Step-by-Step Guide To Becoming An Egg Donor
Most couples never think they will have trouble starting a family; yet one in seven couples of childbearing age will experience the pain of infertility. This can be a devastating experience.
Once a couple or individual decides to use an egg donor their success rate for pregnancy increases dramatically as does their chance at a live birth. Your decision to be an egg donor truly helps to create families.
To become a donor at IRMS you must first complete the confidential Online Preliminary Application. Remember to include a photo of yourself. Once received, a member of our Ovum Donation Team will review it, and if you qualify, will send you an email invite to log on to our Donor Portal to fill out our full donor application. It is also an online application for your convenience.
Initial Consultation And Screening
All donor candidates undergo a screening to determine whether or not egg donation is appropriate for them. This includes bloodwork to test the individual’s level of day 3 FSH, an indicator of whether or not she would be a suitable candidate. Other testing, such as HIV, blood type and other bloodwork, is performed. This is followed by a two-part psychological screening that includes a Personality Index Test and interviews with a nurse and mental health professional. Finally, a physician performs a medical examination.
There are two types of egg donors: known and anonymous. The known donor is usually a relative or friend of the recipient. The anonymous donor does not meet the recipient. Anonymous donors provide recipients with a medical history, educational background and psychological profile, all arranged through IRMS. After retrieval, the anonymous donor is not told whether or not the donation of her eggs resulted in a pregnancy.
Although currently anonymous, donors should be aware that in the future the legal system could reverse their anonymity. IRMS takes multiple precautions to protect the privacy of their donors.
Egg Donation Process At IRMS:
Step One: Matching Donor And Recipients
Each egg donor is notified when a match has been made with a potential recipient. At this time, the nurse and the egg donor reserve a period of time for the procedure, and IRMS orders injectable medications. The egg donor now begins a class and receives detailed instructions on how to properly administer the injectable meds they will be using. The dose of the medication, the time it is administered and the duration of treatment vary from person to person.
Step Two: Creating The Optimum Cycle
The egg donor calls the nurse as soon as her menstrual period begins. Then, with the help of birth control pills, both the donor and recipient cycles are synchronized. In order to maximize egg donation, the egg donor undergoes stimulation of her ovaries so that multiple eggs may be harvested. More than one egg is needed because not every egg will be healthy and not every healthy egg will produce a pregnancy.
Due to concerns regarding passing infectious diseases through the eggs to the recipient, the FDA now requires that we repeat some of the testing that we do at your initial evaluation around the time we start your medications. This testing will consist of a repeat physical exam, a questionnaire, blood tests and cervical cultures. If any of this testing is abnormal, the cycle may be cancelled. To reduce the risk of failing this testing, once you have applied for the donor program, please check with the nurse before traveling outside of the country. Please also avoid getting tattoos or piercings. Donation must be postponed for 1 year after obtaining a tattoo or piercing.
The medications the donor uses will depend upon the physician’s assessment of that individual donor. There are suppression medications that are taken to prevent premature release of the egg. One of these is Lupron, an injectable medication, which is overlapped with the birth control pills. Another suppression medication is a GnRH antagonist (brand names Gonal-F and Follistim), which is also an injectable medication. Gonadotropins, which stimulate multiple egg production are injected by the egg donor at home and require daily to twice daily administration. They are injected for an average of 6 to 12 days per cycle. Despite the fact that these are very powerful medications, they are usually well tolerated. Most people experience some mild side effects, such as fatigue, bloating and mild cramping. Any questions or concerns about symptoms you are experiencing should be reviewed with your IRMS nurse.
- During the stimulation cycle, IRMS recommends abstinence from intercourse, as the donor is especially fertile while on these medications. If intercourse takes place, the use of condoms and spermicides together is strongly recommended to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
- It is important to inform the Ovum Donation Team about any medications (prescription and over-the-counter), diets, nutritional supplements and herbal remedies you are taking. In general, during the donation cycle, any non-essential medications should be stopped. Please review this with the nurse prior to making any changes on your own.
- Tattooing and piercing should not be done within 1 year of egg donation to prevent the risk of transmission of hepatitis and HIV.
