Having a Baby through Egg Donation – Early Pregnancy Signs

By BSc, MSc (embryologist), MD, MSc (gynecologist) and BA, MA (fertility counselor).
Last Update: 09/26/2016

Donor-egg pregnancies develop the same way a natural pregnancy does. Still, the symptoms women may feel can be slightly different due to the medications donor-egg recipients should take.

Even though getting pregnant with donor eggs on the first try may seem easy because high-quality eggs are used, the truth is donor-egg IVF can fail for various reasons, too. Having poor sperm quality or uterine problems may reduce the success rates of IVF with donor eggs.

Below you have an index with the 5 points we are going to deal with in this article.

Pregnancy symptoms after donor-egg IVF

After the embryo transfer and implantation into the recipient's uterus, the woman's body starts releasing an hormone known as beta-hCG, and her hCG levels will increase eventually.

Within 15 days approximately, a period known as two-week wait (2WW), hCG levels can be detected with a pregnancy test. By doing this, women can confirm that the lack of menstruation, the most common pregnancy symptom, is an early sign of pregnancy.

The blood levels of beta-hCG normally increase over time from embryo implantation until roughly the end of the third trimester. This increase in beta-hCG levels and other hormonal changes are responsible for the most common very early pregnancy symptoms:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Frequent urination
  • Exhaustion
  • Heightened sense of smell
  • Extreme hunger or loss of appetite

As pregnancy progresses, the woman's body will go through several changes to adapt itself to the different phases of pregnancy. This leads to new symptoms, such as breast size changes, sore breasts, acne, stomach pain, gestational weight gain and body swelling, feeling of heaviness, etc.

It should be taken into account that these are the normal pregnancy symptoms of both normal pregnancies and donor-egg pregnancies. Each woman experiences pregnancy differently, and therefore not all of them may feel the same symptoms or with the same intensity.

When pregnancy is achieved through egg donation, it is common for women to have an advanced maternal age (over 35 years old). This may increase the number of symptoms she notices because it is more difficult for her body to bear hormonal changes.

Grieving process before accepting donor eggs

Deciding to use donor eggs to get pregnant means losing the genetic connection with the child. Going through the grieving process is not easy and may give rise to a number of doubts or psychological effects.

This is the reason why patients are recommended to undergo donor-egg IVF only if they understand the potential side effects and emotional issues of egg donation. Thinking twice before deciding to use donor eggs is crucial, and this can be done by seeking medical and/or psychological counsel.

Most fertility clinics have a department of psychology where a team of experienced psychologists can be of great help while grieving the loss of your genetics, as well as during and after the treatment.

The truth is, as pregnancy progresses and especially once the baby is born, the vast majority of fears of never bonding with the baby and regrets the intended parents could have had before deciding to use donor eggs do disappear.

After the birth of the donor-egg baby, intended parents comprehend parenthood is about educating and bringing up a child, rather than just having a genetic link.

IVF with donor eggs is probably the most confusing of all fertility treatments, and oftentimes, a misleading one. Transparency is one of our strict selection criteria when it comes to recommending fertility clinics to our readers. You can create your Fertility Report now to filter clinics based on our selection criteria and get an individual report based on your preferences with answers to your queries and most importantly, to prevent potential frauds.

FAQs from users

What are a woman's chances of getting pregnant with a donor egg?

By Andrea Rodrigo BSc, MSc (embryologist).

One should keep in mind that the egg cells used have been donated by young, healthy egg donors, which makes them high-quality eggs. For this reason, the average success rates of donor-egg IVF are high. However, as stated earlier, it may depend on significant factors such as sperm quality, endometrial receptivity, the profile of the donor-egg recipient, etc.

For further information, we recommend that you read the following post: Pregnancy success rates with donor eggs.

If I use donor eggs, will the baby look like me?

By Rebeca Reus BSc, MSc (embryologist).

When matching an egg donor to a recipient, fertility clinics take into account that there is compatibility between them and that they share as many phenotype and immunological characteristics as possible. So, theoretically, yes, a baby conceived with donor eggs is likely to look like the birth mother.

However, it is important to note that the biological mother of the baby will be the egg donor, so in terms of genetic inheritance, the answer to this questions is no, the baby will not look like the recipient, since he or she does not share the genetic load with her.

What are the most common symptoms after embryo transfer with donor eggs?

By Sara Salgado BSc, MSc (embryologist).

When a woman conceives with donor eggs, the symptoms she is expected to feel in case of a successful outcome are those of any other natural pregnancy. The only difference may be due to the side effects derived from the fertility drugs recipients should take for endometrial preparation.

The following post may provide you with further information: Early pregnancy signs after donor-egg IVF.

How likely am I to get pregnant with twins from donor eggs?

By Andrea Rodrigo BSc, MSc (embryologist).

This factor depends on the number of embryos to transfer. If two embryos are transferred, the chances of getting pregnant with twins increase. If, however, a single embryo transfer (SET) is done, it is highly unlikely that a multiple pregnancy occurs.

