The medical treatment begins once donors are matched to recipients. First, a donor is prescribed birth control pills for a short time to put her menstrual cycle in sync with that of the recipient. She will then start daily injections of hormones intended to stimulate her ovaries into producing an overabundance of mature eggs. For the next three or four weeks, she must make frequent visits to the fertility clinic to determine when the eggs will be ready to be retrieved.
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During the hormone treatment, there can be significant medical risks for the donor. Sex can sometimes be painful and dangerous since the ovaries are swollen with maturing eggs. Multiple pregnancies are also a strong possibility before the eggs are removed.
Derek says that the hormone treatment was the most uncomfortable part of the process. She was hyperstimulated since the hormones made her produce almost 30 eggs. "I was very bloated," she says. "It was often hard for me to lie down and sometimes even just breathing was uncomfortable. And my emotions were a mess."
About one in ten women will experience mild ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), a condition in which the hormone injections upset the body's fluid balance. Mild OHSS causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, and swelling. Approximately 1% of women will end up in the hospital with severe OHSS, which can cause kidney failure, fluid build-up in the lungs, and shock. Occasionally, OHSS can cause permanent infertility or death. Even if no immediate problems are experienced, doctors don't know much about the long-term consequences of the hormone treatment, and some research has suggested that egg donors may have an increased risk of ovarian cancer.