Egg donation is a beautiful and rewarding journey. The egg donors we have worked with describe the experience of giving the gift of a child to another human being as one of the most precious experiences of their lives. One of our egg donors describes her experience below.
Starting out as an egg donorWhat will egg donation entail?
How will I tell my friends and family?
What kind of difference will this make in a couple's life?
How long is the process?
Should I be scared?
These are all questions that I asked myself when I was first contemplating whether or not I should apply to become an egg donor. I was already somewhat familiar with the IVF process but felt unclear on what would be required of me if I choose to become an egg donor. I could have easily found information over the Internet but felt that it might be biased or from an unreliable source. I figured my best bet would be to actually talk to a staff member who could give me all the answers. She clearly explained the process step-by-step and I began to feel like I had a clear idea of the process, which gave me great peace of mind.
After my profile was up on the website, I was lucky and immediately got matched with intended parents! Once I was matched, a staff member explained that I would first have to go through a psychological evaluation and genetic screening, followed by an ultrasound and blood test. The thought of having to be around needles initially made me a little queasy, but after I looked at the big picture I decided that getting over my fear of needles would be nothing compared to the gift I would be giving to a very deserving couple. Moving on from there, she explained that I would need to have a series of blood tests and ultrasounds throughout the process. More than one encounter with a needle? No problem! After the results of all my tests (psych test, genetic screening, blood tests, DNA test, and drug test) came back, I was good to go and the nurse would create a calendar for me that would lay out when I would have to take my medications, when I would have to go in for checkups, and when I would have my egg retrieval.
I have since moved past my fear of needles and I am about to start on my Lupron medication. After I start my Lupron injections (which I'll have to give to myself), I will start the stimulation medications (also injections!) and take those for approximately 2 more weeks. It should be about three weeks total of medications before my egg retrieval. The process is a little scary because of the natural fear of the unknown, but it's so exciting and rewarding at the same time!
A few small sacrifices for something special
A big question that popped into my head when I was learning about being an egg donor was “What will I need to give up?”
I was quickly told that I would need to give up caffeine, alcohol, and exercising. The alcohol part did not really phase me, but no coffee or running? Two of my favorite things! Although I felt a little disappointed at first, I then reminded myself that everything worth doing required some sacrifices. These sacrifices may be a little difficult, but they're nothing I can't deal with. It will probably be good for me to give up coffee. I may be a healthier person at the end of this process!
I’ve begun to go through some caffeine withdrawals, which isn't fun, but is certainly manageable. When I feel like I really want coffee I just remind myself that it’s only for a few weeks. I can handle anything for a few weeks. Maybe I won’t even want to drink coffee anymore after this month. I’m starting to think that I’ll come out of this experience not only healthier, but emotionally stronger. I will have stronger will power, a greater respect for my body, and the knowledge that I helped someone in a profound way. I was afraid that the more involved I became in the egg donor process the more “freaked out” I would become, but the opposite is happening, I’m becoming more and more comfortable with the injections and having my blood drawn.
Starting the stimulation medication
I’ve started the stimulation medication and I’m now taking three shots every night. The Lupron is easy to take, but I’m now having to figure out how to mix the Menopur and how to use the Gonal F pen. I was a little intimidated the first night, but after learning the proper procedure and successfully administering the two new injections, I feel confident in my ability to do this for the next twelve or so days. I felt like it would be nearly impossible for me to mix the Menopur but now that I have my routine down I’m feeling pretty good about it.
As far as discomfort from these injections goes, the needle always stings a little when it's first going in, but you quickly get over that. Luckily the needles for all three injections are very short and thin. The only discomfort I have after injecting the Lupron is that it sometimes itches a little and leaves a very small welt for a few minutes. The Gonal F sometimes stings when it's going in, but that usually fades after a few minutes. The Menopur is probably my least favorite to administer because it is more liquid going into my abdomen. It doesn’t really sting but leaves a dull pain until I massage the area long enough with a gauze pad. Even though it’s not exactly fun administering these shots, they’re really not that bad and it only takes me ten to fifteen minutes to take all of them.
One of the great aspects of this experience is that it has given me a crash course in getting over my fear of needles and injections. I now feel like an old pro at having my blood drawn. But, one thing I’ve had to start doing recently is asking the lab technician to not always draw blood from my right arm. I need to have them switch back and forth or my veins become sore. A few months ago, reading what I’ve written above would have made me want to pass out, but I’m so far past my “squeamishness” at this point - it's great!
