Can I be an egg donor?

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One of the questions that we get asked most often from women across the country: Can I be an egg donor?

Unfortunately, your generous spirit and fabulous personality are not always enough. There are some important physical and medical criteria that all our egg donors need to meet.

Age

You must be between the ages of 19 and 32 years old – obviously of legal age in South Africa, which makes sense. But why cap at 32? It’s something we’ve covered in detail in another blogpost (https://www.nurture.co.za/2018/09/21/why-you-shouldnt-wait-to-donate-your-eggs/), but it mostly has to do with the quality of your gorgeous eggs as you age. Spoiler alert: Don’t wait! In order to give your recipients the best chance at a pregnancy, we look for donors under the age of 32.

BMI

You must have a medically healthy weight – specifically a body mass index (BMI) of between 18 and 28. This has everything to do with the fertility medications that are prescribed to our donors, and their safety. If you’re very overweight or underweight, you might not respond well to the anaesthesia, and it might be more difficult to safely reach your ovaries to retrieve the eggs (https://www.shadygrovefertility.com/blog/fertility-health/the-truth-about-weight-and-fertility/). Additionally, women who are over the recommended weight range typically have a lower response to the medication prescribed – which means there is a chance that you won’t be able to provide the eggs your recipients need.

Menstrual cycle

You must have a healthy menstrual cycle and regular periods. Whether you’ve had children or not won’t be a factor, but it’s important to note that you cannot donate while breastfeeding, and for at least two regular periods after you’ve finished breastfeeding. This is for two main reasons: Firstly, your hormone levels will already be out of whack while you’re breastfeeding, and secondly, the fertility medication can be passed on to your baba.

Vices

You also can’t donate if you suffer from alcohol addiction or use any recreational drugs. Again, heavy alcohol use and any drug use will negatively impact your egg quality, and potentially put you (and your recipient) at risk. And while you won’t be disqualified if you’re a smoker, we really, really, really REALLY suggest that you cut down (or use this opportunity to quit entirely!) Again, this has everything to do with your egg quality.

Medications

You may not be able to donate if you take certain prescription medications, or combinations of prescription medications (these include acne medications like Roaccutane and combinations of two or more psychiatric drugs). Make sure you flag any medications that you take with us and your doctor so that they can give you the go-ahead.

Health conditions

And then, if you have any serious medical problems, genetically transmitted diseases or certain sexually transmitted diseases, you will not be allowed to donate. This includes things such as epilepsy, schizophrenia, Chron’s Disease, HIV, Hepatitis B or C and Lupus – you can check out the list here: https://www.nurturedonors.co.za/medical-conditions/

All clear? Head straight here to get started: https://portal.nurture.co.za/members/sign_up/donors

And even if you can’t donate yourself, perhaps share the link with someone you think might be interested. Every referral helps!

Things first time donors might not expect

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Your first egg donation is a very exciting time. Perhaps a little scary, sure, as you stride into new territory in that cute pair of sneakers you found on sale last week. There are interviews and doctor’s appointments and injections – all of which you, our awesome Nurture donor, are prepped for.

But there’s one thing you might not expect – and that is how profound and emotional the process might be for you. And by this, we mean lots and lots of happy tears, lump-in-throat moments, and cheering out loud in random places when you get an email with great news.

It’s only natural to feel absolutely freaking awesome when you get the news that someone chose your profile out of literally hundreds out there. After your lengthy application, meeting with the psychologist, and physical screening, you’re finally on the road to helping someone achieve their dream of falling pregnant. Many of our donors tell us that they feel honoured to be chosen to be part of the recipient’s journey – it means they’ve seen something that calls out to them in your application, and want you to be part of their journey.

You might also fall in love a little bit. Just as we have fabulous Nurture donors, we also have fabulous Nurture recipients, so we can’t blame you!  During your donation process, we might forward you notes from your recipient, and give you an opportunity to write them back. These might be notes telling you a little bit about them, or their partner, or their lives, and how grateful they are to you for generosity. No matter how long or short the note, these are almost always guaranteed to leave you with a lump in your throat!

After your retrieval, it’s time for you to give yourself the biggest pat on the back EVER. You have ever right to feel totally proud of yourself. If you’re also a bit overwhelmed, that’s also totally okay. You can just blame it on the hormones 😉

Not all recipients will want to share the results of the donation – and you might not want to hear how it went, either. But if they do share the news of a positive pregnancy test or – even better! – a baby (or two!), then we give you full permission to cheer out loud wherever you are and shed more than a few happy tears.

Trust us – there is literally no other feeling like this! This is why donors come back – and this is why we do what we do – this incredible experience of changing lives in such a profound way.

Egg donation and your safety

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While you’re contemplating whether or not egg donation is for you, it’s important to consider some of the

potential risks around the process.  And yes, there are some – but what in life doesn’t have risks?

First things first – is egg donation safe? Yes, it is – especially when you’re in the right hands, which is why Nurture only works with the very best hospitals, clinics and fertility specialists around. Our donors’ safety and wellbeing is the most important thing to us!

But we’re all about playing open cards and making sure all of our donors are informed, so – take a deep breath, and let’s plunge right in.

The what: OHSS

The main risk is something called Ovarian Hyper-Stimulation Syndrome (or OHSS, which is a bit less of a mouthful!) Simply put: The fertility medication you’re put on stimulates your ovaries to produce more eggs. In rare cases, your ovary goes a little crazy and starts producing too many eggs, which can cause swelling of your ovaries, and a fluid build-up in other parts of your body. If it’s going to happen, OHSS usually kicks in a day or two after retrieval and symptoms include bloating, nausea and pain.