Step Three: Monitoring The Cycle
Once the stimulation cycle has started, the egg donor comes to an IRMS office during morning monitoring hours every 1-3 days to be evaluated for follicle maturation. This is determined by daily blood levels and ultrasound. Monitoring is performed in the morning so that the results are available by the afternoon for review by the physician. The nurse will call you at that time to make any necessary medication adjustments and to let you know when to return for more testing. Sometimes donors have other commitments that may interfere with the cycle, and it is important to inform the team fully about any conflicts. Not everyone responds the same way to the medications and the cycle schedule does not always go as planned. Once the stimulation starts, the donor must be available for monitoring every day, if necessary, until the retrieval takes place. It is usually two weeks from the beginning to the retrieval, but may take several days longer, or may occur earlier than planned.
Step Four: The Trigger Injection
A trigger injection is given to bring the eggs to final maturity and initiate the ovulation process. A Lupron trigger is routinely the drug of choice for donors and like the stimulation medications is given subcutaneously. In some circumstances the physician may prescribe hCG (brand names Pregnyl or Novarel) as the trigger medication or as a booster. This injection may not be administered by the donor. Your nurse will advise you if this injection is indicated in your specific case. All trigger medications must be taken at the exact time specified by your nurse as the egg retrieval is timed to occur 34-36 hours after the trigger injection.
The timing of the trigger injection is critical to the success of the cycle. If it is given too early or too late, it could significantly lower the chances for obtaining healthy eggs. A nurse or physician is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year through our main number: 973.322.8286. If it is after hours, please ask the answering service to page the on-call nurse or doctor.
The Final Step: Retrieving The Eggs
The night before the egg retrieval, the donor should neither eat nor drink because the procedure involves the use of intravenous anesthesia. An empty stomach increases the safety of the procedure. A full stomach may result in the cancellation of the egg retrieval. On the day of the event, each patient must be accompanied by a person who can drive her home and stay with her for 24 hours after the procedure. If a companion is not present, the procedure may be cancelled. At 34-36 hours after the administration of the trigger shot, eggs are harvested from the donor. This procedure is performed at IRMS’s operating facility on the 3rd floor of the Atkins-Kent Building (101 Old Short Hills Road) across the street from Saint Barnabas Medical Center.
Retrieval involves aspirating the fluid in the ovarian follicles with a special needle to obtain the eggs. This minor procedure, performed with the patient under anesthesia, is done in the Same Day Surgery Center by a physician using ultrasound visualization and does not require an incision.
Egg donors can return home a few hours after the egg retrieval. Safety regulations restrict the patient from driving or operating machinery after sedation. The donor should rest that day and avoid intercourse or aerobic activity. It is important the donor have a companion for the first 24 hours after egg retrieval. Although complications are unlikely, the most common time for complications to occur is during the first 24 hours after retrieval.
Intercourse should be avoided to prevent unwanted pregnancy in the donor as well as infection in the donor after retrieval.
Aftercare For The Egg Donor
To make sure that she recovers completely from the egg retrieval procedure, each donor should follow a few simple guidelines.
- Check in with IRMS within 24-48 hours after egg donation.
- Take an antibiotic the day of the retrieval and finish the entire four-day dose. Antibiotics protect against any infection.
- Get plenty of rest the day of the egg retrieval.
- Resume your regular diet, but supplement it with plenty of extra fluids.
- Be aware that you will be extremely fertile in the time before your next menstrual period and unprotected intercourse could result in pregnancy.
- Avoid aerobic or high impact activity.
- Avoid intercourse as the ovaries are fragile at this point and excessive movement of the ovaries could increase the risk for bleeding and twisting of the ovaries.
- Weigh yourself every day and call IRMS if you notice more than a 2-pound weight gain in one day.
- Monitor your urine output. If it is significantly less than the amount you are drinking or the urine becomes dark, please contact IRMS and speak with a nurse.
- Please call a nurse at IRMS should any pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, or bleeding occur.
- Make sure that you have a companion stay with you for the first 24 hours after retrieval. This is a requirement for your safety.
- Call IRMS immediately should any complications occur.
Donors can expect to begin menstruation approximately 14 days after egg retrieval. At this time, the donor should call the nurse to schedule a Day 3 ultrasound appointment at IRMS. This final step ensures that the ovaries have returned to normal size.
Donor compensation checks are mailed to your address of record and are usually received by you approximately 10-14 days after egg retrieval. All donors who have completed the retrieval process receive a compensation check for $9,500.
Following their initial donor cycle some donors seek to donate again and many IRMS donors do ultimately donate multiple times. If you seek to become a repeat donor with us please reach out to your IRMS nurse.