Interview with Fairfax EggBank’s Medical Director
We sat down with Dr. Laurence Udoff, Fairfax EggBank’s Medical Director, to provide his insights on egg donation and to explain what the donor egg process looks like for donors at Fairfax EggBank.
What would you say to someone considering becoming an egg donor?
Donor egg IVF is a modern miracle of science. Patients who have a near zero chance of conceiving using their own eggs have the opportunity to still conceive using donor egg technology.
But the development of donor egg technology is only a small part of the equation. It’s the generosity of egg donors that that makes donor egg IVF a possibility for hopeful recipients.
So, if you’re considering egg donation, we’re immensely grateful. Know that if you choose to enter our program, you’ll feel valued and safe. We provide every donor with the personalized attention and care they deserve, and we’re committed to ensuring we do everything possible to make the donor egg process smooth and easy.
What are some benefits of being an egg donor that people might not know about?
There are both tangible and intangible benefits of being an egg donor.
In the United States, egg donors are compensated for the time and effort they expend on the donor process. The compensation is the tangible benefit. But if donors donated just for the sake of compensation they may feel that it was inadequate.
This is why we screen our donors carefully to assess their degree of altruism and desire to help others. We believe they’ll only feel fulfilled if they care that they helped someone who otherwise wouldn’t be able to have a family. What the donors will take away from their experience is being a part of something much larger than them and helping someone have a family. This is the intangible and priceless benefit.
What are your views on fresh vs. frozen donor eggs from the donor’s perspective?
The convenience and speed are superior at a donor egg bank. An egg bank cycle strictly focuses on the donor and her timeline.
She doesn’t have to synchronize her cycle with the recipient as she’d need to with fresh cycles.
There is also no pressure trying to match up a recipient with a donor at the same time. The donor doesn’t have to wait to start her donor egg cycle until she’s selected by a recipient. She can begin her donor egg cycle as soon as she passes all our testing requirements.
You perform egg retrievals at Fairfax EggBank’s location in Virginia. Can you describe what the procedure is like for an egg donor?
You shouldn’t feel anything at the actual egg retrieval. This is because we will have an anesthesiologist give you medications so that you are “asleep” during the procedure.
While you’re asleep the reproductive endocrinologist will extract the eggs from your follicles using “transvaginal ultrasound aspiration.” The reproductive endocrinologist will insert an ultrasound probe into your vagina to find your follicles. Then, he/she will insert a thin needle through the vagina and into the ovary/follicles. The fluid from the follicles is collected in test tubes and taken to the lab to look for eggs.
The entire procedure will only take about 20-30 minutes. You won’t have to worry about any scars or stitches as it is a needle guided aspiration procedure through the vagina, not an actual surgery. You’ll recover and wait for the anesthesia to wear off in the post-op room, assisted by a nurse, for about 1-2 hours. If you don’t have a family member or partner available to be with you on retrieval day, for your safety, you are required to have someone you know to pick you up from the clinic or arrange for a medical transport service.
After the retrieval, you may experience some cramping and soreness. We can prescribe pain medication if necessary, though the majority of donors do fine with just Tylenol and rest. You’ll recover the rest of the day, but if you’re like most of our donor, you’ll resume normal activity the very next day.
OHSS (ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome) is a known risk in egg donation. What does Fairfax EggBank do to reduce this risk?
Donor safety takes precedence over everything. As such, we take a conservative approach to minimize risk to the donor.
Our goal is to retrieve a moderate number of eggs – about 18 – per egg donation cycle. We designed our medication protocol to achieve this goal. We also use protocols that are designed to minimize the risk of OHSS. Specifically, the majority of our protocols use what is called a “Lupron trigger”. This change has made a dramatic difference and significantly lowered the rate of OHSS. We follow the donor’s medication and dosing quite closely so that not too many eggs mature. If too many eggs mature, this would place the donor at risk for hyperstimulation and OHSS. We’ll monitor our donors frequently and adjust doses if needed to minimize overstimulation. Ultimately, the risk of getting OHSS is less than 1%, though the chances of OHSS leading to serious consequences are even less common.
What misconceptions are there about egg donation that you think are important to address?
Many women don’t realize they have thousands of eggs and that the natural menstrual cycle involves the recruitment of multiple eggs containing follicles each month. A donor will not run out of eggs or experience early menopause because she donated. There are also no data showing egg donation as a cause of future infertility. A donor could develop infertility in the future for various unrelated reasons. This risk should be the same whether she donated or not.
There’s also no known correlation between egg donation and cancer. Egg donors take the same medications that infertility patients do. Studies have followed infertility patients years after IVF and have not shown a link between these medications and cancer. There have been women that have unfortunately developed cancer after being a donor. However, there is no scientific evidence to show a cause and effect relationship.
What do you want prospective egg donors to know about the Fairfax EggBank?
At Fairfax EggBank, our donors’ safety comes first. We are physicians, nurses and medical professionals who got into the practice of medicine to help people. Our purpose is to act as the donor’s advocate. We look out for our donors and want them to leave with a positive experience. Even twenty years down the road, we want our donors to look back and think of this as a positive experience in their lives.
About Dr. Laurence Udoff, Medical Director, Fairfax EggBank
Dr. Udoff is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology and subspecialty board certified in reproductive endocrinology and infertility. Dr. Udoff has been the author or co-author of numerous book chapters, abstracts and peer-reviewed articles on topics in reproductive endocrinology and infertility.
Dr. Udoff graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Delaware with a degree in Biology and received his medical degree from the University Of Maryland School of Medicine. He completed his residency training in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Maryland. He completed his fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the University of Maryland and at the University of Utah.
Dr. Udoff speaks frequently at meetings around the country and has appeared on local and national TV to discuss advanced reproductive technologies. He was also featured in Northern Virginia magazine’s “Top-Rated Doctors.”