Becoming An Egg Donor: a first hand account of the egg donation experience
How it Began:
My friends and I sat around our non-air conditioned apartment one hot summer evening in 2003. I was just out of college and my friends were in their last year or two of their undergraduate work. We had the radio on and cold drinks in hand as we tried to remain as still as possible in the brutal summer heat. An ad on the radio suddenly caught our attention. The ad was asking for women our age who were healthy to donate their eggs in order to help couples with fertility problems have families. This ad sparked a long conversation. None of us had ever heard of this before. We were aware of “test-tube babies” and had heard of sperm donation, but egg donation? This was a new concept.
We of course, immediately went online and checked out CNY Fertility’s website. It seemed to us that we could potentially all be eligible. All we had to do was call the fertility center and we’d get a packet in the mail to fill out and send back. Easy enough. Now the question became, do we really want to do this? From what we could understand the process did involve shots of hormones and the egg retrieval seemed to basically be a “surgery”. And there were, of course, some other questions that we explored. Would it be too weird to know that there is a child out there somewhere that has half of our DNA? Biologically it would be a product of our bodies, but it wouldn’t be our child. What if the child wanted to get in touch with us later on? These were serious things we had to consider. After much deliberation, we all decided that whether or not we, as individuals, ever wanted our own families or not, it seemed silly to have the ability to help a couple have a baby and not doing anything to help. Personally, I was pretty sure I never wanted children of my own, so I felt especially compelled to let another woman use my eggs if having a baby was important to her. Hey, if I wasn’t going to use them someone else sure should!
Of the four of us friends, three of us ended up sending in for the egg donor application. One of my friends and I filled the application out right away and sent it back. She got called immediately to be an egg donor and ended up donating a total of five times over the next couple of years. I never did get called in that first year but in talking with her I could tell that it was a great thing to do and that I was going to keep at it. My friend loved the experience and her enthusiasm was contagious.
Over the following years, I would reapply to be an egg donor several times. Still nothing. I decided to try applying one last time this past winter. Things got busy and I actually kind of forgot that I had applied, until this week. I received an email saying that I had been chosen by a recipient! I was elated! I felt like I had just won an Oscar. Someone had picked me! I cannot wait to start the process of helping a couple become a family. I know my role is small, it only requires one month of my time, but in another sense, my role is huge. I feel overwhelmed with excitement and humbled all at the same time.
Diane (not her real name) has embarked on the journey of becoming an egg donor at CNY Fertility Center and will share her thoughts during the process in her blog here. If Diane’s journey and stories that she shares compels you to look in to becoming an egg donor we would love to get you started. The first step is to fill out our Donor Eligibility Questionnaire – click here to begin.
The First Visit:
Ok, the morning of the first visit to CNY Fertility Center to officially become an Egg Donor. Here we go! I’m really excited about doing this, but as I pull into the parking lot of the office I start to feel nervous. I wonder why but then I realize that I don’t know anyone that actually likes going to a doctor’s appointment and being examined. The nerves continue to flutter in my stomach as I enter the office. Then they all disappeared. The office isn’t anything like a “normal” doctor’s office. The waiting room is full of warm, cozy furniture, soft relaxing music is playing, there are inspirational books lining one wall and complimentary coffee on the other side. I’m greeted by smiling faces who also help to put my nerves at ease. I check in with the smiling ladies at the front desk and then take a seat on a comfortable couch near the fireplace.
Only moments later I’m called back to an exam room. First things first; the standard “pee in a cup” routine. No problem there. Painless and I’d had plenty of coffee that morning which made this part of the exam the easy part! Next, I came back into the exam room and answered a few questions and signed a few more pieces of paper. My blood pressure was taken next. Then they had to draw several vials of blood. Blood tests were needed prior to becoming an egg donor in order to test for certain diseases; genetic and otherwise. The young woman explained that these tests would take about a week to ten days to process and that we’d go from there. She said it was highly unlikely I was a carrier of any of the diseases but it was mandatory to check. After drawing blood, it was time for the ultrasound. A different young woman came in to do this part of the exam. She had me lay back while she got the ultrasound ready and in less than five minutes that was done. I was able to look at the screen while she did the ultrasound. It was really interesting and exciting to see! She kindly took the time to explain what we were looking at and to point out my ovaries, uterus, and even some follicles.
