“This is not a job”: I was an egg donor

TODAY IS THE FORTY YEARS OLD OF ENGLISH LOUISE BROWN – the first person born thanks to IVF technology. Now IVF is perceived, if not as a routine procedure, then at least as a familiar area of ​​medicine. One of the important elements of reproductive technology is egg donation. They treat it differently: some consider it an effective way to cope with infertility, others say that it is the exploitation of the body of a donor woman. We spoke with Veronica, who was an anonymous egg donor three times, then she became a donor recruiter herself, and then an IVF patient. 

Desire to help

The first time I became a donor ten years ago, when I was twenty-four years old. I had health insurance from work, which allowed me to go to a large private clinic. On their website, I found out that they are looking for egg donors. I did not have an acute need for finances, but my interest in the procedure and the opportunity to help someone attracted me. The fact that we went on vacation with my family for compensation of thirty thousand rubles was a pleasant addition.

My husband supported me, I did not tell other family members about it. Friends and acquaintances treated differently. Some categorically said: “What are you, a fool?” – even not wanting to delve into the essence of the procedure, others supported and later became donors themselves. It’s nice to know that most of the former opponents have changed their minds. Until now, the main controversial point for many is religion: world confessions cannot yet figure out whether they approve of in vitro fertilization or not. 

I decided to become an official donor, and not look for couples with infertility on social networks out of fear. How will I be legally protected if additional medical support is required or material costs arise? When the donor contacts the patient directly, all financial problems, if any complications arise, fall on the shoulders of the patients – and they may refuse to pay the donor for such services. Who knows how potential parents will behave? This is a great psychological burden. The donor, inspired by the desire to help, may face various negative emotions of the couple: jealousy, envy, mistrust. An already complicated relationship will turn into hell. The clinic acts as a buffer between the donor and the couple: it accompanies both of them in all difficult moments – both medical and psychological. At the same time, it allows you to convey positive emotions: anonymous letters of support from a donor, a letter of thanks and gifts from patients. And of course, the clinic is responsible for the life and health of the donor after the donor protocol 

Who knows how potential parents will behave? This is a great psychological burden. The donor, inspired by the desire to help, may face various negative emotions of the couple: jealousy, envy, mistrust

To become an oocyte donor ( oocyte. – Ed. ), You need to be a healthy woman without serious hereditary diseases. Previously, there was another requirement – to have your own child without genetic diseases. When I first became a donor, I already had a four-year-old son. In 2012, an amendment was made to the Russian law, and now a woman who has not given birth can become a donor. Nevertheless, clinics are recruiting mainly young mothers, because patients are more likely to choose a donor who already has a child.

I eat right, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, at that time I was taking contraceptives, so I didn’t have to change anything in my lifestyle. The appointment of hormonal contraceptives is a common requirement for the donor: they are needed to synchronize the cycle with the patient’s cycle. It is also important to follow a protein diet during the donor protocol, because growing eggs require a lot of protein. Vegan donors drink protein shakes.

But mentally I prepared for donation for a long time. I reread everything I found on the Internet in Russian about egg donation (and the information was very scarce then). Even now, people often don’t see the difference between surrogacy and egg donation. The situation on the English-language sites was better, but the most I learned from the doctor during the consultation.

Injections and hot chocolate

Before the eggs are taken from the donor, she needs hormonal stimulation. It is needed in order for not one to mature (which happens normally every month), but several eggs that are potentially released in this menstrual cycle. Hormonal stimulation lasts ten to twelve days, during which time the woman is injected subcutaneously into the abdomen. In parallel, the doctor does several ultrasound examinations to monitor the situation. The injections are practically painless – the needle is very thin, and they cause discomfort only to those who, in principle, are afraid of injections. The first times the drug is administered by a nurse, and then usually the patients themselves – it is simple and convenient due to the pen-syringe. In the process of preparing for the fence, the mood may change, but not significantly: I can count on the fingers of one hand the girls who noted such a side effect. Injections usually do not affect weight either, but libido often increases.

