Your Guide To The IVF Egg Retrieval Process

There are many options available for those who would like to start a family but are unable to conceive naturally. One of the most popular fertility treatment options available today is in vitro fertilization (IVF). If you’re undergoing IVF, one of the most important steps of the process is the IVF egg retrieval procedure. This is what you should know about preparing for your egg retrieval, as well as recovery.

Why is IVF egg retrieval important?

IVF is a process by which your viable eggs are taken from your ovaries in order to be fertilized in a lab setting. Once this is done, the egg is transferred into the womb so that the pregnancy can be brought to term.

Simply, egg retrieval is the part of the IVF process when your eggs are removed from the ovaries. Without egg retrieval, the entire IVF process would not be possible.

Under your doctor’s care, you’ll take fertility medications beforehand to induce ovulation. Typically, your body releases one egg during each menstrual cycle. These medications prompt your body to develop additional eggs so your fertility team can retrieve as many mature eggs as possible during your procedure.

The actual egg retrieval will take place just before ovulation occurs. Your doctor will discuss how many eggs he or she expects to retrieve, based on your follicle number and other factors. Typically, the average number of eggs retrieved ranges from 8 to 20, though your exact number may vary.

How to prepare for your IVF egg retrieval

On the days leading up to your egg retrievel, follow any and all of your doctor’s guidelines. You’ll usually stop eating or drinking roughly eight to ten hours prior to your procedure. Pack for your appointment with a bag full of your necessities, like your ID and a water bottle.

During the procedure, you should avoid anything with scents as it can affect egg quality. Because of this, you shouldn’t wear:

  • Makeup
  • Lotions
  • Perfumes
  • Deodorant
  • Nail polish
  • Jewelry
  • Contact lenses
  • Hair products

Our earlier post covers the best clothing to wear to your egg retrieval (don’t forget your lucky socks!).

An overview of the IVF egg retrieval process

Before the procedure begins, you’ll be placed under mild sedation (twilight anesthesia). You’ll still breathe on your own, but you won’t feel or remember anything after the procedure. This prevents any pain or undue discomfort.

Once you’re sedated, your doctor will carefully insert an ultrasound probe with a small needle into your vaginal canal. They’ll use a gentle, controlled amount of suction to extract your matured eggs from both ovaries.

In all, egg retrieval takes 15 to 20 minutes to perform. You’ll wake up from your anesthesia about 30 minutes after the procedure is done.

If you’re interested in learning more, our own Dr. Dunaway discusses what patients can expect during the IVF egg retrieval process in the following video.

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IVF egg retrieval recovery tips

After the egg retrieval, you’ll generally remain at the clinic for rest and observation for one to two hours before going home.

Always follow any aftercare guidance from your doctor, as they know your unique health history. In general, though, follow these recovery tips after your egg retrieval:

  • Don’t drive for 24 hours after your procedure
  • Refrain from vigorous physical activity or heavy lifting
  • Avoid soaking in a bath, pool, or hot tub
  • Abstain from sexual intercourse for the amount of time advised by your fertility specialist

If you’re ever unsure about what you can and can’t do, contact your fertility team! They’re your guides through the entire IVF process.

IVF egg retrieval side effects

You may experience some cramps, soreness, and spotting after egg retrieval. This is normal. Contact your fertility specialist immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • Severe, shooting, or otherwise adverse pain
  • A high temperature
  • Heavy vaginal bleeding
  • Fainting spells
  • Painful urination
  • Dizziness

Complications from this procedure are rare. However, if you’re ever unsure or worried about your symptoms, always contact your doctor with your questions.

What comes next for IVF patients?

As you recover, your fertility team will take your retrieved eggs to be inseminated and fertilized in the lab. Your fertility specialist will keep you updated on the entire process as it unfolds. You can learn more about the fertilization process here.

Before the embryos have developed to the stage where they are ready to be either transferred or cryopreserved for transfer at a latter time (usually  the 5th or 6th day after retrieval),  your doctor will discuss the embryo transfer process (placement of embryos into the womb). The number of embryos transfered is governed by CDC and SART guidelines designed to prevent multiple pregnancies.  Transfer of a single embryo is recommended for women less than age 38 and when the embryo has been determined to be genetically normal by PGT (preimplantation genetic testing). Transfer of two non-PGT embryos is allowed for age 30 to 40. The number can be increased by one embryo for patients that have failed to conceive after two single embryo transfers. You can learn more about this decision in our post on the topic.

The embryo transfer procedure is simpler than the the egg retrieval. It also takes approximately 20 minutes, but usually doesn’t require anesthesia. Instead, your doctor will gently pass a catheter into your uterus using ultrasound guidance. There, they will deposit the previously determined number of embryos.

After this stage, your most important task is managing your anxiety. By working with a highly-qualified fertility team, you’ve given yourself the best chances of getting pregnant. Try to manage anxiety, worry, and stress as much as possible while waiting for your initial pregnancy tests.

Learn more about IVF

By meeting with a skilled fertility specialist, you’ll be able to learn about all of your options for starting the family you’ve always dreamed of.

If you’re in Louisiana or our neighboring states, we invite you to visit our team at The Fertility Institute of New Orleans to learn more about your fertility options. Our entire team here looks forward to meeting you in person and helping you decide on your best fertility treatment approach. We can answer any additional questions you have about IVF or the IVF egg retrieval process.