Eggs and sperms make the basic building blocks of life and couples who lack healthy eggs and/or sperms come across problems in conception. However, advancement of medical techniques has brought solution for the most complicated infertility issues, including this one. Egg donation is a ground breaking technique which has brought a ray of hope for countless couples who would never have even dreamt of parenthood before.
Egg donation, as the name suggests, refers to the process whereby a woman donates her eggs for being used in assisted reproduction, typically IVF, to help a childless couple conceive successfully. In certain cases, these eggs can be used for medical research. Egg donation is a complicated procedure, which involves a minor surgery and has its emotional, legal and financial implications too. Therefore, it is vital for the donors as well as recipients to know all about it.
Since a woman who donates her eggs is at the receiving end of the medical procedure and also has to handle the emotions related to it, her perspective needs to be given careful attention.
Egg Donation: From the Donor’s Perspective
When a couple comes to know that they cannot conceive naturally because the woman cannot produce eggs at all or her eggs are not viable enough to grow into a healthy pregnancy, the truth can be devastating for them. The reasons could be varied, ranging from advanced maternal age to premature menopause, genetic conditions or the woman having some other medical problem.
But hope makes its way in the form of a woman who is willing to provide them with eggs to give them a chance……their egg donor! She could be a friend, a family member or someone anonymous, but the couple needs be careful in choosing the egg donor.
Who is eligible to become an egg donor?
For a woman to become an egg donor, it is essential that she fulfills certain criteria to ensure that her eggs can grow into viable embryos, with considerable chances of the IVF being converted to fruitful pregnancy.
- She should be of healthy childbearing age; clinics may differ in opinion in this regard, though women in their twenties are regarded as good candidates for supplying healthy eggs for IVF
- She should not be suffering from any genetic or hereditary conditions
- She should also not have medical complications, including sexually transmitted diseases and psychological conditions
- Recipients also need to verify the potential donor’s social history, making background checks related to smoking, alcoholism and drug abuse
For ensuring that a woman is qualified to become a healthy egg donor, clinics recommend complete physical and psychological examination as well as medical screening of the candidates. While some patients prefer to find donors with the help of specialized egg donation clinics, others look for them on their own, to avoid being queued up for long waiting intervals.
What does the donor has to go through during the procedure?
Egg donation can be a physically challenging and emotionally draining experience for the donor. It is but natural for the recipient couple to be excited about the procedure because they expect to be blessed with progeny at the end of the treatment, but donors need motivation to go ahead with it because they give more than they get.
The first step, after finalizing the donor, is to cover up the legal implications of egg donation, as things have to be very clear between the two parties before the procedure is carried forward. Terms such as the financial consideration, cost of treatment and future relationship between the donor and the child, are to be put in a contract, even if the donor is a close friend or family, so that there are no complications in the future. The egg donation contract needs to give an explicit statement that the donor has no parental rights over the child.
After the legal ends are tied up, the process moves ahead just like a conventional IVF, with the donor’s ovaries being stimulated with the help of hormonal treatment. The difference here is that her cycle has to be synchronized with that of the recipient and the latter too, will be subjected to hormone therapy for the same. This ensures that the recipient’s uterus is best aligned for implantation of the embryo once it is transferred therein.
Next comes, egg retrieval, one of the most testing phases of the procedure for the donor. Before the retrieval, the donor has to undergo a number of tests to ensure that she is making sufficient and healthy eggs for donation. Egg retrieval is a minimally invasive, outpatient surgical procedure, during which the donor is subjected to local anesthesia. She is to rest for a day or two after the egg retrieval.
The male sperms are extracted the same day and combined with donor eggs under IVF treatment conditions. After being cultured for 3 to 5 days, the embryo so formed is transferred in the uterus of the recipient. Here, the recipient has to ensure that she is in the best health at this time, so that the chances of a successful implantation are maximized.
What are the risks for egg donors?
Egg donation can not only help a donor make some money but also give them emotional satisfaction of being able to give the gift of parenthood to a couple in despair. However, the process is not risk free for her because it can cause both, physical complications as well as emotional issues.
The hormonal medicines given to the donor might have some side effects such as sleeplessness, hot flashes, headaches and depression. Ovarian hyper stimulation is a rare condition in which the donor might experience painful swelling in her ovaries. Nausea, abdominal pain, shortness of breath and mild bleeding post-egg retrieval may be some other side effects that the donor might come across. More serious implications like bladder injury and infections can also happen, but their chances are very slim. The recipient too is subjected to certain risks such as that of multiple pregnancies and birth defects.
All the costs of egg donation are borne by the recipient couple and needless to say, this speaks for the medical expenses of the donor too. Also she is given a fixed fee for the procedure and it is normally mentioned in their mutual contract. Despite the monetary considerations, egg donation is undoubtedly a noble deed as it brings hopes for the hopeless.