Egg donation: it’s not egg-actly over-easy

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By: Megan Graves, Columnist

If you’re a young woman, I’m sure you’ve seen ads about egg donation before. Heck, if you read the Towerlight last week, you may have caught one here.

These ads seem great. An infertile couple needs a young, average-weight, possibly attractive woman to offer up one of her thousands of eggs. Oh, and they’ll pay you upward of $7,000 for it.

If you’re a kind-hearted person who could also use a bit of extra cash (most of us), you’ll probably at least consider this. Honestly, I thought about it the first time I saw the ad. Who doesn’t want to help someone out and get paid for it?

Well, here’s why you might not. These ads are short and sweet, and they fail to mention the actual process and potential risks of egg donation.

It is not as simple as donating sperm. First, if you choose to donate your eggs, you will undergo medical screening. They’ll need to find out if you’re fertile (I hate that word), and they’ll do that through ultrasounds and physical exams.

If you are, they’ll begin taking blood tests, culture tests (like the kind you get at the gynecologist), and they will do a psychological screening.

Then it’s on to ovarian hyper stimulation, where you will be given three forms of hormones.

The first will spark a “fake menopause,” wherein the glands responsible for maturing eggs within the body are no longer triggered to do so. This allows the physician to control when your eggs will mature. This drug is administered through daily injections, one larger injection, or if you’re lucky, a nasal spray.

The second hormone, which will be administered through daily injection, will cause your body to create more eggs than it normally would, allowing the doctor to take out more than one when the time comes.

The last hormone is used to trigger ovulation. You’ll get one shot this time, about 34-36 hours before the eggs will be retrieved.

Side effects of these hormones include mood swings, abdominal swelling, and in very few cases, ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome (OHSS) or adnexal torsion can occur.

OHSS causes cystic enlargement of the ovaries and/or fluid buildup in the chest and abdomen. This can cause permanent injury or even death. Adnexal torsion occurs when an ovary twists itself and cuts off its blood supply. It is super painful, and, in some cases, the ovary must be removed.

When the eggs are retrieved, it is through the survival procedure “transvaginal ultrasound aspiration.” You will be sedated, but conscious.

A “suctioning needle” is then used to go through the cervix and into the ovaries where the eggs can be retrieved. Once it’s done, you’ll schedule a follow-up appointment, be prescribed some antibiotics and go home.

The side effects of this can be as mild as nausea and abdominal pain, and as severe as infertility. One in 500 surgeries result in major injury to the bladder, bowel, uterus, blood vessels, or other pelvic structures.  

I know this sounds scary, because, well, it kind of is. I am not telling you what to do or not to do with your body. I never have, and I never will. I just think that these ads make egg donation seem really easy and casual when really, it’s a full blown surgical procedure that deserves serious thought and consideration.

Egg donation is still a worthy cause. It still involves helping another person. But it isn’t as easy as making a two hour appointment and leaving with thousands of dollars.

It’s hard to stay healthy as a woman. We often have to search for information that should just be readily available to us.

If you want to donate your eggs, maybe start by talking to your gynecologist about it, instead of following through with an ad that’s frankly pretty misleading. Do research to find where you feel most comfortable donating and to which cause.

If this made you decide not to donate your eggs, then that’s okay, too! You aren’t selfish or anywhere near a bad person for making that choice.

Above all, stay informed, stay healthy, and do what you want with your body. It is owned by you, and you alone, and that’s the sunny side up.

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