Medical Process For Egg Donors
The medical process for egg donation consists of two phases. In the first phase – ovarian hyperstimulation – donors receive a series of hormonal drugs to cause the ovaries to produce multiple eggs during one menstrual cycle. In the second phase – egg retrieval – mature eggs are removed from the donor’s ovaries through a short in-office surgical procedure. Egg donors do not complete a full IVF cycle because they do not go through an embryo transfer procedure. Following a match, it usually takes two to three months to complete the average egg donation. However, the medical process itself usually takes about five to six weeks from starting birth control pills.
The following is based on our experience for a typical egg donation cycle and is intended for general information purposes only. Doctors use different protocols and you must talk to the IVF doctor to understand what will be involved in your treatment plan.
STEP 1: MEDICAL SCREENING
After you have been selected for a match, you will go to the IVF doctor’s office for your medical screening, usually a day or two after starting your menstrual cycle. The doctor will collect a medical history and conduct a physical exam, including a pelvic exam and pap smear, vaginal ultrasound to assess the quality and quantity of your eggs, a pregnancy test, and blood tests. You must pass an FDA-required round of testing for infectious diseases and you will also be tested for certain genetic diseases. Medical screening usually takes three to four hours and, if you are from out-of-state, may require an overnight stay. You will travel alone for this trip.
STEP 2: MENSTRUAL CYCLE & HORMONE SUPPRESSION
Treatment usually starts on the first or second day of your menstrual cycle closest to the proposed retrieval date. You will be placed on birth control pills for two to four weeks to regulate your hormone levels and limit the development of cysts. Three to five days after stopping the birth control pills, you will move to the stimulation phase.
STEP 3: OVARIAN STIMULATION
During ovarian stimulation, you will self-administer daily injections of fertility medications (usually Follistim or Gonal-f) for 10 to 12 days to stimulate your ovaries to produce multiple mature eggs rather than the single egg that normally develops each month. You will be shown how to give yourself these injections (usually in the thigh or belly), which are simple to administer. Common side effects are mood swings, breast tenderness, abdominal bloating, and/or headaches.
During this phase, you will be closely monitored through ultrasound and blood work to determine when your follicles have developed. Ovarian follicles are small fluid-filled sacks in the ovaries where the eggs grow. Each follicle typically holds one egg. You should expect to have five to six monitoring visits during this time. However, out-of-town donors are usually allowed to go to collaborating IVF centers that are local to them for these monitoring visits.
STEP 4: EGG RETRIEVAL & FERTILIZATION
Once the ultrasound scans show that the follicles are large and almost mature, you will be given a trigger shot to stimulate the eggs’ maturation. Your eggs will be retrieved about 36 hours later in a short in-office procedure.
The eggs will be retrieved transvaginally while you are asleep (I.V. sedation) using a fine, hollow needle guided by ultrasound. When mature follicles are found in the ovaries, the eggs are gently removed from the follicles through the needle by a suction device. The retrieval procedure usually takes about twenty to thirty minutes followed by one to two hours of postoperative recovery. You will be required to take the rest of the day off to recover and, because you have had anesthesia, you will need to have someone drive you home after the retrieval. In most cases, donors are back to normal in a day or two after the retrieval. You are allowed to travel with a companion for the retrieval trip.
Due to the medications, you will have increased fertility before and after the retrieval, so you should avoid sexual relations from the time you begin medications until after you start your next period following the retrieval.