Everything looked good and the paperwork and blood work are all in order. I’m anxious to get the blood test results back and excited to proceed with becoming an egg donor!
The Next Step:
So I’ve received word that my blood test results all came back normal. Now I’m excitedly awaiting the next step in the process of becoming an egg donor. I was told the recipient is completing one more test and upon completion of that I can begin my part of the process. And (more exciting news), I’ve also been informed that another recipient is considering my application. Wow! Maybe I’ll get to donate eggs twice! But first things first, onto the next step!
After reading through the various emails I received about becoming an egg donor I really started thinking about everything that goes into this whole process. The entire process is really making me appreciate the expression, “The miracle of birth”. I’ve never had children so I never felt that I could fully understand the miraculous part of it until now. Just being an egg donor and seeing the full staff of doctors, nurses, lab technicians, embryologists, people working around the clock to coordinate the timing of things with precision, and a facility wholly dedicated to this miracle of birth it makes me wonder how on earth anyone has a baby without all of this! It really is a miracle.
Until next time, I humbly await my part in the miracle of birth!
The Recipient is Ready:
Today I took another step forward in the process of becoming an egg donor. Upon arrival today, the visit began much like my last visit. I first had to once again provide a urine sample and they also had to draw blood again. We also had to do another ultrasound. This time the ultrasound was done to determine if my follicles were ready to start the medications that I would be on for the next couple of weeks. Happily, my follicles looked ready to go and my ovaries were symmetrical in size which meant there were no cysts present. The presence of a cyst would, evidently, complicate the process a bit. Luckily everything looked great and the nurses stepped out to determine the exact treatment plan.
A couple of minutes later the nurse returned with a typed up plan and a bag with the medication enclosed. The nurses decided that I would be starting the follicle-stimulating hormones on Saturday and that my next appointment would be Monday. Monday’s appointment would consist of another blood draw and ultrasound.
The process of starting the medication was simple. Once a day I would give myself a small injection in my abdomen about one inch away from my belly button. The nurse had the “pen” (which is basically an apparatus that already contains the medication, a system for dosing it appropriately for each day, and a place for a fresh needle to attach each day). We went over how to put a clean needle on each day (which was very easy, each needle is in its own small package and just twists into place onto the pen), then how to set the dosage (again, this was very easy; all you have to do is click the appropriate number so it lines up with the big arrow), then she explained where the injection goes, and how to put it in (at a 90-degree angle). I will be giving myself this particular medicine at this particular dosage for one week. This medicine will stimulate my body to produce eggs, then I will switch to taking a medicine that will tell my body not to ovulate (as this needs to be timed perfectly with the recipient), and finally, I will take a medicine that will tell my body to ovulate at the ideal time.
I came away from today’s appointment armed with new information and a bag of follicle-stimulating hormones. The process, although made easy and as straight forward as possible by the fertility team, is a complex one. I have to say, I give a lot of credit to couples who endure this process. I am only getting a tiny glimpse into this as an egg donor. I can now begin to appreciate the tenacity it takes for couples to go through fertility treatments. And I also have to give the entire staff at the fertility center a lot of credit as well. Their jobs are not only to deal with the technical side of hormone levels and lab tests but also the emotional side of this very personal journey. Bravo to both the families that have gone through fertility treatments and to the fertility teams for making this difficult process as effortless as possible for the couples.
Since my last appointment, I have started taking the Follicle Stimulating Hormones. I am currently on Day 3 and had another appointment today. Let me first tell you about taking the FSH.
