When women opt for egg donation, they receive fertility drugs in order to maturate many eggs at the same time, instead of only one egg each month. Egg donation is done usually for the reason of IVF treatment (in vitro fertilization, the procedure involving retrieval of eggs from a woman’s ovaries and fertilizing them with a man’s sperm to allow for fertility) or for stem-cell research. When many eggs are being ripened at once instead of the normal one egg per month, ovarian hyperstimulation (excessive stimulation) can occur. With the over stimulation of the ovaries, fluid collects in the abdomen causing many symptoms.
The mature eggs are removed by surgery method called “transvaginal ultrasound aspiration”. Egg retrieval causes many side effects including:
1. Possible Infection
Any procedure involving an injection imposes a risk for infection. With egg donation, often daily subcutaneous injections are administered at the selected time and cycle. Some physicians give antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection.
2. Tender Breasts
Breasts may become enlarged and tender.
The side effects of the medications can include insomnia.
4. Nausea and Vomiting
The medications used for the procedure may cause nausea and vomiting.
5. Hot Flashes and Vaginal Dryness
Temporary menopause symptoms of hot flashes and vaginal dryness can occur.
With injections, bruising at the injection site may occur. If injection sites are rotated, there should be less bruising.
7. Temporary Pain from Injection
Egg donors may experience some temporary pain being mostly stinging at the site of the injection.
Bloating or abdominal swelling is a common side effect during egg donation, and is felt usually before and right after the egg retrieval. This is normally temporary and is caused by mild fluid retention and enlarged ovaries.
9. Temporary Weight Gain
Many pounds may be gained until the next period, mostly caused by the bloating.
10. Mood Swings
Hormonal injections may cause mood swings similar to that of menstruation.
11. Cramping and Pressure
Cramping and pressure in the area of the ovaries is a common side effect with egg donation.
12. Vaginal Bleeding
Light vaginal bleeding for one or two days after the procedure is common, but if the bleeding becomes excessive, emergency medical treatment should be sought immediately.
Some of the medications used for egg donation can cause headaches.
14. Accidental Pregnancy
With increased ovulation, an accidental pregnancy can occur.
15. Infertility and Ovary Loss
There is the possibility of the ovary twisting and cutting off its own blood supply (torsion), causing the loss of an ovary.
If ovarian hyperstimulation becomes excessive and controllable, one or both ovaries may need to be removed.
16. Organ Damage
Other organs close to the ovaries such as the bladder and uterus may get damaged.
17. Psychological Stress
The egg donor could incur psychological stress from the screening process, the medical procedure itself, and the emotional feelings that are experienced. Some of the psychological stresses that may be felt are depression, anxiety and panic.
18. Ovarian Hyperstimulation and Death
Although it is a rare occurrence, there is the possibility of fluid collecting in the abdomen and chest which could cause kidney damage, blood clots, liver failure, arterial occlusion (obstruction of a passage) and the loss of a limb, stroke, shock and death.
Although further studies are needed, some reports suggest that long-term use of fertility drugs may include the possibility of ovarian or breast cancer.
In addition, another long-term risk with egg donation is early menopause. Again, further medical studies are needed to confirm this finding.