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Entry Two, August 8, 1997

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How Does A Donor Egg Fertility Cycle Work?

Pregnancies through donor gametes have been around for a long time, if you consider that donor sperm has been used for the last few decades. But donor egg fertility treatment is quite new and quite exciting! Many people have asked me how the process works, and I am guessing that you might be wondering the same thing.

First, I'd like to say that I don't think there are words adequate to describe what an incredible gift this is. An egg donor gives an infertile woman a chance to bear a child. Obviously, there are some interesting emotional issues to discuss. I was not initially joyful over the prospect of using an egg donor. But I am now. And I am not only joyful, I am grateful to my anonymous donor, and to all the egg donors who have given this beautiful gift.

But I must move on to describing the process! First, the donor has to be recruited. Donors can be known donors, such as sisters or friends. Or they can be anonymous donors, such as I am using. In this case, the Clinic has a recruiting program, where they recruit, screen, and register donors. My clinic has a thorough physical and psycho-social screening for donors and recipients alike.

Then there is a long waiting period. It takes time for a recipient's name to rise to the top of the list, and it takes time to find a donor that is a good match. We've had quite a long wait, and are thrilled to be finally matched with a wonderful donor who is giving us an incredible gift.

The process itself is an amazing example of medical science. At a specific time in my cycle, I start taking Lupron. This drug works on the pituitary, to shut the ovaries down. My ovaries cannot be producing any hormones, because my whole cycle must be pharmaceutically controlled, to be in sync with the donor. On the same day that my donor starts her medication, I start taking estrogen to mimic the start of my cycle. There is a certain amount of estrogen that I can take for an extended period of time without building my uterine lining (endometrium). But neither does it degrade or shed! It is as if my cycle is in suspended animation. I think that is so fascinating!. My cycle is frozen in time, so to speak, while we wait for the donor to start her period. Once she is about to pass the exact point in her cycle where I am suspended in mine, we will start moving my cycle forward with increased estrogen. Then the donor and I will be in perfect sync. (Is that cool or what? I get so excited about this part, because it is so interesting.)

Around the fifth day of the donor's cycle, she will start taking fertility drugs. The goal is to grow and harvest between ten to twenty eggs. I will continue increasing my estrogen and progesterone to keep in sync with her cycle. When her lead ovarian follicle gets to an optimal size, she will be given a shot to quickly mature the eggs. She will also be scheduled for surgery for 30 hours later.

My husband will give a sperm sample, and the andrology lab will work with the eggs and the sperm, attempting to achieve fertilization. Three days after the donor's egg retrieval, I will have surgery to place three of the best embryos back into my fallopian tubes. Generally embryos are placed in the uterus, but in my case my doctor has judged that ZIFT (Zygote Intra Fallopian Transfer) makes the most sense. The other embryos will be frozen, for a future "cryo" cycle, which has a much lower rate of success. Then we have a very long wait of fourteen days. During this time, I will take progesterone to help maintain a possible pregnancy.

This wait is the hardest part of the cycle. At fourteen days post-surgery, I will take a pregnancy test. I will find out that afternoon if our dreams have come true.

Where am I at now? I have started my Lupron. I have started my estrogen, and am in the holding pattern. Things will be moving in fast forward in the near future. In the meantime, I would like to tell you about my eventful journey that led up to this point.
Kay Grames

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