What to expect on retrieval day

eggs-out

So, the big day has finally arrived! The doctor is thrilled with how your ovaries are looking, you’ve finished all of your injections, fasted for a few hours and you’re ready to go. It’s retrieval day.

While you should have been able to fit your appointments in around work or classes, you absolutely must take the day off on egg retrieval day. While you’ll only be in the clinic for around three hours, you need to factor in some time to recover from the anesthetic (you might still be quite groggy), and REST. Make sure you’re stocked up at home with snacks and drinks and painkillers, just in case.

When you arrive at the clinic (usually sometime between 7am and noon – most retrievals are scheduled in the morning), you’ll be checked over by an anesthetist and a nurse to make sure that everything’s A-okay before you’re given a VERY sexy hospital gown to change into.

By this time you’ll have been in and around the clinic so often that you’ll recognise friendly faces – so if you’re feeling nervous or have any questions, don’t be shy! When it’s time to get started, someone will walk you into the procedure room to get you settled on the bed and ready to go.

You will have been asked to fast for a few hours before you undergo anesthetic, which is referred to as “twilight” anesthesia. The anaesthetist will insert a cannula to administer the anesthetic, and you’ll be asked to count backwards from 10. You’ll be out before you know it!

While you’re out, your eggs will be retrieved by a process known as “ultrasound directed needle aspiration”. A needle is passed through the top wall of your vagina, guided by ultrasound, into the ovaries and then the follicles to get at the eggs. The eggs are then ‘sucked’ in through an aspiration needle and safely retrieved. The amazing thing? This process takes less than 30 minutes! That’s shorter than an episode of Friends or The Big Bang Theory!

Then you’re wheeled into the recovery room, where you’ll wake up shortly after your retrieval is done. You’ll probably feel a bit groggy and disoriented, or maybe even a little nauseated. This is all normal! A nurse will come to check in on you and, when you’re ready, give you something small to eat and drink, and painkillers if you need any. They will also check your blood pressure a few times. When they’re happy that you’re recovered enough to leave, it’s time to head home. Depending on the clinic, you might receive your donor compensation after your retrieval.

You must have someone there to fetch you. You’re legally not allowed to drive yourself home – even though you might ‘feel fine’. And no, your Uber driver doesn’t count!

When you get home, it’s time to take it easy. It’s time for you to nap, to snack, to bond with Netflix or that pile of movies you’ve been saving. This is the perfect excuse for a real day off!

You might experience some spotting and some cramping after the retrieval (again, totally normal, and hot water bottles and pads are great to have on hand), but give the clinic a call if you experience any ‘scary’ or unusual pain or bleeding. Don’t be a hero!

You should be fine to return to work or classes the day after your retrieval, but every woman is different, so listen to your body. If you don’t feel up to it, rather take another day off and rest. Be kind to yourself – you have just done an incredible thing, you can afford to put your feet up!

If you have any further questions, give us a shout! One of our fabulous Nurture gals will be on hand to answer any and all questions, or just to chat.

Why does an egg donor’s BMI matter?

BMI

To qualify to become an egg donor in South Africa, you must meet a strict set of guidelines. You must be a certain age (between 19 and 32), be drug-free, have good family medical history, your BMI must be between 18 and 28 points.

The BMI requirement is one that we’re asked about a lot – so we’re taking some time to break it down.

What is BMI?

BMI stands for Body Mass Index, it’s a mathematical way of measuring how ‘healthy’ your size is, based on your weight and height. If you’re into the maths, the formula is this: Your weight (in kilograms) divided by your height (in centimetres) squared, then multiplied by 10 000. If you’re not into the maths, there are literally thousands of BMI calculators online.

While it doesn’t directly measure your amount of body fat, BMI is still the measurement that many medical professionals use to establish whether a person is ‘normal’, overweight, or underweight.

A ‘normal’ BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9 points, while ‘overweight’ is classified at between 25 and 29.9 points, and ‘obese’ at 30 points and above.

So, what does it matter?

Your BMI not only impacts the quality of your own eggs, but also how you might respond to the fertility drugs that you’re given.

Research has proven that women with an ‘abnormal’ (high or low) BMI are less likely to fall pregnant in the same period as women with a ‘normal’ BMI. There is a ton of science behind it, but a lot of it has to do directly with those fatty bits (also known as adipose tissue), which release hormones and proteins that can get in the way of healthy egg development and ovulation. For example – adipose tissue releases some oestrogen (who knew?) A healthy balance of oestrogen is critical for healthy ovulation – more adipose tissue means more oestrogen, throwing your body’s delicate hormonal balance out of whack.

But most importantly, women who are overweight also typically have a lower response to the medication prescribed, requiring a larger / longer dose of the egg stimulating medication that you’re given. These higher doses, somewhat counterintuitively, could lead to fewer healthy eggs being retrieved – which could lead to a lower success rate for your recipients.

Other risks

Aside from the meds not working as they should, a very high or low BMI can impact how your body responds to the anaesthetic that is administered during your retrieval and make it difficult for the doctors to physically perform the retrieval. It puts our donors at risk and that’s the last thing we want!

So, if you’re looking to donate your eggs and your BMI falls out of the required range, it’s a perfect motivation to make any lifestyle changes that you might need. Just make sure not to do anything drastic without the help of a medical professional!

