Egg donation is the process by which a woman provides one or several (usually 10-15) eggs (ova, oocytes) for purposes of assisted reproduction. Egg donation involves the process of in vitro fertilization as the eggs are fertilized in the laboratory. After the eggs have been obtained, the role of the egg donor is complete. Egg donation is part of the process of third party reproduction as part of Assisted Reproductive Technology; or “ART”.
Each egg donor is required to undergo a thorough medical examination, including a pelvic exam, blood draw to check for hormone levels and infectious diseases, and an ultrasound to examine her ovaries, uterus and other pelvic organs. In addition, she will be referred to a psychologist who will evaluate if she is mentally prepared to undertake and complete the donation process. These evaluations are necessary to ensure that the donor is fully prepared and capable of completing the donation cycle safely and successfully.
Once the screening is complete and the legal contract signed, the donor will begin the donation cycle, which typically takes between three and six weeks. An egg retrieval procedure comprises both the Egg Donor’s Cycle and the Recipient’s Cycle. Birth control pills are administered during the first few weeks of the egg donation process to synchronize the donor’s cycle with the recipient’s, followed by a series of injections which halt the normal functioning of the donor’s ovaries. These injections may be self-administered on a daily basis for a period of one to three weeks. Next, follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH) are given to the donor to stimulate egg production and increases the number of mature eggs produced by the ovaries. Throughout the cycle the donor is monitored often by a physician using blood tests and ultrasound exams to determine the donor’s reaction to the hormones and the progress of follicle growth.
Once the doctor decides the follicles are mature, he/she will establish the date and time for the egg retrieval procedure. Approximately 36 hours before retrieval, the donor must administer one last injection of HCG hormone to ensure that her eggs are ready to be harvested. The egg retrieval itself is a minimally invasive surgical procedure lasting 20–30 minutes, performed with light general anesthetic. A small ultrasound-guided needle is inserted through the vagina to aspirate the follicles in both ovaries, which extracts the eggs. After resting in a recovery room for an hour or two, the donor is released. Most donors resume regular activities by the next day.