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Assessing the Medical Risks of Human Oocyte Donation for Stem Cell Research: Workshop Report
ity during the hormone treatment. “This is very similar to what we see among our own IVF patients,” she said. “They talk about feeling irritable, rejection-sensitive, lots of crying, lots of low mood, and it does seem to be linked to the use of those medications.”
Another issue is concern associated with the egg retrieval surgery. One study of donors conducted by investigators at Dartmouth Medical School found that 83 percent reported high anxiety on the day of retrieval. Besides this anxiety, donors also listed the daily injections, the frequent travel to the clinic, and pain as the most difficult aspects of the donation process itself.
The good news about these potential psychological risks, Dr. Klock said, is that they do not appear to carry over past the donation. Once the surgery is done and the medication is out of a woman’s system, the psychological symptoms vanish.
It seems likely, Dr. Klock noted, that the potential psychological risks both here and in the screening process will be the same for research donors as they are for women donating their eggs for reproductive purposes.
There have been at least seven published studies looking at the post-donation psychological adjustment of women who donated their eggs for other women’s pregnancies. The studies were generally done as mail-out surveys anywhere from two weeks to seven years after the retrieval surgery, although one survey was done using post-donation exit interviews.
The surveys found that the typical donor is a single, white, high school graduate with some college education who has never had children. “This does not tend to be a very diverse group demographically,” Dr. Klock commented.
The psychological risks identified by these studies tend to center on such issues as future fertility and whether a child or children had resulted from the donation. One 1995 study, for example, surveyed 32 donors 18 months after their donations. The donors reported that the most difficult aspects of the donation process itself were refraining from intercourse and the mood swings that they experienced while on the medication. Half of them reported having second thoughts about having donated, and the reasons they gave were concerns about compromising their own fertility