Why do women donate their eggs?

Eggs

It’s a question that gets asked all the time – why would women donate their eggs? Aren’t they, like, giving away their babies? Are they selling their eggs for the money? At Nurture, we’ve heard it all, and we’re here to say: Every woman is different and may have different motivation.

So here are a few of the most common reasons.

They need the money

Let’s get this out of the way first – donors are compensated R7 000 for their time and effort. They’re not ‘selling’ their eggs. And yes, the money does entice some donors to apply to Nurture. But egg donation is no quick buck – it’s hard work and a lot of commitment, and involves an intense screening process. Very often we find that women who are initially attracted by the idea of some extra money quickly find that it doesn’t matter as much as helping someone to fulfil their dream. It’s so much more valuable than the money!

They know someone who has struggled with infertility…

A personal connection to someone who has struggled with infertility is another motivator for donors. Our very own Melany, for example was moved to donate her eggs by Tertia’s struggle with infertility!

… Or know single people or same-sex couples who want a baby

Unlike some places around the world, in South Africa it is legal to donate your eggs to gay couples and single parents!

They genuinely want to make a difference

This is made all the more incredible by the fact that our donations are anonymous. Donors sign up because they want to make a difference in another person’s life by helping them to build their family.

They are innately compassionate people

Simply put – they care. They’re willing to undergo a pretty intense process to help a total stranger – one that they often end up forming a bond with, even though they never meet. They know how important this is to the recipient, and are invested in seeing this succeed.

Often, it’s a combination of some or all of the above.

A day in the life of Kim Lazarus

Kim Lazarus

Kim Lazarus

A veteran of 17 rounds of IVF and a mom to two teenage boys, Kim Lazarus is Nurture’s “fairy godmother”, who helps to finds the perfect match for our recipients. We chat to superwoman Kim about her day job before Nurture, her advice for new egg donors, and what she would pack in her ultimate picnic basket.

Describe in 10 words or less what you do at Nurture. 
Recipient support, local and international egg bank co-ordination

 

What does a typical day at Nurture look like for you? 
Most of my communication with recipients is via email, so a large portion of my day is spent at my desk. Finding suitable donors for recipients, based on the information and photos they provide, is a very time consuming and methodical process.  We are also busy with our new and exciting egg bank projects (local and international).  There is an enormous amount of admin involved so I dedicate specific times to this in order to stay focused. Some recipients like to meet face-to-face, so I always keep a morning open to meet them for coffee and a chat, and then of course there are our weekly team and department meetings.

 

What was your day job before Nurture?

A fabric buyer in the clothing industry.

 

What do you do when you’re not at work?

I have been married to my husband for 20 years and I am a mom to two boys aged 18 and 13.  My family is definitely my focus when I am not working. I exercise in the mornings, love catching up on series over the weekend and I have awesome girlfriends who I spent lots of time with.

 

What has been the highlight of your Nurture career?

Every baby that is born is a highlight for me but if I were to single out one event, it would have to be the birth of twins to the most amazing women who had lost both of her biological children in a tragic accident.

 

You have also worked in the surrogacy field – how did you move to working with Nurture?

Together with Tertia and Melany, I started the surrogacy program under the Nurture umbrella. When the surrogacy laws changed in 2010 it became very difficult to continue providing our surrogacy service, despite numerous attempts to do so. We closed the surrogacy program as a business and joined hands with an attorney who specialises in the field and is able to continue the service due to her legal qualifications. It was heart-breaking to see it come to an end but Tertia asked me to move over to egg donation and take over from her in dealing with recipients so that she could focus on other aspects of the business and new opportunities.

 

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

Why do bad things happen to good people?

 

Your profile mentions that you underwent extensive fertility treatment before you became a mom. How does that impact how you deal with Nurture’s donors and recipients?

I honestly am not sure how one is able to work with recipients without having some personal experience. Although I didn’t use donor eggs, my IVF journey has given me so much insight into the process.  I believe that I have probably experienced every emotion that a recipient can/may/will experience – the highs, the lows and everything in between. I sometimes wonder whether my 17 IVFs terrify or inspire recipients, but I hope it is more of the latter. I know when recipients need to be encouraged and given a little push to take the next step and I also know when to back off and let them process the information they have.

 

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

Ask lots of questions, talk to past donors, gather as much information as you can.  What you are doing is HUGE. It is life-changing stuff, not only for the recipient but also for you.  Make sure you are 100% comfortable with the process.  Be proud of what you are doing and have someone to support you.

 

Describe the average Nurture egg donor in five words.

I don’t think there is such a thing as an average donor. Each donor is so unique and special.

 

Describe an average morning in your household.

During the week we wake up around 6.  Mornings are generally very calm as I make sure that bags are packed and sorted the night before – I cannot do morning chaos as it sets a horrible tone for the rest of the day.

 

What is your proudest achievement?

Having two beautiful, healthy children after 17 IVFs over seven years

 

What is in your ideal picnic basket? 
Pizza with banana, avocado and chilli; green salad; Diemersdal Sauvignon Blanc with lots of ice; Cadbury’s coconut and cashew nut milk chocolate.

 

What’s your superpower?

To remain calm in a crisis, despite my own high level of anxiety.  I can hold it together when others can’t.