The egg donor process takes far more time from initiation to completion than sperm donation. Although both sperm and egg donation include medical and psychological screening and legal contracts, that is where the similarities end. Typically, the time frame for starting the egg donation process to aspiration takes 3-4 months, and that excludes any complications. It is, therefore, highly doubtful that ANY first-time egg donor will complete the process in less than 3 months so patience can be a virtue.
This time frame remains the same regardless of whether she is a sister or close relative or when the intended parents waive many of the steps discussed below.
Understandably, if the egg donor is a family member or close friend, all parties may agree to forgo a lengthy questionnaire. This could be the right choice for an egg donor who is a blood relative; however, by completing an application, the egg donor shows commitment to the process and gives her valuable time to carefully examine her decision to donate. An application allows everyone to refer to the document for information or to correct misunderstandings.
It may seem obvious, but there is no point in completing an application if you do not carefully review it! There may be things you did not realize or were unaware of that need further follow-up.
The Medical Workup
Usually, on day 3 of the egg donor’s menstrual cycle, the fertility doctor will perform a physical examination and ultrasound to check the number of antral follicles developing in each ovary and order various hormone blood tests. The typical tests are social disease testing, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), and Estradiol (E2). A newer test, anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) may be ordered as those levels are useful in predicting ovarian reserve (basically, how many eggs can be expected to be retrieved).
For a full understanding of the technical verbiage above 😊 and the role of these hormones, please see our Articles: In Vitro Fertilization Terminology and Understanding Reproductive Hormones.
The egg donor will be asked to speak with a psychologist to ensure she fully understands the benefits and risks of egg donation and has proper motivations for becoming an egg donor. The mental health professional will also request that the egg donor participates in standardized psychological testing. The counselor uses the testing tool to identify personality style, psychopathology, potential behavior problems such as drug abuse, addiction, hostility towards authority figures, stresses in her life, and her ability to be truthful and forthcoming.
A legal contract between the intended parents and egg donor will be essential to establish the parties’ rights, duties, intent, and parental rights.
Cycle Begins & Egg Retrieval
During the treatment phase of the cycle, the egg donor should be prepared to make 4-6 visits to a fertility clinic for monitoring, blood work, and vaginal sonograms to monitor her egg development. The egg retrieval process takes about 15-30 minutes, and the egg donor is sedated. The aspiration is done vaginally, without incision or the need for stitches. The egg donor will rest in the clinic recovery room for about an hour after the procedure. Typically, 15-20 eggs are retrieved. The egg donor is then ready to return home. It is highly recommended that the egg donor takes the rest of the day to relax at home but can usually return to work or normal activities the following day.
Like any medical procedure, there could be risks involved in the egg donation process, either physical or mental, all of which should be fully explained in advance to the egg donor via the psychologist and fertility doctor. While there are currently “no known risks” associated with egg donation itself, what this means is that there is a current lack of ‘data’ to indicate one way or another, so this distinction should be made clear to any egg donors.
Author: Karen Synesiou, Infertility Portal, Inc.