In this blog, we explain the most common side effects of egg donation that are experienced by donors. At Donor Nexus, we aim to empower women who are considering donating their eggs by providing a complete and transparent overview of what it takes to be an egg donor. If you have any additional questions, our team will be glad to talk with you and help you understand what to expect.
The short version is that common side effects of egg donation are mild symptoms very similar to premenstrual syndrome (PMS), including bloating, cramps, headache, nausea, and mood swings or irritability.
However, it’s important to note that similarly to PMS symptoms, the side effects of egg donation also 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. Ultimately, it depends on how your body responds to the hormone and stimulation medications and the egg retrieval procedure.
In this video, one of our egg donors shares her experience egg donation side effects:
Bloating is a very common side effect of egg donation and can be experienced before and after egg retrieval. For most women, the bloating only lasts for a few days. Learn more about how to relieve bloating in this blog post. There are several aspects of an egg donation cycle which could cause bloating, including:
Medications used to stimulate the ovaries
High estrogen levels which can cause fluid retention
Ovaries filling with liquid after the retrieval
To reduce the hormones your own pituitary gland releases, you will be given injections of hormonal medications. The most common medications used are gonadotropin releasing agonist (GnRH-ag) or gonadotropin releasing antagonist (GnRH-ant). GnRH-ag needs to be started the month before the egg donation, while GnRH-ant can be taken the same month.
While taking these medications you may experience side effects such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, or mood changes. The fertility clinic will explain the specific medications used.
Egg donors take hormonal medications to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. The most common type is synthetic gonadotropin hormones. These are similar to the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) which causes ovarian follicles to mature during a natural menstrual cycle. Depending on the type of gonadotropin used, this can involve an injection every day, or a single longer-lasting injection.
The most common side effects while using ovarian stimulation are headache, nausea, mood swings, or abdominal tenderness. For most women, these symptoms are mild.
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 hormone and stimulation 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.
The egg retrieval is a surgery that requires the egg donor to go under general anesthesia. The procedure itself only takes about twenty minutes, but the donor may feel groggy from the anesthesia after waking up. This is why we require our donors to bring a companion with them for the retrieval to drive them home afterwards.
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 which 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).
For the best experience, it’s important to be open and honest with your medical provider throughout the process. If needed, your doctor can make adjustments to your medication schedule at any time. Additionally, make sure to take care of your body, manage your stress levels, and follow requirements like refraining from physical activity and sexual intercourse during your cycle to keep yourself safe.
The egg retrieval procedure itself is not painful as you are under general anesthesia for the duration of the surgery. After your egg retrieval, you may experience slight soreness in the vaginal area, mild abdominal cramping, bloating, or spotting. Although these side effects can last a couple of days, most women feel normal by the next day.
As we discussed above, you may experience some changes in your body due to the medications throughout your egg donation cycle and you may feel mild pain or discomfort after the egg retrieval procedure. However, egg donation is not typically described as being a painful experience.
While we don’t shy away from being open about the possible side effects of donating eggs, we are encouraged by the sentiments shared by egg donors during and after their egg donation journey. Ultimately, our egg donors feel that the temporary discomfort was more than worth it for the gratifying experience of helping someone else start or grow their family. We encourage you to read through first-hand experiences shared by previous egg donors to gain a deeper understanding.
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.
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)].