Egg Donation FAQ

Egg donation offers new hope for a large number of women who previously thought they could never have children. It is for women who have lost their ovaries or the function of their ovaries. This could be because the ovaries never developed properly, e.g. Turner syndrome, or it could be caused by cancer, surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy. It can also be due to early menopause. In addition, many older women undergoing fertility treatment may have a better chance of achieving pregnancy if they use the eggs from a younger donor.

A woman receiving treatment with donated eggs is referred to as the recipient, and the technique by which the eggs are donated involves in vitro fertilization (IVF). In IVF donated eggs are fertilized outside the body by the sperm of the recipient’s partner and an embryo is then transferred to the womb of the recipient. If all goes well, a normal pregnancy develops and the patient will have the chance of having a baby.

Common Egg Donation Questions

Here are some answers to the most asked questions to help you better understand the egg donation and procedure:

Is egg donation compensated?

In Canada it is illegal to pay someone for their eggs or for a donor to sell her eggs. It is, however, permitted for a recipient to reimburse the expenses of a donor.

Does the Montreal Fertility Centre match donors with recipients?

We do not match donors and recipients. If a woman wants to donate her eggs to a specific recipient then we can offer consultations to both the donor and recipient. At this initial consultation the required testing for each party will be explained in detail. We will also explain the treatment process and the potential risks.

How many visits will I have to make to the centre?

Under normal circumstances there will be 5-6 visits involved. The first involves a consultation with the doctor who will record your full family and medical history as well as explain the potential medical and surgical complications of the procedure. Please be prepared to discuss any medical problems that run in your family, e.g. cancer, heart disease, dementia, etc. The physician will also discuss with you the social, ethical and legal aspects of egg donation. During that visit you may also have a vaginal ultrasound scan to evaluate your ovaries and a blood test. A consultation with a psychologist will also be arranged. A separate visit will be arranged to discuss the results of your tests and your suitability to become a donor. It is then left to your discretion as to when you wish to donate. Other visits will occur during the actual treatment cycle.

How does egg donation work?

In a menstrual cycle usually only one egg becomes fully mature. Although it is possible to donate this one mature egg, we prefer to give egg donors fertility medications so that more than one mature eggs is produced. Egg development is monitored by ultrasound scanning, which allows us to see the ovaries containing the eggs on a television screen. When the eggs are mature we collect them using a needle. This is a very short procedure which takes approximately 10-15 minutes to complete. A needle is passed through the vaginal wall under ultrasound guidance and each egg is removed. Egg collection is done under intravenous sedation and local anesthesia.

Will I be put under general anesthesia for egg retrieval?

No. We use intravenous (IV) sedation. Generally, egg collection causes only mild discomfort similar to menstrual cramps. However, occasionally donors experience discomfort during the procedure and in the evening following the procedure. Also, you may experience the following short-term side effects: nausea, vomiting, sleepiness, bloating and spotting. We always perform the egg collections in the morning, and we advise you to stay home, off work, for the rest of the day. You are also required to be picked up by someone following the egg donation and mustn’t drive for 24 hours.

What happens to my eggs after donation?

Your eggs will be placed together in a dish with the recipient’s sperm in the incubator. The dish will be inspected the following day to see whether the sperm have fertilized the eggs. If they have, the resulting embryos will be left to grow for 3-5 days, and then 1-2 embryos will be transferred into the recipient’s womb. If there are other high quality embryos available then these may be frozen. Roughly two weeks after the egg collection the recipient will have a pregnancy test to determine if the IVF procedure was successful.

What medications will I be given?

In general, donors will be prescribed three forms of medication. The first are gonadotropins (follicle stimulating hormone, FSH). This is a course of 8-11 daily subcutaneous injections. These injections contain the same hormones that naturally stimulate the ovary but are more highly concentrated, thus allowing more than one egg to mature. Ultrasound monitoring will be done every 3-4 days to follow the ovary’s response to the injections. Approximately five days after starting FSH we will add a second injectable medication (a GnRH antagonist, e.g. Orgalutran or Cetrotide) to prevent ovulation. Thirty-six hours before egg collection donors will be given a third injection medication. This injection (typically a GnRH agonist such as buserelin) is precisely timed so that egg maturity will be completed, but ovulation will not occur prior to egg retrieval.

What are the possible side effects of the medication?

The FSH injections stimulate production of follicles and hormones in the ovaries. Each follicle contains one egg. Whilst receiving these injections some women may experience abdominal bloating, discomfort, breast tenderness, or an increase in vaginal secretions. For the vast majority of women, if these side effects occur they are usually short lived and cease within several days of the egg collection. In general these side effects can be treated by bed rest, drinking plenty of fluids and taking simple painkillers such as Tylenol.

What are the risks of egg donation?

Egg donation is usually a very safe procedure. As with any surgical procedure there are, however, some risks. The most common risks are either bleeding or infection just after the egg retrieval. At the Montreal Fertility Centre the chance of significant bleeding or infection related to the egg retrieval is approximately 1%.

Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) is well known complication of ovarian stimulation. This condition arises when many follicles develop within the ovary AND when a form of HCG is then used to induce egg maturation just prior to the egg collection. At the Montreal Fertility Centre we do NOT routinely use HCG to induce egg maturation in egg donors, and thus the risk of OHSS approaches zero. In the vast majority of cases the ovaries return back to normal size within one week of the egg collection and the period occurs at around that time as well.

A very rare (less than 1%) but serious potential complication of ovarian stimulation is ovarian torsion. Ovarian torsion occurs when the ovary rotates (twists) on its vascular pedicle. This causes immediate pain and if this does not resolve on its own, it may require surgery or removal of the ovary. The risk of ovarian torsion is present while the ovaries are enlarged, and for this reason we recommend that donors refrain from sports or strenuous physical activities for the first 2 weeks after egg collection.

Finally, the increase in estrogen levels related to ovarian stimulation may increase the chance of blood clotting. This could result in a blood clot in the leg (deep vein thrombosis, DVT) or worse, a blood clot in the lungs (pulmonary embolus), cardiac vessels (heart attack) or brain (stroke). These types of complications are extremely rare (less than 1 in 10,000 cases) but may be fatal.

How long will I have to be away from work or school after the egg retrieval?

We recommend resting at home for 24 hours after the egg retrieval.

How long will it take for my body to return to normal after egg retrieval?

You should anticipate a menstrual period within 5-10 days after the egg retrieval. Following the next menstrual cycle, your body should be back to normal.

How will egg donation affect my personal lifestyle?

Once on fertility drugs, you need to ensure that you have protected sexual intercourse for that month as well as the month following egg donation. From start to finish, you will generally have 5-6 doctor visits; the majority of these visits occur during the two weeks prior to egg retrieval. Egg collections are always scheduled in the morning, and all your ultrasound visits can be arranged in the morning according to your schedule.

Will I be more or less fertile after egg donation?

You will be more fertile in the month of your egg retrieval and the month immediately following the retrieval. However, after that you will return to your normal fertility status.

How does egg donation affect my fertility in the future?

Egg donation does not appear to have any long-term effects on your fertility. The eggs that are collected are eggs that were destined to either ovulate or perish in the month that your egg collection is done. Thus, unless you have complications, e.g. ovarian torsion, you should have exactly the same number of eggs within the ovary two months after the egg collection as you would have had had you never completed the donation.

How old do I have to be to donate my eggs?

Ideally, donors should be between the ages of 20 and 34 years of age.