Egg Donor Medications

Medications Used In The Egg Donation Process

Below is an explanation of the medications used during the egg donation process, as well as potential side effects. Please note that each egg donor responds differently to her individual protocol; some donors will experience no side effects at all. The medical staff will instruct each donor on how to self-administer the medications with small needles which are injected into the fatty tissue of either the thighs or abdomen.

GNRH AGONIST – Leuprolide Acetate  (Drug names: Lupron)
One injection per day for approximately 12 days, then one injection per day in conjunction with gonadotropin therapy (see below) for a total of approximately 22 days.

The administration of GNH agonist medicine like Lupron is used to prevent release of eggs and to control some of the female hormone levels. Specifically, it affects the pituitary gland and results in lower luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) in the body. This approach is used to achieve a more uniform and predictable response to the IVF medicines and reduce the likelihood of an egg donation cycle being canceled.

Extensive studies on non-human primates, as well as limited human evaluations, suggest that leuprolide acetate is harmless. The medication is rapidly (within hours) eliminated from the system upon discontinuing administration.

Possible Side Effects (no long-term side effects have been reported):

  • Moodiness

  • Hot flashes

  • Headache


GNRH Antagonist - Drug names: Ganirelix acetate or Cetrotide)
One injection per day or every 3 days taken with gonadotropin therapy. Typically it is added after being on the gonadotropin therapy for 4-5 days. It is taken for approximately 5-6 days.

This may be used instead of the GNRH agonist medicine Lupron to prevent the eggs from ovulating during the stimulation and also allows for more control of the cycle. It is not given for as many days as the Lupron.

Follicle Stimulating Hormones (FSH or Gonadotropins) - Drug names: Gonal F, Bravelle, Follistim, Menopur, Repronex

(One injection per day for approximately 10 days.

FSH is the very same hormone produced by a woman’s body to mature the eggs within the ovaries during her reproductive cycle. Each egg in the ovary sits in a sac called a follicle. In the treatment of egg donation, FSH medicine is given to develop many sacs or follicles and thus make many eggs. The more ovarian follicles produced, the greater chances are for a successful outcome.

Possible Side Effects (no long-term side effects have been reported):

  • Headache

  • Moodiness

  • Fatigue

  • Bloating


Rare Possible Side Effects:
OHSS (ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome) The incidence of severe OHSS is 1-2% of IVF cases. OHSS means essentially that the body has "over-responded" to the FSH and the ovaries become excessively enlarged. Great care is taken by the physician to minimize the risk. Treatment for this condition may include hospitalization and a minor procedure. Forgoing proper treatment can result in extremely serious complications including blood clots and stroke. There is also a rare risk of the ovary tearing open or twisting on itself, so decreasing physical activities while on the FSH medicine is important.



Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG or “Trigger shot") - Drug Names: Ovidrel, Profasi, Pregnyl
One injection approximately 34 hours prior to egg retrieval.

hCG is the name of the pregnancy hormone and is produced by the human placenta. The purpose of administering hCG is to mature the eggs before they are retrieved, like when the sun ripens a fruit. Once the follicles are the right size the egg inside needs to ripen or become mature; hCG medicine makes this happen. It is very important to take this injection because without it the eggs would not be usable for IVF.

Possible Side Effects (no long-term side effects have been reported):

  • Headache

  • Moodiness

  • Fatigue

  • Bloating

Antibiotics - possible allergic reaction which, in rare cases, may be severe.

Donor Egg Risks and Complications

Prior to beginning a donor egg cycle, it is highly recommended that egg donors thoroughly discuss all potential risks and side effects of egg donation with the fertility clinic's physician.

There are several risks and side effects that may be associated with providing donor eggs:

  • Blood drawing - mild discomfort and some risk of developing a bruise at the needle site.

  • Ultrasound guided egg retrieval - mild to moderate discomfort after the procedure. Potentially serious complications include bleeding, infection, and injury to the bowel or blood vessels. In extremely rare circumstances, surgery may be necessary to repair damage to internal organs or to control significant internal bleeding (i.e., hemorrhage). Anesthesia will be necessary for the egg retrieval. (The risks associated with anesthesia will be explained during a consultation with an anesthesiologist.) There may be additional risks of donating eggs, which at the present time have not yet been identified. Since it is theoretically possible that not all of the developed eggs will be recovered at the time of retrieval, there is a risk that you may become pregnant if you engage in unprotected intercourse during the egg donation cycle(s).

  • Ovarian Hyper-Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS) of the ovaries (5% chance in any cycle). In very rare cases, hyperstimulation could lead to enlarged ovaries and an increased susceptibility to develop blood clots necessitating hospitalization. In very rare cases it may also lead to the development of fluid in the abdomen or lungs, kidney failure, or stroke. In extremely rare cases, an enlarged hyperstimulated ovary will rupture. This may necessitate general anesthesia and major surgery, with all the inherited risks. Loss of one or both ovaries is possible. The risk of hyperstimulation is minimized if the follicles are aspirated as is planned to occur at the donor egg retrieval. The risk increases if, after taking the fertility medications to stimulate the ovaries, you choose not to undergo the egg retrieval. There also exists an unlikely possibility of a lasting effect on your pelvic organs, including pain, irregular menstrual function, or impairment of future fertility. Finally, an association between fertility drugs and ovarian cancer has been suggested but not proven.

  • Ultrasound examinations - no known risks, minimal discomfort.

  • Torsion - twisting of an enlarged ovary resulting in sudden onset of severe abdominal pain. Onset during exercise or other agitating movement is common.

  • Psychological Distress - sometimes associated with assisted reproductive technology procedures.

  • Inconvenience - monitoring procedures during the period of stimulation, and the time needed to perform the egg retrieval itself will result in a certain amount of inconvenience and lost time.

  • Potential Long Term Risks - no definitive studies have demonstrated any link between egg donation and infertility, cancer, or any other significant long-term health problems. Since egg donation is a relatively new procedure, we hope to learn more about the long-term effects of donor eggs in the future when additional research becomes available.

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