Side Effects of Egg Donation: What to Expect Feb 01, 2024 | by Lucy Solie-Vilker, Program Director

In this blog, we cover all the possible side effects of egg donation and address concerns about potential long-term risks. While we don’t shy away from being open about the possible side effects of donating eggs, we are encouraged by the experiences of previous egg donors expressing the gratifying experience they had with minimal discomfort.

In addition to doing your own research, you can talk with your physician about potential risks and side effects associated with egg donation regarding your specific health history.

How Does Egg Donation Work?

First, let's give a quick overview of which aspects of the egg donation process could potentially cause side effects. As an egg donor, you will self-inject fertility medications into your lower abdomen for 12-14 days to stimulate egg production. After your medication cycle, you will undergo the egg retrieval procedure which only takes 20-30 minutes and is performed under monitored anesthesia care. As with any medication or medical procedure, you may experience side effects.

What Are the Side Effects of Egg Donation?

The most common side effects of egg donation are mild symptoms very similar to premenstrual syndrome (PMS), including:

  • Bloating
  • Cramps
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Mood changes or irritability

Similar to PMS symptoms, the potential side effects from the egg donation process vary from woman to woman. While some women may not experience any side effects at all, others may experience varying degrees of the symptoms listed.

Health Screenings Help Minimize Risks and Egg Donation Side Effects

Before beginning your cycle, you will go through the screening evaluations which consist of a physical exam and health screenings. The screening process helps us to determine that you are healthy and fit for an egg donation cycle, reducing the chance of any potential risk from occurring. 

Bloating Is One of the Most Common Side Effects

Bloating is typically experienced during the ovarian stimulation phase (while taking medications) and after the egg retrieval procedure. For most donors, bloating goes away within a few days following the retrieval. Learn more about how to relieve bloating in this blog post.

There are several aspects of an egg donation cycle that could cause bloating, including:

  • Medications used to stimulate the ovaries
  • High estrogen levels can cause fluid retention
  • Ovaries filling with liquid after the retrieval

Possible Side Effects From Egg Donor Medications

As an egg donor, you will take cycle medications that are prescribed by your fertility physician. Your medication protocol will be carefully regulated; it is tailored to you based on your medical evaluations. Most egg donors will take a combination of medications including FSH (Gonal-F or Follistim) an LH (Menopur), and an antagonist (Ganirelix or Centrotide). Your fertility clinic will explain the specific medications used.

These egg donor medications can potentially lead to side effects due to the alteration of natural hormone levels in the body. While taking ovarian stimulation medications, you may experience the following side effects:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Mood changes
  • Abdominal tenderness
  • Hot flashes
  • Vaginal dryness

You Will Self-Administer Injections For Approximately 12-14 Days

The stimulation medications are taken once a day via self-injection in the lower abdomen area, for about 12-14 days. 

Egg donor self-administers injection for egg donation process. Side effects of donating eggs include bloating, cramping, soreness, nausea and headache. Learn more in this blog post!

Although the thought of giving yourself injections daily may sound intimidating at first, your nurse will teach you how to self-administer injections properly to make sure that you are confident. The needle used for injections is very thin and should not cause any significant pain, but you may experience bruising or light bleeding at the injection site. However, most donors say they don’t experience any bruising or bleeding when done correctly. 

For the Egg Retrieval, You Will Be Under Monitored Anesthesia Care

The egg retrieval procedure itself only takes about twenty minutes. During the procedure, you will be under monitored anesthesia care (MAC), which is milder than general anesthesia and doesn't typically have the same side effects as general, such as nausea and drowsiness. However, we still require that you bring a companion with you to drive you home. 

After your egg retrieval, you may also experience slight soreness in the vaginal area, mild abdominal cramping, or spotting. Although these side effects can last a couple of days, most women feel normal by the next day. You will be provided with post-op instructions to help alleviate any discomfort or other symptoms you may be experiencing.

What is Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS)?

As with any medical procedure, there may be a risk associated with egg donation. Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) is a rare complication caused when the ovaries respond too strongly to the stimulation. Fortunately, severe cases of OHSS continue to decrease with advancements in the field. Nowadays, most cases of OHSS are mild cases that cause temporary discomfort. If you experience severe vomiting, shortness of breath, rapid weight gain, or blood clots, contact your medical provider. It is estimated that less than 1% of donors have issues such as severe OHSS (source).

Is There an Increased Risk of Cancer?

The results of multiple scientific studies have not shown that fertility medications increase the risk of cancer. If you have concerns about potential long-term risks, we encourage you to discuss these concerns with your physician, as they can offer guidance specific to your unique health background.

Will It Affect My Future Fertility?

Studies have not shown a correlation between egg donation and future fertility issues. The medications you will take during your cycle are similar to those widely used for other fertility treatments and are typically considered low-risk. 

For donors who are interested in egg freezing, our Futures Egg Donor Program allows you to freeze your eggs for free when you donate half to be used by another family.

Tips for the Best Egg Donor Experience

Throughout your cycle, you will have several monitoring appointments to check how your body is responding to the medications. During these appointments or any time during your cycle, don’t hesitate to talk to your nurse or doctor about any symptoms you are experiencing. The medical team is there to support you! 

If needed, your doctor can make adjustments to your medication schedule at any time. Additionally, make sure to take care of your body, focus on protein and electrolyte intake, manage your stress levels, and follow requirements like refraining from intense physical activity and remaining abstinent during your cycle to keep yourself safe. 

Empowering Egg Donors With Transparent Information

At Donor Nexus, we offer highly attentive, personalized care to our egg donors throughout the entire process. For women who are considering donating their eggs, we aim to provide transparent information and resources (like this blog post!) to help you decide whether being an egg donor is the right choice for you. If you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and we will be happy to assist you.

Additional Resources:

Egg Donor Videos:

Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is intended to provide a general overview of common egg donation side effects and is not to be considered medical advice. Please consult with your physician for more comprehensive information.

Warning: Egg donation involves a screening process and not all potential egg donors are selected. As with any medical procedure, there may be a risk associated with egg donation. First, an egg donor must agree to begin the egg donation process and sign a legally binding contract. The donor is required to receive specific information on the known risk of egg donation. Consultation with your doctor before entering into an egg donor contract is advised. [Ca. Health & Safety Code 125325(a)] In addition, a summary of the egg retrieval procedure must be given to the egg donor before there is a binding contract. [Ca. Health Code 125325(b)].

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