, you may notice some mild side effects which often mimic the symptoms of PMS. Everyone reacts differently (and many women have no reaction at all!) but you could experience a bit of bloating, a headache, sore breasts, or some moodiness. Some women notice a small weight gain, but that will usually disappear after their next period. In extremely rare cases, an allergic reaction to the medication is possible.
- Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS): This rare side effect (less than a 5% chance of happening in any given cycle) happens when a woman’s ovaries over-react to the fertility medication. OHSS can cause symptoms like severe bloating, abdominal pain, and nausea. The screening tests you go through before beginning the cycle along with careful monitoring and dosing will all help lower the likelihood of developing OHSS. Most cases of OHSS are mild and will go away by themselves in about a week, but in extremely rare cases this condition can become more serious. If an egg donor experiences vomiting or shortness of breath, she should contact a doctor immediately. Lowering the dose of medication or stopping the cycle can prevent medical complications which could include damage to the ovaries.
- Egg retrieval complications: After you’ve taken the fertility medications and have received the “trigger shot” which ends the ovarian stimulation part of the process, you’ll visit the fertility clinic so that the mature eggs can be retrieved. The egg retrieval process is a short procedure which lasts about 30 minutes, and is very safe. The clinic will give you light sedation so that you won’t feel any pain and probably won’t remember the procedure at all. Afterwards, you’ll hang out in the recovery room while the nursing team keeps an eye on you for about an hour, until you feel fully awake. The anesthetic used for egg retrieval is the same kind dentists use to take out your wisdom teeth. Very rarely, patients may have an adverse reaction to the anesthetic. Bleeding or infection as a result of egg retrieval is extremely rare.
Basically, the risks and side effects of egg donation are about the same as any common, moderately invasive medical procedure, which means that it can be considered very safe in general. There are no known long-term adverse effects or health problems linked to donating your eggs. It will not affect your ability to have your own children in the future.
Giving someone the gift of a much-longed for baby while building a nest egg for yourself is an exciting prospect. With student loans and the start-up costs of adulthood rising all the time, becoming an egg donor is a pretty attractive option for altruistic, healthy young women who also want to be a part of making dreams come true. The most important thing is to be completely informed while you’re making your decision. Any agency or clinic you work with should be 100% committed to giving you all the information you need to choose whether egg donation is right for you.