What is Hyperstimulation?

One of the potential side effects to egg donation is a condition called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). In the most general of terms, this condition exists when a woman’s ovaries respond overzealously to the medication given to increase egg production.

Most women produce just one egg per monthly cycle. In the case of egg donation, it is ideal for the donor to produce far more eggs for the month, to raise the probability of creating a higher number of viable, fertilized embryos for transfer to the waiting uterus of a surrogate or intended mother. This is often achieved through the administration of fertility drugs.

In women who are diagnosed with OHSS, the body responds with increased sensitivity to these medications, causing the ovaries to swell. This can lead to accumulation of fluids that often leak into the abdomen or chest areas.

Symptoms of ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome vary from woman to woman, but can include:

  • Excessive bloating or abdominal pain
  • Excessive weight gain, often exceeding a ten pound weight gain in just three to five days
  • Decreased urination
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

While many of these symptoms may be present in the recovery of egg donation with no need for medical intervention, you should be seen by a doctor right away if you experience intense nausea or vomiting, dizziness, shortness of breath, or a marked decrease in urine.

Diagnosis is generally made only after extended monitoring and a potential series of tests including an ultrasound, chest x-rays, and blood work. Your doctor will generally begin at home treatments with increased fluid intake, reduction in strenuous exercise, alcohol, and caffeine, and rest with elevated feet. If symptoms don’t self-correct, you may be admitted to the hospital to receive IV fluids. In general, symptoms will begin to subside within a matter of days.

The condition is rare, occurring in an estimated 3-6% of cases. Women taking multiple doses of HCG trigger shots are more likely to experience OHSS. If you suspect that you may have hyper-stimulation syndrome, you should let your case specialist and doctor know right away.

Dr. Kim Bergman

Kim Bergman, PhD, a licensed psychologist of 26 years, has specialized in the area of gay and lesbian parenting, parenting by choice and third party assisted reproduction for over two decades. Dr. Bergman has created a comprehensive psychological screening, support and monitoring process for Intended Parents, Surrogates and Donors. She is the co-owner of Fertility Counseling Services and Growing Generations and is a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the American Psychological Association, the Los Angeles County Psychological Association, the Lesbian and Gay Psychotherapy Association, and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. She is on the national Emeritus board of the Family Equality Council. Dr. Bergman writes, teaches and speaks extensively on parenting by choice. Along with co-authors, she published “Gay Men Who Become Fathers via Surrogacy: The Transition to Parenthood” (Journal of GLBT Family Studies, April 2010). Dr. Bergman’s is the author of the upcoming book, Your Future Family: The Essential Guide to Assisted Reproduction (Conari Press 2019). Dr. Bergman created her own family using third party assisted reproduction and she lives with her wife of 35 years. Her two daughters are in college.