Do babies from egg donation share genes with the birth mother?

By Rebeca Reus BSc, MSc (embryologist).

Egg donor babies do not share the genetic load of the birth mother, but that of the egg donor, who is in fact the biological mother.

Nevertheless, recent studies have shown that recipients of donor eggs still pass some traits of their DNA through a phenomenon called epigenetics, a branch of Biology that studies the influence of a person's lifestyle on who he or she is, regardless of the gene expression.

So, factors such as the mother's diet during pregnancy could affect the development of the baby-to-be's gene expression.

If I use donor eggs, will the baby be mine?

By Rebeca Reus BSc, MSc (embryologist).

Absolutely. Having a child is not only about sharing your DNA with him or her, but about educating, bringing up and enjoying life together as a family. Women who become mothers via egg donation love the baby exactly as any other female who got pregnant naturally with her own eggs would do. Having a child, no matter how you do it, is one of the most gratifying and rewarding experiences in life.

So, those women who are afraid of developing feelings of regrets once pregnant or after the birth of the child should know that this idea will disappear eventually.

What is the cost of a donor-egg pregnancy?

By Andrea Rodrigo BSc, MSc (embryologist).

The price of having a baby through egg donation depends on factors such as the number of attempts, the country where it is carried out, the need for additional techniques, etc. On average, the cost of a donor-egg IVF cycle in Europe ranges from €4,500 to 9,000. In the United States, although it varies by states, the minimum price is $30,000.

Many fertility clinics offer money back guarantee programs and discounts in repeat cycles. You can get an estimate cost for egg donation by filling out our form: Cost estimates for egg donation.

What are the most common pregnancy symptoms with donor eggs?

By Rebeca Reus BSc, MSc (embryologist).

Firstly, it should be noted that, when a woman gets pregnant using donated ova, pregnancy develops as any normal, natural pregnancy would do. However, the symptoms can vary a little bit due to the medications egg donor recipients have to take. In short, nausea and vomiting, frequent urination, exhaustion, extreme hunger or loss of appetite, heightened sense of smell, etc., among others, are the most common early pregnancy symptoms.

See also: Pregnancy symptoms after DE-IVF.

When should I take a pregnancy test after a donor-egg embryo transfer?

By Rebeca Reus BSc, MSc (embryologist).

Like in any other IVF procedure, after an embryo transfer with donated eggs, women have to go through the two-week wait or 2WW, a time period necessary for beta-hCG levels to be detectable by a pregnancy test.

The presence of the hormone hCG in blood increases gradually from embryo implantation up until the end of the third trimester approximately. This, along with other hormonal changes, is the reason why the common pregnancy symptoms appear (nausea, vomiting, etc.)

How can I calculate my due date after donor-egg IVF?

By Andrea Rodrigo BSc, MSc (embryologist).

In general, when donor eggs have been used, pregnancy due date calculators work by adding two more weeks to the date of the embryo transfer. It allows us to copy the process followed in natural pregnancies, where we start counting from the first day of last menstrual period. In principle, embryo implantation occurs around 2-3 weeks before the last menstrual period.

Does the donor-egg baby have genes from the birth mother?

By Andrea Rodrigo BSc, MSc (embryologist).

Recent findings suggest that women using donor eggs still pass some traits of their DNA to the donor-egg baby. This phenomenon is called "epigenetics" and is defined as the study of enduring changes in gene activity while the fetus is in the womb.

Epigenetic alterations may influence and/or modify the activity levels of some genes. To sum up, there exists an epigenetic mechanism through which the mother's genetic material appears to influence the embryo's genes.

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Authors and contributors

 Andrea Rodrigo
Andrea Rodrigo
BSc, MSc
Bachelor's Degree in Biotechnology from the Polytechnic University of Valencia. Master's Degree in Biotechnology of Human Assisted Reproduction from the University of Valencia along with the Valencian Infertility Institute (IVI). Postgraduate course in Medical Genetics. More information about Andrea Rodrigo
 Silvia Macías Arce
Silvia Macías Arce
Bachelor's Degree in Medicine from the University of Cádiz. Specialist in Obstetrics & Gynecology, and subspecialty in endoscopic surgery. Master's Degree in Assisted Human Reproduction from the University of Seville. University Expert in Gynecological Examination. University Expert in Breast & Vulvar Pathology, and Expert in Uterine Pathology, Menopause & Reproduction from the University of Barcelona. More information about Silvia Macías Arce
License: 411109763
Adapted into english by:
 Sandra Fernández
Sandra Fernández
Fertility Counselor
Bachelor of Arts in Translation and Interpreting (English, Spanish, Catalan, German) from the University of Valencia (UV) and Heriot-Watt University, Riccarton Campus (Edinburgh, UK). Postgraduate Course in Legal Translation from the University of Valencia. Specialist in Medical Translation, with several years of experience in the field of Assisted Reproduction. More information about Sandra Fernández

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