I’m beginning to become bloated and I think that the Lupron may be giving me mild headaches. I have a large number of follicles and many of my eggs are growing quite big. I love watching the monitor while I’m having my ultrasounds; it’s so interesting to see how my eggs are growing from one checkup to the next. The bloating is a little bothersome but it just gives me a great excuse to take it easy and honor what my body is telling me. The headaches usually subside after an hour or two, but if they try to hang on a couple of Tylenol usually do the trick. I’m pleasantly surprised that these are my only side effects so far. I’m sure the bloating will become more intense but its only in my lower abdomen, so you can barely see it. The rest of my body looks the same as always. I definitely don't look pregnant, I just feel like it occasionally. Besides the fifteen minutes I need to set aside for my injections every evening and the time spent going for my checkups, this process hasn’t really changed my day-to-day life in any negative way.
Getting ready for the retrieval
I’m nearing the end of the process and am hoping that I get the go ahead to take my “trigger” shot someday soon. I have an estimated retrieval date that I was given at the beginning of my cycle, but I guess everything depends on the size of my eggs and the results from my blood tests. Once I take my “trigger” shot, I’ll have to have the egg retrieval 36 hours later. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this happens soon. I have scheduled one week off from work after my estimated retrieval date so I have time to rest. If the retrieval date gets pushed back I won't have as much time to heal and relax. We’ll see what happens!
Day 1 of coasting:
I had my check up today and just heard back from the doctor’s office. They are not going to have me take the “trigger” shot tonight but are going to “coast” me. This means that I will not take the stimulation medication but will only take the Lupron injection. I’m a little disappointed but knew that it was a possibility that my retrieval date may be moved back a day or so. One less day that I will have to rest!
Day 2 of coasting:
I had another checkup today and they’re STILL not having me take the “trigger” shot! My eggs are incredibly large and becoming a little uncomfortable, but my main concern is that I won’t have enough time to rest before going back to work. They say that my estradiol level is too high and if I take the “trigger” shot now I would have a higher chance of hyperstimulation, I don’t want that to happen! I’m praying that my estradiol level goes down by tomorrow.
Day 3 of coasting:
More bad news today. My estradiol level went up even higher! Apparently it is extremely rare for someone to “coast” as long as I have, but until the estradiol level goes down it’s not safe for me to have the egg retrieval. The nurse said that she has only seen a few other cases like this. I wouldn’t be too concerned about this if I had plenty of time to rest after the procedure but at this point I’ll barely have a full day to rest after the procedure! What this is making me realize is that next time I an egg donor I need to allow two weeks of recovery for myself after my estimated retrieval date so I don't get stuck in this tough situation again. It should also be easier next time because the doctor will know how I responded to the meds during my first cycle, so they can adjust them accordingly to make sure my second cycle is a little more predictable. They HAVE to let me take the “trigger” shot tomorrow!
Day 4 of coasting:
I started crying after I received the news that they are going to “coast” me for yet another night. The tears mainly came because I’m hormonal right now, but I’m still so frustrated at the situation. There really isn’t anything anybody could have done differently because no one knew how my body would respond to the meds my first time around. Still frustrating. They’re having me “coast” because my estradiol level keeps rising. When will it stop?! The doctor said that he will have me take the trigger shot as soon the estradiol level comes down at all. Tomorrow has to be the day, I can feel it.
Finally! I almost cried tears of joy when I heard that they are going to have me take the “trigger” shot tonight. My estradiol level took a dramatic drop and everything is back in motion. There aren't words to describe the relief I feel. I have been SO tense the past few days. They sent me my instructions, so I am ready to take that shot at exactly 11pm tonight. They explained that I had to take the shot promptly at 11pm for my body to be ready for the egg retrieval in 36 hours.
I had to have my blood drawn today for them to have conformation that the trigger shot was in my body. No ultra sound today, we already know how massive my eggs are! I need to check in at 10am tomorrow morning, I’m so excited that the process is almost complete! It has been very fulfilling. The Intended Parents must be excited as well! I’m having my mom take me and we are already getting prepared for my swift recovery. We have a case of Coconut water to keep me hydrated and bought an assortment of healthy food. They told me that I need to eat protein, stay hydrated, and get plenty of rest. I’m looking forward to having a great excuse to just rest.
