The egg donation procedure involves getting the timing just right. A lot of preparation goes into making sure that everything is lined up and timed perfectly so that when a donor’s eggs are ready to be retrieved, the intended parent’s womb is ready to receive the embryos. Synchronising two women’s bodies is a delicate and careful process, which is why the timing of the preparation is incredibly important.
Once you’ve been chosen to donate, the first thing that happens is that a Nurture Support person will be allocated as your Chief Support Officer – your BFF, your big sister, your boo. She will look after you throughout the process, holding your hand and answering any and all of your questions.
Once you’ve been chosen by a lucky parent-to-be, Nurture will send an email to let you know. We will check that you are still ready, willing and able to donate. Please remember to check your emails and WhatsApp messages regularly and PLEASE respond to the email as soon as possible. The future parents will be anxiously waiting to hear if their chosen donor is willing to donate to them.
Before we go ahead with the donation process, we need to make sure that you are medically and mentally healthy enough to donate. Your medical assessment will be at the fertility clinic where you have been chosen to donate.
Your medical assessment will involve a gynae checkup where the doctor will do an internal ultrasound to have a look at your ovaries. This is to make sure they are healthy and that you have enough eggs to be a suitable egg donor. The doctor will also do a general health checkup, a medical questionnaire, and some blood tests where they will test for infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis.
Once you’ve been declared medically fit to donate, you will have a session with a psychologist or social worker (either in person or online) to make sure you are mentally healthy enough to donate. Sounds scary, but it is actually a really great process. It is your opportunity to chat about any feelings or concerns or questions you might have about the egg donation process. The therapist will also take a family mental health history from you. We all have a crazy aunt or uncle, and that’s okay! But hereditary diseases like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia in your immediate family will mean you don’t qualify to be an egg donor.
How much will all of these tests and appointments cost you? Nothing! You do not have to pay for any of the tests or the appointments or the medication. The only thing you have to pay for is getting yourself to the clinic on time.
Once you’ve got the green light from the fertility specialist and the psychologist, and have been declared fit to donate, the planning phase starts. This is very important as your cycle and the mom-to-be’s cycle have to be perfectly synchronized.
The actual donation will only happen 2 to 3 months after you’ve been chosen. As part of the planning of the treatment, it is VERY important that you let the fertility clinic know of any dates that you CAN’T donate. If you have exams in two months, or you are going away on holiday in a month, or you have a weekend away coming up, let the clinic know so that they don’t book your appointments and egg retrieval date for when you are not available.
Once your treatment plan has been finalised and the dates confirmed, with you and the mom-to-be, you will be issued with your medications and clear instructions on how and when to take them.
After your first screening appointments, and after the treatment plan has been finalised, both you and mom-to-be will start on a mild oral contraceptive. This is used to synchronize the two cycles.
Both you and the mom-to-be will start the pill on the same day, and three weeks later, both of you will stop the pill on the same day. Both of you should get your period around five days after stopping the pill. From that point, your two cycles are now in sync with each other.
You will now take medication to grow and mature the eggs to get them ready for egg retrieval. At the same time, the mom-to-be will take medication to prepare her womb to receive the embryos.
After all the waiting (waiting to start the pill, waiting to stop the pill, waiting for your period), the busy time of your donation starts. This is when you will be taking the fertility medication.
The fertility medication is a hormone called FSH – or Follicle Stimulating Hormone. FSH occurs naturally in the body and its role is to grow and mature the eggs. The medication comes in an injection format, and you will need to inject yourself for around 10 days as part of this process.
The nurse at the fertility clinic will show you exactly how to inject, when to inject, and where to inject (your tummy is usually the easiest as most of us have some padding on our tummies, which makes it pretty pain-free to inject there).
And if you really can’t inject yourself, ask your partner or a friend or a relative to administer the injection. Who knows! Your partner might have been WAITING for the opportunity to stab you with a sharp object!
Once you’ve started the fertility injections, you will need to see the doctor at the fertility clinic for an appointment and an ultrasound every second or third day. This is so the doctor can monitor your body’s response to the fertility medication. Some people’s ovaries might not be over-achievers and might need a bit more medication. Other people’s ovaries might be super excited and might need less medication. It is important that the doctor monitors your response for your own health, and for the success of the donation.
You will need to attend between three and four appointments during this 10-day period. These appointments are VITALLY important. You need to attend each of these appointments on the exact date and time you were given. You will know well in advance when your appointments are so that you can plan accordingly.
An important note to bear in mind: these appointments will happen during normal office hours (Monday to Friday). So, if you are working or attending classes, it is important that you factor this in when you agree to donate. The checkup appointments are usually fairly quick and shouldn’t take more than an hour of your time.
Egg retrieval is a safe, painless, non-invasive procedure. There is no operation: no cutting or scarring or bleeding or stitches are required. You will need to take one day off work and that is the day of egg retrieval. You will know that date well in advance so that you can put in for a day’s leave. If you need a doctor’s note for any time off work, the fertility doctor can issue one for you.
– On the day of egg retrieval, the nurse will give you a time that you need to be at the fertility clinic. You will probably be asked not to eat or drink anything before the procedure.
– Once you’ve arrived and settled in, the nurse will take you to the retrieval room.
– You will be given a mild sedative (called twilight anaesthesia) through an IV. So you will be asleep throughout the procedure and will feel no pain, but you will still be able to breathe on your own. In other words, you are not knocked out completely, you are just in a deep sleep.
– Once you are asleep, the doctor will insert a fine needle through the vaginal wall into the ovary. The needle goes into each ovarian follicle and uses gentle suction to pull out the fluid and the egg that comes with it. This fluid is then collected in a test tube and given to the embryologist who will retrieve the little eggs from the fluid. The process is quick and painless.
– You will then wake up about 30 minutes later and be given a small snack and something to drink. You can then go home.
– You cannot drive yourself home as you’ve had sedation during the procedure, and this makes you a bit groggy for the first few hours after the procedure. So you will need to get someone to fetch you from the fertility clinic, or take an Uber/taxi home.
Become an egg donor with SA’s best egg donation programme
Nurture is a team of passionate, dedicated ladies with extensive egg donation experience and a deep understanding of what egg donors go through. It’s why we’re South Africa’s longest running egg donation programme, having successfully paired thousands of excited moms-to-be with their perfect egg donor. Get in touch with Nurture if you’d like to find out more.