How the egg donation process works
You are a healthy young woman between the age of 19 and 33 and you have seen an advertisement or have somehow become aware of egg donation. Perhaps you have a relative or friend who has been unable to conceive and you’ve witnessed her plight and heartbreak firsthand. Or maybe you know a fabulous same sex couple or a singleton that also yearns to have a child.
No matter how you became aware or why you were initially inspired to donate, here is what you can expect once you embark on this journey as an egg donor.
First, you have to fill out a detailed application form at your preferred donor agency (make sure you are with an agency that is first class). Typical information you would have to disclose includes your physical traits such as your height, weight, eye colour, natural hair colour; personality traits; your educational history; medical history; etc.
You’ll also be required to supply photographs of yourself as a baby, a toddler and a young child (up to the age of ten). Once you have been selected to be on the agency’s database of registered donors, this information and the photographs is what the prospective recipients of your donor eggs will have access to. The donor agency may also expect you to provide a recent photograph of yourself for their own records, but since egg donors remain anonymous in South Africa, the prospective donor egg recipients will never get to see a photograph of you as an adult or find out what your real name and contact details are.
If the agency accepts you based on your application form, you’ll have a face to face meeting with an agency coordinator to discuss moving forward. This is one of many opportunities you will get to ask all the questions you want to ask, and to discuss once again exactly what is involved in the donation process.
If you are still keen, your profile is added to the donor agency’s database and prospective recipients will immediately start viewing your profile information.
Once a donor recipient decides that YOU are the chosen one based on your profile – and this can take anything from days or weeks to months – you will have two initial appointments at the fertility clinic, one with the fertility specialist and one with the psychologist. Once the clinic receives all the results and is all is found to be in order, you will be put on a contraceptive pill for the next 6 – 8 weeks (provided that you are not already on one.)
The actual donation process will therefore begin approximately 6 – 8 weeks after that initial appointment with the doctor and psychologist.
About a week before you’ll begin treatment, you’ll have another brief appointment at the clinic to collect all your relevant medication. Please note that you as the donor do not have to pay for any of the doctor’s appointments, assessments or medication pertaining to the egg donor program. You may have to miss classes or work for some of your appointments, but doctor’s notes will be supplied for any/all visits. It is for this inconvenience and for all your petrol and you’ve made that you will receive the financial compensation of approximately R5 000.
On the first day of your menstrual cycle after you’ve begun taking the contraceptive, you will book an appointment for your Day 8 scan. On the third day, you will begin the daily hormone injections. On Day 8, you will have your first scan. From then until Day 12, you will receive the second and third scans. Depending on how well your body has responded to the hormonal treatment, you should be undergoing the egg retrieval procedure approximately 14 days after starting the treatment.
The Egg Retrieval Process
The actual procedure only takes about 20 – 30 minutes with about an hour recovery time at the clinic. The name of the procedure you will undergo is called an oocyte (egg) aspiration. During it, the doctor will pass a needle through your upper vagina into each ovary to extract the mature eggs. The doctor uses an ultrasound to guide him/her through the process. Since the eggs are only a tenth of a millimetre in size, they can be easily sucked through a needle. The eggs grow in follicles which are bubbles of water which are 2cm in size. The needle pierces the follicles and sucks the water out with the egg in it.
During the procedure, you will be placed under intravenous sedation for comfort called ‘twilight sedation’. It is a type of anaesthetic technique during which the patient is sedated, but not entirely unconscious. It is just like regular anaesthesia, in that it uses many of the same drugs (but in lower dosages) and is also designed to make the patient feel more comfortable, but it carries fewer risks. Although the patient may not be entirely asleep, but in a ‘twilight’ state or light sleep, the anaesthesia also relieves the anxiety on the part of the patient, ensures that the patient feels no pain during the procedure and creates a state of amnesia so that the patient won’t remember the procedure later on.
The drugs used in twilight anaesthesia are fast acting and quick to reverse, so patients can be woken up in a matter of minutes.
If you feel uncomfortable or anxious about the level of sedation, feel free to discuss it with the doctor and he will ensure that you are given extra medication to sedate you more.
After a brief recovery from the anaesthesia, you will be able to go home. Someone must be there to drive you home. Once at home, you should rest for the remainder of the day. Just relax and make sure that you stay hydrated.
Some donors experience some spotting and mild discomfort after the procedure (akin to menstrual cramps), but a general painkiller (such as myprodol) should provide adequate relief.
Donors who have completed the procedure will have to avoid having unprotected sex until the completion of their next menstrual cycle, since she will be extremely fertile. So if you do not want a pregnancy of your own just yet, just remember: no glove, no love!
Over the next few weeks, the donor agency will remain in touch with you to let you know whether your donation had resulted in a pregnancy or not.