So I had my retrieval and it went fairly well. It was a very easy process. I checked in at 10am, filled out some paperwork, and changed into my very stylish open-backed gown. The nurse drew some blood and injected some numbing medication where the needle would go for the anesthesia. She then hooked me up to the IV and because of the numbing medication I couldn’t even feel the needle. The doctor came in and checked on me and before I knew it I was in the room where the retrieval would take place and was out on anesthesia. It’s a weird sensation going under anesthesia. First I felt a tingling sensation in my arm, then a buzzing in my head, and next thing I knew I was waking up in the recovery room feeling pretty good. I had some cramping, but because I still had plenty of pain medication in my system it wasn’t that bad. They made me feel very comfortable and taken care of and my mom was quickly with me giving me someone to chat with. I felt very chatty after the anesthesia! Because my cramping continued they gave me a shot of Demerol in my hip. Surprisingly it didn’t hurt at all because of the other pain meds in my system but it was a very strange sensation. It definitely eliminated all my cramps. I then had the fun experience of riding downstairs in a wheel chair, hopped in the car with my mom, and was on my way home. I was drowsy for the rest of the day, but never felt nauseous or sick. It was an easy day.
Unfortunately, I had to go back to work a day and a half after my retrieval so I didn’t have much time to rest. My stomach was a little full with fluid but I didn’t have much trouble. The one thing I quickly learned was that eating a full meal made me uncomfortably full so I had to stick with small snacks. I also learned that the pain medications caused some constipation, so I made sure to drink lots of fluids and eat a good amount of fruits and vegetables. Because I couldn't get an adequate amount of rest after the procedure, I did start to have a fluid buildup but all it did was cause some pressure in my stomach, nothing painful. I would send the nurse a daily update so they were aware of how I was recovering. I did have to go back in for an ultrasound and blood test but everything looked normal, except for the fluid.
The fluid buildup is now decreasing and I’m starting to feel normal. Now that I know how my body reacts to the egg retrieval I will make sure I have at least a week to rest after my next retrieval. It’s a great excuse to just give myself a break!
Life after the egg retrieval
I’ve been fully recovered from my egg retrieval for over a week now and I feel great! My period started sooner than expected and I was able to start exercising again. It was amazing how easy it was to get back into my old exercise routine. I took it easy the first few days to make sure I did not over exert myself and I waited a week to start abdominal work outs, but I was surprised at how well my body responded. I had no abdominal cramping and I feel great. After cutting out alcohol and coffee for almost a month I don’t crave it anymore!
I feel like I’ve had an unintentional body cleanse. I never thought I would feel healthier after this process, but I do! I already have another couple that’s interested in me and I should be able to start in a month or two. Stay posted!
Egg donor tips
Before you start the cycle
- Make sure you schedule two weeks (or at least a week) to rest after your estimated retrieval date.
- Start to wean yourself off alcohol and coffee.
- Make sure you’re eating a very healthy diet (lots of fruits, vegetables, and protein).
- If possible, try to put off scheduling anything that might cause you stress while you are going through your cycle and recovering.
- Make sure you clear any appointments that will conflict with your scheduled doctor’s appointments.
- Make sure you are very clear about how to administer your medication and when you need to take the medication.
During your cycle
- Make sure you stay away from coffee, alcohol, and any medications not cleared by your doctor.
- Set aside time every evening to administer your medication, make sure it is a period of time when you will not get distracted, and try to administer your medication at the same time every night (or as directed).
- Continue eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and protein. Make sure you’re getting enough fiber and liquids!
- Do not do any strenuous activity.
- Let yourself relax and enjoy the process!
Post egg retrieval
- Let yourself rest, rest, rest!
- Continue with your high fiber and high protein diet.
- Drink liquids that have a good amount of electrolytes (coconut water was my go to liquid).
- Call your doctor if you have any questions about how you’re feeling.
- Make sure you go to your follow-up appointment!
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is there a stigma about egg donation?
Southern California Fertility Center registered nurse and third-party coordinator Cheryl Hatkoff talks about the stigma.
How many times can a woman donate her eggs?
Cheryl Hatkoff, a registered nurse coordinator from Southern California Reproductive Center, outlines how many times a woman can donate.
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