Egg Donation programs are great for many different types of families. According to Resolve.com, about 12% of married women have difficulty getting pregnant. This is roughly 1 in 8 couples. Because of this, many are turning to egg donation to grow their families. This is rewarding for egg donors as they get the opportunity to help families grow. That satisfaction and the monetary stipend are great incentives, however, there are risks involved.
It’s crucial for potential donors to be aware of these risks and make informed decisions. Here’s a summary of the risks
Medication Side-Effects: It is common for donors to experience bloating, cramping, and discomfort during the egg donation process. Other possible side effects include sharp pains, nausea, constipation, headaches, mood swings, and fatigue. Some donors may also experience bruising and discomfort.
Short-Term Risk: Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) is a significant risk in egg donation. It occurs when the ovaries become enlarged and fluid accumulates in the abdominal cavity. The severity of OHSS can vary:
Mild OHSS (10-30% of donors): Symptoms can be managed with additional fluids, pain medications, and rest. Recovery may take 4-5 days, and common symptoms include nausea, sharp pains, temporary weight gain, and overall discomfort.
Moderate OHSS (5-10% of donors): Requires follow-up care by a fertility clinic and may involve a short trip to the emergency room for IV fluids, pain management, or fluid removal. Donors may experience severe discomfort for 3-7 days, and treatment may involve pain medications and aspiration/removal of fluid from the abdomen.
Severe OHSS (1% of donors): Requires immediate medical attention, starting with an emergency room visit and subsequent hospital admission for 1-4 days. Treatment and observation are provided in the hospital setting.
Cyst Formation: The use of medications during egg donation can lead to the development of large cysts. Most cysts disappear without intervention. In rare cases (less than 1%), cysts can cause discomfort that may require hospitalization. If a cyst ruptures, emergency surgery may be necessary to stop bleeding, and in rare cases, it could result in the loss of an ovary or ovaries (0.1% of cycles).
Long-Term Risk: Currently, there are no long-term studies specifically focused on the effects of egg donation on future health. The long-term risks remain unknown, and it’s important to consider this aspect when making a decision. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), which governs assisted reproductive technology, has guidelines and articles addressing risks associated with egg donation.
Psychological Risk: Egg donation can entail potential psychological risks, such as ambivalence or regret, which may occur around the time of the procedure or even years later. Donors should be aware of the potential emotional impact and consider seeking support or counseling if needed. All egg donors at Egg Donor Solutions (EDS) will undergo a psychological evaluation as part of the medical screening and testing phase once they have matched with their intended parents. The donor’s participation in the psychological evaluation benefits both the donor and the intended parents. For the donor, it helps her make an informed decision about egg donation and provides the opportunity to explore how it may impact her and her family, both presently and in the future. For the intended parents who receive the results of the psychological evaluation, it personalizes the donor to them, allowing them to get to know her as a person. It also provides reassurance for the intended parents because they can feel confident in knowing the donor is reliable, has the appropriate motivation, and has consented to the requirements of the cycle
Procedural Risks: Like any medical procedure, there is a risk of serious complications associated with egg donation. The incidence of serious complications is estimated to be 1 in 1,000 and can include internal bleeding, blood transfusion, organ infection, and risks associated with anesthesia.
Fertility Drug’s side effects: There are side effects to almost every medication on the market, and fertility meds have theirs as well. But in a recent article published by ASRM, they state, ‘’.. Currently, there are no clearly documented long-term risks associated with oocyte donation, and as such, no definitive data upon which to base absolute recommendations. Furthermore, there is a paucity of long-term follow-up data for repeat oocyte donors. However, because of the possible cumulative risks to and future needs of an individual donor, as outlined in the preceding discussion, it may be reasonable and prudent to limit the number of stimulated cycles for a given oocyte donor to no more than six.” There has been a study on the risk of breast cancer linked to fertility treatments. You can read about it here.
It’s important for individuals considering egg donation to thoroughly discuss these risks with their healthcare providers, fertility clinic, or the agency facilitating the process. Understanding and weighing these risks, along with personal considerations, can help donors make informed decisions about their participation in the egg donation process.
Those choosing to participate in an egg donation process can expect to have their personal lives inconvenienced a little until after retrieval. This process takes about a month from the start of meds to the retrieval of the eggs. There will be 8-10 required visits to the doctor. Medication has to be taken regularly and on a strict schedule. This may very well affect your work or school. There is some flexibility on the timing of appointments and most clinics will work with you for the best collaboration. Even though there are inconveniences and discomforts to being an egg donor, many donors welcome the opportunity to do it again. The reward of helping create a happy family overshadows the above-mentioned risks for most.
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