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By Mary Ellen McLaughlin

A new documentary called “Eggsploitation” presents the stories of three women who went through the egg donation process and experienced rare complications, such as a stroke, cancer (which has not been proven to be related) and ovarian hyper-stimulation.

It claims the fertility industry does not tell egg donors of the complications and risks. Of course, it’s one-sided and shades the truth. It’s controversy that sells, right?

The fact of the matter is that any medical procedure involves some risk, and egg donation is no exception. Any woman thinking about donating her eggs certainly should be informed by her agency of the risks, and of signs that she may be experiencing complications. The agency that doesn’t explain them is extraordinarily careless and unprofessional. But given my years in the field and the number of agencies we know, I’d also say that would be the exception to the rule.

Our agency repeatedly goes over these risks and complications with prospective donors. We, like most agencies and fertility clinics, also give them pamphlets to ensure they learn the signs and symptoms of complicating health issues.

But honestly, as much as we coach and advocate and inform our donors, we’ve always found that our donors are their own best advocates, and very much aware of the downsides as well as the up. We have to wonder about the women profiled in Eggsploitation. Were they truly so unaware?

Here, because it bears repeating, are the most common complications from egg donation:

  • Ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome, which is commonly caused by fertility medications. It usually occurs after retrieval, generally within the first week. Some of the signs and symptoms are rapid weight gain, abdominal distention, difficulty or painful respirations, decreased urine output and dehydration.
  • Ovarian torsion, which is when the ovary rotates. It can occur at any time after the procedure due to increased ovarian size, this is why decreased physical activity is prescribed right before and after retrieval. Signs and symptoms are severe one-sided abdominal/pelvic pain.
  • Bleeding and/or infection, which only occur after the procedure. Bleeding into the abdomen or vaginal wall is usually followed by an infection. Signs and symptoms are abdominal/pelvic pain, increased abdominal girth and fever. Infection by itself will cause fever accompanied by abdominal/pelvic pain.

In the 15 years I have been working with egg donors, less then 1 percent has experienced any complications. Many of these women donate to help others create a family and they’re willing to forge ahead, fully informed of the risks.


By Mary Ellen McLaughlin

A recent article in the National Post highlights an issue in the fertility industry that is ripe for discussion. A couple that had turned to surrogacy after failed infertility treatments subsequently urged their surrogate to get an abortion after doctors found abnormalities in the fetus. The surrogate initially refused.

One quote in the article really stood out. “The physician…said it appeared to him that the three had never seriously considered such a scenario before the pregnancy.”

Wow. When intended parents and prospective surrogates meet for the first time, it’s ideal for them to get along and have a warm fuzzy feeling about each other. But at the same time, this is an arrangement that requires a legal contract. It’s essential to like each other, but it’s also essential to make sure your interests are protected. Every scenario, no matter how small, should be taken seriously.

Luckily, this type of situation is rare. We at ARR have been lucky (okay, careful) enough to have never had a situation in which these issues were not thoroughly considered prior to pregnancy. We work with both parties to ensure they discuss and agree on issues like abortion and selective reduction before taking any next steps. It’s something we take seriously – and so should anyone taking this journey. (Read a surrogate’s blog post on the hard choices surrogates and parents often must make.)

This is one of the most intense conversations these three adults will share.

Our psychologist encourages both parties to first discuss abortion and selective reduction with their support network, which is the first place they’ll turn if the situation ever arises. They’re encouraged to discuss their beliefs openly. The reality is that while they may get along beautifully, if they don’t share the same views on these sensitive issues, this partnership will never work.

No one ever wants a situation like this to happen. Intended parents and surrogates need to be prepared for all types of outcomes, whether it’s abortion, selective reduction, miscarriage, or, hopefully, a happy, healthy baby.

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About Us

Conception Connections is a blog about alternative paths to family creation. It is maintained by Alternative Reproductive Resources. Contributors include intended parents, egg donors and gestational surrogates in addition to ARR staff. Our goal is to facilitate conversations about trends, issues, current events, technology and personal stories surrounding infertility, egg donation and gestational surrogacy. If you'd like to contribute, please e-mail We also welcome your comments and suggestions. Note: Comments are moderated and posted on approval.


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