One of the most frequently asked questions we receive from women considering egg donation is, “How will donating eggs affect my body?”
The fact is, the answer to this will vary from donor to donor. There are, however, a few aspects that are quite typical during the egg donor process that should be taken into consideration. From both a physical and emotional standpoint, short and long term, we will explore some of the most common things you can expect as an egg donor.
The majority of the physical changes an egg donor might experience are related to medication in the weeks leading up to the retrieval, as well as the retrieval itself. If a donor is not already on some form of birth control, specifically the pill or Nuvaring, she will be instructed to take it in the weeks leading up to the injectable medications. This is to stabilize the donor’s hormones in order to take the subsequent egg donor medications.
For about 7-10 days of the injectable medication cycle, most donors take what is called FSH, which stimulates and matures the eggs for retrieval. From there, a donor will take GnRH Antagonist for about 4-5 days; this is to prevent the premature release of hormones during the cycle. The final step is human chorionic gonadotropin, also known as the hCG “trigger shot.” This crucial step, taken about 36-40 hours before the retrieval, is what fully matures the eggs before they are retrieved.
The retrieval itself often results in some minor bloating and abdominal cramping; these symptoms typically subside within a couple days and should fade completely by the time you get your next menstrual period.
Potential side effects and how to manage them
While you won’t be able to see the internal physical changes (though the ultrasound will certainly pick them up), it’s possible that you may experience some physical side effects. Birth control can potentially cause nausea, breast tenderness, temporary weight gain, mood changes and decreased libido.
Side effects from the injectable medication can be similar, with bloating, mood changes, hot flashes, headaches, fatigue and temporary weight gain as the most common side effects. Rarely, they can lead to injection skin site reactions, ovarian twisting or Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS). As you approach the retrieval and take your final “trigger shot,” you may experience mood changes, hot flashes or headaches. Keep in mind that one of the major priorities of your regular monitoring appointments is watching how your body is responding to the medication. If there is any sign that you are over (or under) responding to the medication, the cycle will be cancelled.
One of the simplest ways to help manage any physical side effects from egg donation is allowing for plenty of rest. Your body is working hard to produce extra eggs during this time, and you may naturally feel more fatigued. Put the brakes on any vigorous physical activity - you will be instructed by your nurse coordinator on exactly what this means for you, but in general you’ll want to limit exercise to walking and light stretching while you’re taking the injections. Plan to take the day off from work or school for the actual retrieval; while some women feel “back to normal” right away, most find that allowing for a full day of rest makes their overall recovery much smoother.
Fortunately, the long term impact of egg donation appears to be positive. According to a study over the course of 11 years that was recently published by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), most donors report continuing good health following egg donation.
While we explored the physical changes that could be brought on by egg donation, it’s important to address the emotional changes as well. Some of these are actually similar - mood changes, for example, can be brought on by the medications and are extremely common. However, you’ll find that they dissipate soon after the retrieval.
Other emotional changes you might experience as a donor are often related to stress. Some women find that they struggle initially with time management and isolation, and that can make the process feel daunting. Add in the influx of hormones, and it can be a challenging time if left untreated.
Potential side effects and how to manage them
By prioritizing your emotional wellbeing as much as your physical wellbeing, many of these emotional side effects can be managed. Before you even become an egg donor, consider your support system. Are there a few people in your life you can discuss your plan with? Who can you count on to offer you some moral support and encouragement? Keep in mind that your clinic nurse coordinator and ConceiveAbilities Match Manager are also available to answer questions and provide support throughout your journey.
While egg donation may cause you to experience some physical and emotional changes, know that most are minor and very temporary. If you are ready to learn more about the egg donor process and discuss any questions or concerns, our egg donor team is here to help. Contact us today!
By Kate Summers
Kate Summers is a part-time writer, full-time mom, grad student and lifelong learner. After wearing a variety of hats in the fertility field, she is now working to become a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) to support everything from infertility to pregnancy loss to postpartum needs.
All Things Conceivable is a blog dedicated to sharing the knowledge and expert opinions of the dedicated team at ConceiveAbilities, a Chicago-based egg donation and surrogacy agency.