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Process: Recipient Perspective
Once a match has been made between an egg donor and recipient, the egg donation process begins. Some clinics recommend a “mock” or “trial” cycle for the recipient. In these cases, recipients will take fertility medications followed by ultrasounds and blood work. This ensures that the medications are working effectively and the uterine lining is developing appropriately to support a pregnancy before embarking on the “official” egg donor cycle.
The next step is the coordinate the donor and recipient cycles. This is important so that the timing is perfect—once the donor’s eggs are retrieved and fertilized, the recipient’s uterus is ready to receive the transferred embryo(s). For pre-menopausal women, this includes taking fertility medications and/or birth control pills in order to suppress hormones and “down-regulate” their cycles. This allows for greater control over the treatment cycle. Some doctors will also prescribe antibiotics just in case any infections are present.
Estrogen & Progesterone Supplements
Once the donor and recipient cycles are coordinated, the recipient will start taking estrogen supplements for about 8 to 10 days to build the uterine lining. This can be taken in a variety of forms — oral, patches, vaginally, or injections. Estrogen levels will be checked regularly through blood tests, and ultrasound will be used to measure the thickness of the uterine lining.
On the date of the donor’s egg retrieval, the recipient begins to take progesterone supplements. Again, these come in a variety of forms—injections, patches, vaginal or oral medications.
The embryo transfer is then performed by placing the embryos in a catheter and transferring them to the recipient’s uterus through the cervix. Sometimes, doctors will prescribe a steroid and/or more antibiotics for several days before the transfer in order to increase the possibility for success.
Immediately following the transfer, the recipient will rest for about 30 minutes before she is allowed to go home. Once home, she should remain on bed rest for several hours to several days depending on clinic recommendations. Also, there are usually limits on certain activities like exercise, heavy lifting, sex, and diet.
A blood pregnancy test is usually performed about 9 to 14 days after the transfer. This test measure the amount of hCG (a pregnancy hormone) in the blood. If positive, this test will be repeated two days later since hCG levels should double every 48 to 72 hours.
Once the pregnancy has been confirmed, the recipient will have an ultrasound a few weeks later to measure the pregnancy. In order to increase the chances for a successful pregnancy, many recipients will continue taking progesterone supplements throughout the entire first trimester.