The eggs themselves are taken on an empty stomach under general anesthesia; the procedure lasts only ten to fifteen minutes. Everything is monitored using an ultrasound sensor, an ovary is punctured through the wall of the vagina. Puncture is a medical procedure: the wall of the vagina is pierced with a special hollow thin needle, with the help of which the eggs are taken. This method avoids incisions in the abdominal wall. After a puncture, a short nap and a medical examination, hot chocolate is brought to the donor’s ward so that she can recuperate faster. In a few hours you can go home. It is desirable that the donor be met by someone close, especially since you cannot drive yourself.

Two female recipients never
managed to get pregnant. But the third had twin girls. It is important for me that I was able to help those who needed it.

For 24 hours after the procedure, it is important to stay in bed – this is necessary to prevent possible health risks. There may be two of them. The first is ovarian hyperstimulation, according to the statistics of our clinic, it occurs in about 5-7% of patients. This condition can occur due to the fact that the drugs affect the growing follicles too much – this leads to the fact that the ovaries can increase in volume, the blood becomes thicker, diuresis is disturbed (the amount of urine secreted over a certain period of time. ed. ), edema appears. The syndrome has varying degrees of severity: it may require both minimal treatment and hospitalization. A mild form of hyperstimulation is more common, from which a course of droppers helps. The second risk is internal bleeding, as with any surgical intervention. It is very rare, according to the statistics of our clinic, in about 2% of patients.

Donors often worry about the postponed risks that may arise over the years. I am a member of a closed community of oocyte donors on Facebook from different countries, I talked with American women who were donors eighteen years ago – as far as I know, they did not have any health problems associated with egg donation ( large long-term studies on the health of donors after the procedure was not carried out , therefore it is impossible to speak unequivocally about the effect of donation on health. – Ed. note ).  

In the next two years, I became a donor twice more. Unfortunately, out of my three donor programs, two female recipients never managed to get pregnant. But the third had twin girls. It is important for me that I was able to help those who needed it.

Your own and other people’s children

I have no feeling that “my” children live somewhere else. From opponents of donation, I heard: “How can I give my children?” Usually such women are very surprised when you explain to them that every month during menstruation they lose “their children” in the form of unfertilized eggs.

The donor can participate in the programs several times, so the eggs of the same woman can be donated to different patients. This does not mean at all that different parents give birth to children similar to the same donor. The ovum is only half of the genes of the “whole” person. In order for an egg cell to become a child, it needs to get the other half of the genes from the sperm, then the woman takes it out for nine months. How can you then say that this is “my” child?

I have two children: my son is fourteen years old, and my daughter is a month and a half. I know that those who got my eggs were really looking forward to the children, that they also went through all the stages of motherhood. Once another donor told me: “It happens when a man conceives a child and does not know about it. This is an example of irresponsibility. In egg donation, it is different: the donor does not know the expectant mother, there is no sexual contact, but there is a couple who dreams of this child, and all parties approach this with the utmost responsibility.

In order for an egg cell to become a child, it needs to get the other half of the genes from the sperm, then the woman takes it out for nine months. How can you then say that this is “my” child?

Over the years, I have become not only an egg donor, but also an IVF patient. I have been married for fifteen years, our son is fourteen, and we could not even imagine that the problem of infertility could touch us. Four years ago, we started planning for a second child, but after a year of unsuccessful attempts we went to the doctor and identified the cause – the male factor. After eight years of harmful work in the subway, my husband’s sperm counts dropped dramatically, we had about 2% chances that pregnancy would occur naturally.

Patients often tell me: “I know what the donor will have to experience during the donor program, I have undergone IVF many times, it was very difficult for me, I felt very bad. I’m sorry she has to go through all this to help us. ” I can confirm this: undergoing IVF is very difficult psychologically. You want everything to be natural, without medical intervention and suffering, and this creates tremendous emotional pressure. When you are a donor, everything is diametrically opposite. For me, as well as for other donors, the procedure was easy emotionally, since the main goal was the patient’s result. When you are a donor, you are most often a mother who is ready to help another woman become a mother. The donor does not have a burden of infertility on his shoulders, there is only a desire to be useful.

When I was an IVF patient, it took me two stimulations and punctures and four attempts to finally give birth to our long-awaited daughter. The son says that it is not a miracle, but simply the result of excellent scientific work – I add that only science can work real miracles.

local_offerevent_note June 10, 2021

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