Egg donation: Is it dangerous? What are the risks?

During the process of being an egg donor, some side effects can arise, which in some cases can lead to more serious complications. Thus, when making the decision whether becoming a donor or not, weighing the pros and cons of egg donation is crucial.

The egg donor timeline involves two phases. Firstly, ovulation induction, which purpose is to trigger the production of a greater number of eggs simultaneously; secondly, follicular puncture or egg retrieval, a medical process by which the mature eggs are harvested from the ovary.

The risks derived from the egg donation process are usually mild and unusual, but cannot be overlooked, as in some cases they may turn out to be a concerning issue. This is the reason why having as many information as possible is material to make informed decisions.

The various sections of this article are assembled in the following table of contents.

Side effects of drugs to induce ovulation

Donors have to self-administer fertility medications through subcutaneous injections. They contain hormones that may lead the woman to develop certain short-term side effects as it happens with any other kind of medication.

The most common side effects include: bruising at the injection site, abdominal bloating, temporary weight gain, leg swelling, mood swings, feeling of pressure by the ovaries, and vaginal dryness.

These side effects, which can be seen in the top right of the image, are quite similar to the normal mild discomforts and symptoms of menstruation. Allergy to medications is another side effect, although it occurs rarely.

Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS)

Frequently, egg donors are good responders to ovarian medications, since they have a greater concentration of hCG receptors and more ovarian follicles. This makes it necessary for the specialist to carefully monitor the medications taken by the donor as a way of preventing them from developing OHSS or ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.

This is probably the greater risk donors face when taking drugs for ovarian stimulation. However, less than 4% of potential egg donors develop OHSS, as ovulation induction is milder than in the case of IVF patients.

OHSS is an exaggerated response to the use of medications for ovulation induction. If it develops, the ovaries become swollen and fluid leaks into the belly and breast areas. The consequences of OHSS can be classified as mild, moderate, or severe depending on the symptoms the woman develops.

Most common mild-to-moderate side effects of OHSS are: severe headache, bloating, vomiting, abdominal pain, cramping, and diarrhea. Severe OHSS could damage the donor’s ovaries and even lead her to suffer from shortness of breath.

Should a donor have a symptom picture which includes common OHSS side effects, the physician could consider reducing the dose of the medication or even cancel the egg donation cycle as a measure to prevent further medical complications.

Risks associated with egg retrieval

Egg retrieval is done by the transvaginal ultrasound-guided method, aided by an aspirating needle. The patient is given a general anesthetic, so that she does not feel any pain.

It is a minimally invasive and efficient procedure subject to an insignificant risk of developing complications; nonetheless, side effects are likely to appear as in any other surgical procedure.

Bleeding is the most frequent complication derived from follicle puncture. In most cases, it is just a slight vaginal bleeding. Also, as any other surgical intervention, egg retrieval carries with it the risk of infections.

Ovarian torsion is a rare side effect derived from egg harvesting, which may occur during egg collection if the ovaries are too mobile.

FAQs from users

Will donating eggs affect my fertility? Can it cause infertility?

There is no evidence that egg donation affects fertility, since every woman is born with a supply of around 400 million eggs, but it is estimated that only 500 are used throughout life approximately. Eggs are released with each ovulation cycle.

Thus, women who donate their eggs will be able to become pregnant in the future and have children. Should infertility problems arise, they may not be associated with egg donation at all.

Can egg donation cause cancer?

Several studies show that ovulation induction does not increase the risk of suffering from breast, ovarian, endometrial, or cervical cancer. Nor has it been shown that it leads to the development of endocrine tumors started in the hormone-producing cells.

Still, if the woman was already developing a cancer, drugs to induce ovulation during egg donation can accelerate its developing process in the case of hormone-dependent tumors.

What are the long-term side effects of egg donation?

It should be kept in mind that egg donation is a relatively common treatment, and that is why its long-term side effects are not well known yet. Studies to analyze the side effects in women who donated eggs in an earlier stage have not been conducted to date.

For these reasons, a vast majority of the side effects usually linked to egg donation are those that have been detected in women who underwent an IVF cycle in the past.

Some researchers associate hormone medications with a greater risk of developing uterine cancer. However, as stated earlier, there exists no conclusive study that confirms or refutes the truthfulness of this association.

One comment

  1. usuario
    laura stone

    I donated my eggs a few years ago and I developed mild OHSS… it felt uncomfortable, but nothing more than that… I mean, there’s no reason to worry. I know many women who have donated too and they are perfectly fine.