Regular readers may have noticed I’ve been a little quiet for the last month. I’ve been feeling ‘under the weather’, to use a common euphemism. In reality I’ve been through a really interesting experience that isn’t often spoken about in public. That must make it the perfect material for a blog, right? Right!
Warning: I will mention the word vagina at least once. Giggle if you must.
Over the last month I’ve put my middle-aged body through quite an ordeal in order to be an egg donor. I’m not talking Easter eggs here, but my ova. The gametes that contain half my genetic material and one of the main ingredients required to make a baby. My journey down this path started almost a year ago, and has involved numerous tests to rule out genetic mutations and sexually transmitted diseases, several counselling sessions to assess mine and my husband’s understanding of the law around egg donation, our rights regarding the eggs and any babies they may produce, and to determine whether I was making the donation of my own free will. We also had to apply for permission from an ethics committee as laid out by the New Zealand Human Assisted Reproductive Technology Act of 2004.
Needles, needles and more needles
After passing all the tests and with ethics permission granted, on Tuesday the 2nd December I took a dose of antibiotics and started giving myself a hormone injection into my abdomen every evening. I really hate injections but the needle was very fine and didn’t really hurt. That all changed 5 days later when I had to start giving myself a second injection each day, this one in the morning. This injection really stung and left me with a new little bruise each day. Normally every month a woman’s body matures one egg which is released from the ovary in anticipation of being fertilised. The hormones I was taking were to make as many eggs as possible develop at once. I felt sore and very tired.
Three days after starting the morning injections I was back at the fertility clinic for blood tests and a scan to see how many eggs were developing and the size of the follicles they were developing in. Once enough follicles had reached a certain size, I stopped having the two daily injections, took my ‘trigger’ injection which makes the eggs do their final maturation step and then 36 hours later went into the clinic for the egg collection. Under a mild sedation, the eggs were sucked out of me using a fine needle inserted through my vagina. The antibiotics I took at the beginning were to prevent me getting an infection from this procedure. I went home and slept for the rest of the day. For the next couple of days I was sore and uncomfortable so took some pain killers and spent most of the time sleeping.
A slight complication…
At this point I should have started feeling better, but I was one of the unlucky few who go on to develop a rare complication called Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome. Fortunately mine was just a mild case; I had a painful swollen abdomen, shortness of breathe, nausea and aching arms. Severe cases can require hospitalisation to drain fluid from the lungs and abdomen. About a week later the swelling had gone down, the nausea abated and my arms were back to normal. Alas, I’d missed all the work pre-Christmas parties but was back to full strength for the family festivities. Phew!
In a future post, I’ll explain why I became an egg donor and give some of the stats around success rates for in vitro fertilisation. In the meantime, to see what happens during ovarian stimulation watch this neat little animation: