By Cassie Reviea, Donor Coordinator
Cassie Reviea has been a Donor Coordinator in our program since 2015 and has guided more than 500 egg donors through the donation process.
What is the first step for an ORM Egg Donor once matched with a recipient?
Hooray! Once a recipient family has found an egg donor from our database, a donor team member will reach out to the egg donor to schedule her first appointment. The first appointment usually consists of time-sensitive tests like the FDA required physical exam and urine drug screen. Donors in our program are pre-screened for infectious diseases, genetics, and mental health, so this first appointment completes their pre-calendar testing.
Next, we need birth control pills. These pills help suppress the ovaries (meaning no eggs can grow and hormone levels are low). Birth control also allows the Donor Coordinator more flexibility to plan a very precise donation cycle. Once matched, the donor will be prescribed a preferred brand of birth control pills, with a plan to start them at her next period.
How long will a donor be on birth control pills?
Not long! We hope to have the donation cycle started within 60 days of the match. Most often, a donor will be on 1-2 months of birth control pills.
However, it is very common for recipient families to live outside of Oregon or even out of the United States. In those cases, there can be a waiting period if the recipient family needs to visit ORM to complete their preparations.
What happens during the waiting period?
We ask the donor to keep in close communication with her Donor Coordinator. We want updates every month at period starts when starting a new pack of birth control, and with any important life news.
A donor can lead her normal, fabulous life before a treatment cycle and calendar begins. We do have a few lifestyle requests and the calendar will show when they start. These include:
- Limit caffeine to 12 oz. a day
- Maintain a healthy and well-balanced diet
- Abstain from alcohol, drugs, and nicotine products
- Stop all medications or supplements not prescribed or approved by ORM
- Abstain from sexual activity (approximately 5 weeks)
- Limit exercise such as running, aerobics, and yoga
Donors can talk together on our Private Donor Facebook group to hear how other donors have implemented these new habits.
What medications does an egg donor take in the treatment cycle?
Donors get a complete teaching on the specific medications we use, their risks, and side effects. The information here is an overview, but each treatment is unique, so please send any questions to the Donor Coordinator.
A donor cycle consists of both oral and injectable medications. The donor will start with oral medications and a prenatal vitamin at the beginning of the treatment cycle. These medications will promote high-quality eggs and improve outcomes. The prenatal vitamin includes a combination of Folic Acid, Calcium, Iron, DHA, Vitamin A, B, C, and D, which all help create a healthy embryo and pregnancy.
Next comes two injectable medications, called gonadotropins, to stimulate egg growth in the donor’s body. These are taken every day for approximately 10 days. Side effects of these medications are abdominal bloating, fluid retention and increased emotional sensitivity. Another injectable medication, called an antagonist, is introduced later in the treatment cycle to prevent ovulation. Some people may experience pain or rash at the injection site.
After about 10 days of egg stimulation, another medication is prescribed, called the trigger injection. This will help the eggs mature and release from the walls of the follicle to be collected at the egg retrieval. This injection can be taken at home and needs to be done at the exact time instructed, and the egg retrieval will occur 35 hours later.
Many donors find the injections easy to administer. The medications are given in subcutaneous fatty tissue of the abdominal area – the front-facing love handles! The donor herself or a companion is trained to do the injections at home.
What should a donor expect during and after the egg retrieval?
A donor can expect focused care from our awesome surgery and anesthesia team. We use IV sedation during the egg retrievals. The procedure itself is 30 minutes and the donor spends about two hours total in the office.
To collect the eggs, we use a vaginal ultrasound probe with a long needle attached. The needle passes through the vaginal wall to reach the ovaries. Then we suction out the fluid in each follicle, which carries the eggs. No incisions or stitches are needed for this procedure.
Donors need a relative or friend to drive them home and keep them company for a few hours to ensure she is recovering well. Donors can most often return to work the next day. It is not uncommon for the donor to have vaginal spotting, cramping, bloating, constipation, or mild abdominal distention for the days just after the egg retrieval. We will prescribe medication and recommend a heating pad to help.
What happens with the recipients during the donor treatment cycle?
The donation cycle is a very important time for the egg recipients. Some are taking medications to prepare for embryo transfer and others will freeze all the embryos for genetic testing. Either way, we provide them regular updates about the donor’s stimulation process. It is very common for recipients to ask about the egg donor herself. They will say: How is she doing? Is she healthy? Please tell her we are so grateful for everything she is doing for us.
To every donor in our program, know there is a team of people here to watch out for you, and a family who is thinking about you, and we cannot thank you enough for sharing your fertility with a loving family! Read more about ORM’s Egg Donor Program.