Fertility and Egg Donation
Eggs naturally die every month
Each month, women who have regular menstrual cycles will release a single egg at the time of ovulation. For every menstrual cycle, about 1,000 eggs present themselves as candidates for growth. Typically, one egg is chosen to develop and the rest undergo a natural cell death or atresia.
The number of eggs a woman has decreases as she ages
This natural process of recruiting about 1,000 eggs each month, but only ovulating one, continues to happen month after month throughout a woman's entire reproductive life. It happens regardless of whether she is pregnant, taking birth control pills or not ovulating for any other reason. When virtually all of the eggs are gone, menopause occurs.
Medications help develop more mature eggs, eggs that would have died
In an egg donation cycle, we attempt to recover several eggs from both ovaries by giving fertility medications to the egg donor. The medications overcome the body's natural tendency to select and mature only one egg and instead, will grow 10-20 eggs. Of these 10-20 eggs, only one would have been chosen to ovulate naturally and the remaining eggs would have died off if fertility medications had not been used. This is why egg donation does not use up future eggs. Egg donation results in the "rescue" of eggs that would otherwise have died. This also explains why egg donation will not result in a woman reaching menopause any sooner than she would have been expected to.
Egg retrieval and the risks involved
The doctors at Pacific Fertility Center collectively have performed over 10,000 egg retrievals and are extremely familiar with the process. As a result of our extensive experience, we believe there is not a serious risk of loss of egg donors' future fertility with egg donation. However, we want our donors to be informed of all the potential risks and consequences before agreeing to undergo this process and we want to fully address all concerns or questions.
If this were to happen to an egg donor, her future fertility could be compromised and she might have to undergo in vitro fertilization herself when she wished to conceive in the future or she could be rendered completely infertile. Fortunately, the chances of an infection occurring are extremely low. We routinely administer intravenous antibiotics to all women undergoing egg retrieval which has resulted in an infection rate that is virtually zero.
- When an egg retrieval is performed, a thin needle is inserted through the wall of the vagina (under anesthesia) and introduced into each ovary to recover eggs from the ovaries. Because everyone has naturally occurring bacteria in their vagina, it is impossible to sterilize it (remove all vaginal bacteria). Undoubtedly, some bacteria may be introduced into the abdomen. This bacteria may start to grow in the abdomen and cause an infection that could result in blockage of the fallopian tubes or lead to an ovarian abscess which may require removal of an ovary.
- The egg retrieval is performed under direct visualization of the ovaries and surrounding organs. It would be extremely rare to cause injury to surrounding organs, most importantly blood vessels. If we suspect that a donor has had internal bleeding we may monitor her for a longer time in the recovery room. Very rarely do we need to admit a patient to the hospital for observation for suspected internal bleeding. In the rare cases of suspected internal bleeding, patients have primarily been observed overnight with monitoring of vital signs, urine output and serial blood counts and have virtually all gone home in stable condition the following day.
- Our donors will receive anesthesia medications to make them comfortable during the retrieval. It is extremely rare that a patient has a reaction to the anesthesia. However, if this were to occur, we would monitor them for an extended period of time in the recovery room. Furthermore, as a fully-accredited outpatient surgery center, we have all the training and equipment to handle any type of medical emergency, should that ever become necessary.
As with any medical procedure, there are risks that are assumed by the patient. We believe that the medical risks associated with egg donation are very low and that egg donation is a safe thing to do.