As an egg donor, you will take several different egg donor medications to help the process of donating eggs work as effectively as possible. Because these medications contain hormones, you may experience a few side effects while you take them. For most women, these symptoms are mild and similar to period or PMS symptoms. While these symptoms might be uncomfortable, they should not impact your daily life, and they should not result in any long term effects or health problems. Keep reading to learn what you may experience and to get some practical advice on easing any discomfort. We also talk about a few abnormal symptoms that you should keep in mind that might require a doctor’s attention.
The hormones in birth control pills and FSH often cause bloating. This symptom will usually present as water retention around your belly. While bloating can be uncomfortable, it should not be severe enough to impact your movement. While you take these medications, drink plenty of water to help your body eliminate excess fluids and dress comfortably.
Birth control pills, FSH, and hCG medications can also cause breast tenderness. This symptom is similar to the breast tenderness you might experience before your menstrual cycle. Make sure that you wear a supportive bra during this time, and stick to low-impact exercises to reduce the pressure on your breasts. Some women find that limiting their caffeine and salt intake also helps to relieve breast tenderness.
Hormonal fluctuations can cause headaches due to changes in your body’s estrogen levels. You might experience headaches as a side effect of one of your egg donor medications. Ask your doctor about over-the-counter pain relievers to manage these headaches. General self-care can also help ease headache symptoms, so be sure that you are sleeping enough, managing your stress, and eating properly. Let your doctor know if you experience any intense headaches that you cannot relive with pain medication or if it comes with other symptoms, i.e. with vision changes.
Women taking birth control pills often experience this classic PMS symptom. If you feel extra hungry or experience food cravings while on birth control pills, this experience is typical. It can be tempting to “treat yourself” to sugary or processed foods during this time, but maintaining a healthy diet that is high in fiber and protein will help you manage your appetite by keeping you full for longer.
While birth control pills may cause an increase in your appetite, GnRH antagonists, FSH medications, and hCG medications may instead cause a decrease in your appetite. In addition to a decreased appetite, you may also experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and gastrointestinal pain. Sticking to bland, easily digestible foods while taking birth control medications can help some women. You might also find that certain smells trigger common symptoms, especially nausea and vomiting. So, avoid any symptom-triggering smells if you can.
Thirst and Dehydration
It is essential to drink plenty of water and other clear fluids while taking egg donor medications. Not only will this practice keep you healthy generally, but it will also help you deal with the thirst and dehydration that you may experience as a side effect of FSH. If you find drinking enough water to be challenging, try flavoring your water with fruit to keep it exciting.
Moodiness and Mood Changes
Mild irritation and moodiness are common side effects of birth control pills and FSH injections. These feelings are similar to the mood swings that you might experience during PMS. Take care of yourself during this time, and make sure that you keep your stress levels low. Self-care and stress-management will help you manage the emotional symptoms of your egg donor medication. It is also important that you discuss mood changes with your partner or friends if you can. They can help to support you when you are feeling low.
Occasionally, hCG medications can also cause mood changes, including feelings of depression. While these feelings are perfectly normal, talk with your doctor if you find them to be too difficult to manage yourself.
While taking birth control pills or FSH, you might experience skin changes, like acne and increased oil production. Care for your skin with a mild cleanser and an over-the-counter acne treatment to help control these changes. You might also find that your diet affects the look of your skin, so try to stick to healthy whole foods while taking egg donation medications.
Spotting and Discharge
As an egg donor, you will introduce additional hormones into your system. These changes can sometimes cause spotting or an increase in vaginal discharge. While this might be inconvenient, it is perfectly normal. Keep extra feminine products with you so that you are prepared for spotting at unexpected times.
FSH can cause flu-like symptoms in some women, such as body aches, fatigue, or light-headedness. Sometimes, getting enough sleep and sticking to low-impact activities are enough to keep these side effects at bay. However, if your symptoms are severe or come with dizziness, respiratory issues, or extreme pain, call your doctor immediately, as these additional symptoms may be a sign of complications.
Injection Site Reaction
While the thought of daily injections might be scary, most women find that using daily injection needles is quick and easy after they get the hang of it. Before you begin injections, your assigned nurse at Santa Monica Fertility will walk you through the process of daily injections and will answer any questions that you might have. If you find that your injections are giving you side effects, like pain, redness, irritation, or bruising at the injection site, you might need extra assistance. Sometimes an egg donor needs a few practice attempts to get the process right!
When to Call Your Doctor
Most side effects from egg donation medications will be mild, and symptoms should only last while you are taking the egg donor medications. You should be able to manage common symptoms on your own. However, if you experience any symptoms that are severe enough to impact your life, remember to call your doctor. You should also alert your doctor of any side effects or symptoms that linger after you stop taking your medication. Egg donation medications should not have long term health risks and side effects. If you have any questions or concerns at any point throughout the process of donating eggs, you can speak to your assigned nurse here at Santa Monica Fertility at any time.
When to Seek Emergency Help
Serious complications are infrequent among egg donors, but they can happen. Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (or OHSS) is a rare case that occurs in about 1% of egg donors. OHSS occurs when the body over-responds to egg donor medication; this over-response causes swelling as fluid leaks out of the ovaries and collects in the abdomen. OHSS can be life-threatening, so call 911 or go to the emergency room immediately if you think you might have this condition. Symptoms include severe pain, swelling, bloating, nausea, dehydration, and dizziness.
At Santa Monica Fertility, we actively screen our donors for OHSS symptoms to help prevent OHSS. During the egg donation process, once you start taking FSH, we ask you to come into the clinic every one to two days. During these appointments, we can check and adjust medication dosages and learn what side effects, if any, you may be experiencing. Carefully monitoring injectable egg donation drugs is the most effective first step for preventing OHSS and managing the risks of egg donation. Your doctor and nurses will work together to take care of you and monitor your egg donation experience.
Here at Santa Monica Fertility, we work with our egg donors on an individual basis, and we will monitor you closely throughout your egg donation journey. Depending on how your body reacts to egg donor medication, we will adjust your medications as needed. From the very start of your egg donation process, we will assign you a nurse who will guide and support you at every step of the way. If you have any questions or would like to find out more about donating eggs, please contact us online or call us at (310) 566-1470.