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Assessing the Medical Risks of Human Oocyte Donation for Stem Cell Research: Workshop Report
Questions have also been raised about the possible effects of ovarian stimulation on a woman’s long-term fertility. Presently there is no evidence, either from studies of women who have taken fertility drugs or from what is known about ovarian physiology, that ovarian stimulation may impact a women’s long-term fertility.
THE RISKS OF EGG RETRIEVAL SURGERY
Removing the mature eggs from a donor requires surgery—the insertion of an aspirating needle through the wall of the vagina and into the ovary—that is done under anesthesia. Both the surgery and the anesthesia carry certain risks.
Experience with IVF patients shows that the risks are low. One study of several hundred thousand surgeries found, for example, that only 0.002 percent of the women had complications that required surgery to correct. Complications due to infection are also rare and apparently can be avoided almost completely if proper aseptic techniques are used.
Ovarian torsion, in which an ovary twists around its supporting ligament and cuts off its blood supply, is another rare complication in women undergoing IVF. However, it is associated mainly with women who have become pregnant via IVF, so it should be even rarer among research oocyte donors.
In general, consideration of the risk factors for surgical complications—including previous surgeries, a history of pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, and pelvic adhesions—implies that egg donors would be anticipated to have much lower risks from surgery than has been the experience with women undergoing IVF.
Similarly, the risks from anesthesia for oocyte donors should be very low. Anesthesia in general is very safe today, with deaths occurring once in 200,000 to 300,000 cases. It should be even safer for donors, because few of the factors that increase the risks of anesthesia apply to them.
Finally, there are no data to suggest that egg retrieval surgery poses any risk to a woman’s future fertility.
THE PSYCHOLOGICAL RISKS OF OOCYTE DONATION
The psychological risks for egg donation for research may differ from donation for reproduction, primarily because of different motivat-