The nurse explained how to give myself an injection at my last appointment. I don’t think of myself as a squeamish person so I thought this would be no problem. But I have to admit, giving myself that first injection was more challenging (mentally!) than I had anticipated. When a nurse gives you a shot, they chat with you, and usually, I look away so I don’t see what she’s doing. They can distract you and it’s usually over before you even realize they’ve done it. It’s impossible, I quickly realized, to distract yourself when you are the one giving the injection, to yourself. The anticipation was worse than anything. I had to psyche myself up way more than I thought. After a deep breath and a big ONE, TWO, THREE! I realized the injection itself was painless. As I said, the mental anguish and anticipation was way worse than the actual shot. I felt sort of foolish afterwards for making such a big deal out of, what turned out to be, nothing! The area of the injection (right around my belly button) was just a tad tender for a few minutes afterwards, but as of yet, I am not experiencing any side effects. So, now that I’m on Day 3, I fancy myself the injection expert and no longer torture myself with anticipation beforehand.
I felt quite proud of that as I walked into my checkup today. The nurse drew blood again. But just one vial today instead of 4, which was what they drew the previous two visits. She told me that depending on the results of the blood test today they may increase or decrease the dosage of FSH that I’m currently taking. Then the second nurse came in to do the ultrasound. The ultrasound showed that there were indeed follicles and she said they looked good. Then we set up appointments for two days out, four days out, and seven days out.
The nurse did end up calling me a couple of hours later to tell me that we did need to increase the dosage of FSH by 75 units. Although the follicles did look good my estrogen levels were still a bit low. I would take the new increased dosage and see how things looked at my next check-up in two days.
This entire experience is so educational. I feel as if I’m taking an advanced biology course; learning about estrogen levels, follicles, injections, dosages of hormones, etc. and all within my own body! Each day is a new fun experience and I eagerly await each new part of becoming an egg donor!
Wednesday was Day 5 of being on the FSH. I had a check-up at CNY Fertility Center. We started out the regular way, with a blood draw to check my estrogen levels and then an ultrasound. The ultrasound was far more interesting on this visit. The follicles were significantly larger and actually a measurable size. They measured about 8mm, and the nurse explained that once they were about 18-20mm the egg inside would be mature. She said the size of mine was right on track with where they should be. I would continue by taking the recently increased dose of FSH unless they called to tell me otherwise. She asked how I was feeling and if I was experiencing any side effects yet. I am happy to report that so far so good. I do not feel that my abdomen is swollen at all and I have yet to experience any PMS symptoms (physical or emotional). My next appointment is set for Friday, which will be day seven of taking the FSH.
I just returned from my Day 7 check-up. I had another blood draw and ultrasound. The ultrasound showed a thickening of the uterine lining, which is normal and expected. The follicles were measured and had now increased to 12mm. Because they are getting close to maturing I was now going to also have a second shot. This other injection, called Cetrotide, would prevent my body from prematurely ovulating. The nurse gave me my first injection of the Cetrotide while I was there. This is also given around the belly button area. I have to admit, this injection did sting more than the shot for the FSH. For the next two days, I have to administer both the FSH and the Cetrotide to myself, then I have another appointment on Monday. I am happy to report that I am still side effect free, although the nurse said as my estrogen increases the PMS type side effects may still kick in.
This continues to be such an amazing experience. I am learning so much and gaining a lot of perspective on what it means to couples creating families. Just being an egg donor is an involved process and big commitment, I can only imagine what the recipient must also go through. Again, I am humbled by the dedication and perseverance of couples experiencing infertility and of the fertility staff guiding them on this journey.
The Home Stretch:
On Wednesday I returned for another check-up. The follicles were now about 16-18mm. The doctor and nurse decided Friday would be too early for the retrieval and instead to plan on Saturday morning. Wednesday I would administer the FSH and Cetrotide again. Thursday morning I was instructed to only take the FSH, and in the evening take the hormone that would now tell my body to ovulate. Then on Friday, I don’t have to take anything, but Saturday morning I am scheduled to be in the office first thing in the morning for the surgery. I can’t believe I’m almost done! What a process this has been, I can’t believe I’m in the final stretch already. I hope over the next few days I continue to feel as good as I do now, to be side effect free and that they successfully retrieve lots of eggs for the recipient!
I am so curious to see how this will play out. Once again, I am eager and anxious to begin this exciting process!