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The “Eggsploitation” Issue

Posted Oct 29 2010 9:46am

By Mary Ellen McLaughlin

A new documentary called “ Eggsploitation ” presents the stories of three women who went through the egg donation process and experienced rare complications, such as a stroke, cancer (which has not been proven to be related) and ovarian hyper-stimulation.

It claims the fertility industry does not tell egg donors of the complications and risks. Of course, it’s one-sided and shades the truth. It’s controversy that sells, right?

The fact of the matter is that any medical procedure involves some risk, and egg donation is no exception. Any woman thinking about donating her eggs certainly should be informed by her agency of the risks, and of signs that she may be experiencing complications. The agency that doesn’t explain them is extraordinarily careless and unprofessional. But given my years in the field and the number of agencies we know, I’d also say that would be the exception to the rule.

Our agency repeatedly goes over these risks and complications with prospective donors. We, like most agencies and fertility clinics, also give them pamphlets to ensure they learn the signs and symptoms of complicating health issues.

But honestly, as much as we coach and advocate and inform our donors, we’ve always found that our donors are their own best advocates, and very much aware of the downsides as well as the up. We have to wonder about the women profiled in Eggsploitation. Were they truly so unaware?

Here, because it bears repeating, are the most common complications from egg donation:

  • Ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome , which is commonly caused by fertility medications. It usually occurs after retrieval, generally within the first week. Some of the signs and symptoms are rapid weight gain, abdominal distention, difficulty or painful respirations, decreased urine output and dehydration.
  • Ovarian torsion , which is when the ovary rotates. It can occur at any time after the procedure due to increased ovarian size, this is why decreased physical activity is prescribed right before and after retrieval. Signs and symptoms are severe one-sided abdominal/pelvic pain.
  • Bleeding and/or infection, which only occur after the procedure. Bleeding into the abdomen or vaginal wall is usually followed by an infection. Signs and symptoms are abdominal/pelvic pain, increased abdominal girth and fever. Infection by itself will cause fever accompanied by abdominal/pelvic pain.

In the 15 years I have been working with egg donors, less then 1 percent has experienced any complications. Many of these women donate to help others create a family and they’re willing to forge ahead, fully informed of the risks.

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