How we mitigate it:

All those scans you’re going to? Part of what the doctors are keeping an eye on is how your ovaries are reacting. If they see your body’s a little over-eager, they’ll lower the dose of your medication. Plus, in the vast majority of egg donation cycles in South Africa, your drug protocol will include an injection called Lupron, which effectively eliminates the development of OHSS. (Hooray!)

In the very unlikely event that you do get OHSS, the doctor will most likely send you off to bed and tell you to rest and drink loads of fluids until your ovaries shrink back to their less angry state. If they’re very concerned, they might book you into the clinic and put you on a drip and some antibiotics until you’re on the mend.

The what: Ovarian torsion

It even sounds painful – but thankfully it’s super, SUPER rare. Basically, ovarian torsion is when your ovary gets itself twisted with the tissues that support it. It can happen to any woman, but is more likely to occur in women who are pregnant or have undergone fertility treatment. The main symptom is intense pain. If you experience any severe pain during your cycle and in the days after your retrieval, phone up the clinic immediately. Surgery might be required, and the longer you leave it, the more you are at risk to possibly lose the ovary. Don’t be a hero – get in touch with the doctor as soon as you can!

How we mitigate it:

Take it easy after your retrieval – your kickboxing class can wait for a week! Ovarian torsion after a donation mostly occurs during vigorous exercise, so give it a week or so until you start climbing mountains again.

The what: Infection

With any medical procedure – from egg donation to dentistry – there is a risk of infection. A very, very small risk – but it’s still there.

How we mitigate it:

As we said earlier, our doctors and clinics are top-notch – there are no dodgy back-rooms on our books! Besides, what most clinics will do is give you a shot of antibiotics while you’re under to minimise your risk of infection. If you experience some bleeding after your procedure (a little is very normal), then make sure that you use a sanitary towel and not a tampon to further reduce the risk of infection.

The chances of anything going wrong during your donation are so very, very small (seriously, you’re more likely to get into a car crash on your way home), but here at Nurture, we firmly believe in informed consent.

Remember, if at any stage during or after your donation you feel anything unusual – any pain or discomfort – let your doctor or someone from the Nurture team know right away! And if at any stage anything is worrying you, feel free to give us a shout.

A day in the life of Helen de Pinto

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Helen de Pinto

Helen de Pinto works non-stop to ensure that Nurture’s donors are taken care of – from the donor’s application to the initial interview and posting on the Nurture website. This mom of three daughters has been with Nurture since it started. Find out what her day looks like, what gets her going in the morning, and what her one piece of advice for a new donor is. 

 

What is your role at Nurture?

I follow up from when a donor moves to Pending Interview through to being made active on system.  I interview donors. I look after travelling donors from booking appointments, travel, and accommodation to arranging travel allowance and looking after them while in the host city.  I email back on-board donors and move them to Active or Past. Do all clinic and recipient PDFs and keep their folders up to date. Email donors with any questions for the recipient team. Do Monthly Stats on Donors.  Follow up with team and move donors that have had their retrievals. I would say I do a little bit of everything.

 

What does a typical day at Nurture look like for you?

Going through all emails, chatting to travelling donors on WhatsApp, organising any flights needed for initials or retrievals. I may do an interview. Follow up with any queries / emails sent to donors. Checking and following up on any retrievals done for the day, moving them. General donor admin, going through all my matches, making sure all is on track. Different things come up all the time – my days are never the same.

 

What was your day job before Nurture? 

I worked as a PA to the Managing Director at a Corporate Firm and did Marketing as well.

 

What is your favourite thing about working at Nurture?

To be honest, I cannot just name one favourite thing, it is a combination of things that I love about working at Nurture.

 

What has the highlight of your Nurture career been?

I have been with Nurture since it started and the highlight of my Nurture career has been watching how we have grown and evolved into what Nurture is today. It has been a great journey, with lots of learning, changes and challenges but we always come out on top. We have a great team of women and we get it done the right way.

 

If you could know the absolute and total truth to one question – what would you ask?

Will my girls be content, happy and successful in their lives?

 

What is in your ultimate picnic basket?

Grapes / Cherries / Blueberries / Strawberries, Lindt Dark Chocolate, Mixed roasted Nuts

Camembert Cheese / Brie Cheese with crackers & figs and Woolworths Nachos and Spicy Guacamole Dip

 

 What’s your superpower?

I care, I am reliable, available, loyal and will make sure I get things done.

 

What gets you going in the morning? 

My family, a good cup of coffee and my work

 

You’re a mom to three girls. What is your greatest wish for them?

My greatest wish for my three girls is for them to be happy, love themselves, to believe in themselves, be strong, independent women, know that everything and anything is possible with commitment, studying and hard work no matter how many times they fall, which I know they will, they can get up and do it again and will succeed. I will always be there to pick them up and dust them off no matter what.  I love listening to them, watching them take on challenges and see some of the values I try teaching them already coming through in their characters

 

What are you doing when you’re not at work?

Generally, I am with my husband and daughters. If my husband is busy around house or watching sports, then the girls and I go out together. The older girls drive so we go on little outings and have some girl fun. The girls often have friends around as well, so the house is always busy. I must admit we are a homely type of family. I sneak in a little bit of Nurture emails while everyone is still sleeping in the morning, I just cannot resist.

 

What is the one piece of advice that you have for a new egg donor? 

You need to be committed and you need to make sure you have the support you need before coming on board. It is important to have a parent/partner/best friend that will support you throughout the egg donor journey.

 

What is the most common question that a new donor has?

Will donating eggs effect my future fertility?

 

Describe the average Nurture egg donor in five words.

Special, committed, compassionate, giving and caring.

 

What is the one misconception about egg donation that you would wave a wand to clear up? 
A donor is giving away their child.
You can email Helen on Helen@nurture.co.za