Egg donation is a process in which a woman donates multiple eggs (oocytes) to be used for an assisted reproduction procedure (IVF). Egg donors are utilized by infertile couples when the female partner cannot generate eggs that can result in a viable pregnancy. Birth control pills are often used to synchronize the donor cycle with the recipient.
The egg donation process consists of two phases:
(1) To stimulate the ovaries, donors receive a series of hormonal drugs which cause the ovaries to produce multiple mature eggs during one menstrual cycle. The donor is given a series of injections to suppress or control the timing of ovulation so that mature eggs may be retrieved before they are spontaneously released. This process generally begins on the first day of the menstrual cycle and continues for 12-14 days.
Next, a medication is given to stimulate egg production and increase the number of mature eggs produced in the ovaries. During this time the donor is monitored by the medical staff with blood tests and ultrasound to determine the donor's reaction to the medication and the progress of follicle growth. Once it is decided that the follicles are mature, the donor is administered one last injection to ensure that the eggs are ready to harvest. This is given approximately 36 hours before the egg retrieval procedure.
(2) During egg retrieval, mature eggs are removed from the donor through a surgical procedure called transvaginal ultrasound aspiration. The process takes between 20-30 minutes under sedation. A small ultrasound-guided needle is inserted through the vagina to retrieve follicles in both ovaries, which extracts the eggs. Afterward, the donor is in a recovery room for 1 -2 hours before being released. Most donors resume regular activities by the next day. Side effects associated with this procedure may be mild pelvic cramping (similar to menstrual cramps), bloating and discomfort in some instances.