Egg donation gives women unable to conceive with their oocytes the opportunity to gestate an embryo, fulfilling their desire to become a mother. Given its high success rate, the demand for this technique has been increasing in recent years. Egg donation makes up a growing percentage of all assisted reproduction technologies performed worldwide.
Egg donation is a safe procedure. However, donors undergoing this technique should consider several side effects and risks that might appear throughout the process.
Medication side effects
Before the oocyte retrieval, egg donors must follow a hormone medication treatment to stimulate their ovaries and increase the number of available mature eggs they will create. Egg donors may experience mild transient side effects from this medication, which include temporary stinging at the site of the injection, headaches, mood swings, nausea, bloating, or temporary weight gain.
In rare cases, a donor can develop a condition called Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS). OHSS happens because of an excessive response to the follicle stimulation hormone (FSH) the donor takes, causing an enlargement of the ovary. In less severe cases, symptoms can include acute abdominal pain, severe swelling of the abdomen, nausea, and diarrhea. Severe OHHS can cause serious damage to the ovaries. It may also lead to an increased susceptibility to develop thromboembolic phenomena, breathing difficulties or renal failure.
Although the symptoms can be severe, this complication for ovarian stimulation typically appears in less than five percent of egg donation cycles. The risk of hyperstimulation is minimized thanks to the close monitoring of the egg donors during the whole process. If the donor shows symptoms consistent with OHHS, the physician will either immediately reduce the medication dosage or will terminate the egg donor cycle to avoid medical complications.
Potential surgical risks associated with oocyte retrieval
After the donor gives herself medication to induce ovulation, the doctor retrieves the mature eggs from the follicles using ultrasound guidance. He directs a needle through the vaginal wall and aspirates mature follicles from the ovary. This procedure, which is minimally invasive, is performed under mild sedation.
Women undergoing oocyte retrieval can experience some temporary discomfort, but most of them return to their normal activities the following day. The incidence of surgical complications arising from oocyte retrieval is very low. Nevertheless, both the anesthesia used and the procedure carry potential risks. There is a possibility of complications, such as vaginal bleeding, intra-abdominal bleeding, intestinal injuries, and peritonitis. Occasionally, ovarian torsion may occur, when the ovary twists around its supporting tissues. This twisting can cut off the blood supply and lead to tissue death.
The long-term health impact of egg donation might be a concern for potential donors. A common misconception is that the treatment can lead to the development of cancer later in life. Nonetheless, data from the studies conducted do not show any definitive link between egg donation and an increased probability of developing cancer, fertility problems, or any other significant long-term medical consequences.
From a psychological perspective, most women claim to have had positive experiences with egg donation. On the other hand, some former egg donors may have concerns about the children resulting from their donation or may encounter psychological issues about having genetic progeny. According to studies, few women express dissatisfaction with their experience or seem to regret their decision to donate. A proper egg donor screening process can help avoid these circumstances.
There are some risks inherent in egg donation, just like in any medical procedure or treatment. Before a woman can undergo egg donation, it is necessary to ensure that the procedure will not jeopardize her health. The initial screening process includes a thorough physical and psychological evaluation of prospective egg donors. This selection lowers the risk factors and regular monitoring is performed during the cycle to prevent any potential complication that may arise.