IVF Treatment Step 2A: Egg Retrieval

Fast Facts About the IVF Egg Retrieval Procedure

Egg retrieval is a surgical procedure that removes the egg(s) from the woman’s ovaries required for the In Vitro Fertilization process. The procedure is carried out in a minimally invasive manner and therefore leaves no scars, stitches and has a short recovery time. Lasting about 10-15 minutes, it is carried out around 10-12 days after the starting of the hormone-based simulations. The risks involved in egg retrieval are relatively minimal due to the relatively mild nature of the surgery. The retrieved eggs are taken to an embryology lab for fertilization and/or freezing.

Egg Retrieval Process & Timelines

The egg retrieval process commences with the start of stimulation medications for IVF. The medications start on the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th day of a woman’s natural menstrual cycle and continue for approximately ten days. For women who do not have regular menstrual cycles, the process can usually be started at any time following a baseline appointment.

It takes about 35 hours from the administration of the first trigger shot (Lupron or HCG) which stimulates the final maturation of the eggs and triggers ovulation – for the retrieval of the egg retrieval to commence. The egg retrieval is timed to retrieve the eggs just before they would start the journey from the fallopian tube toward the uterus. Here they are ready for fertilization but are still within their follicles and can easily be found. It is, therefore, critical that the trigger shot is taken at the exact time as instructed by your fertility experts.

The Egg Retrieval Procedure

Egg retrieval is a surgical procedure that removes the egg(s) from the woman’s ovaries required for the In Vitro Fertilization process. The procedure is carried out in a minimally invasive manner and lasts about 10-15 minutes overall. The doctor will use ultrasound to identify the ovaries and will gently guide a needle attached to a catheter through the vaginal wall. One by one, the eggs will be drawn out using light suction and they will be collected in test tubes. Once retrieved they will be sent to the embryologist for further development.

Egg Retrieval Recovery

After the egg retrieval process is complete and the needle removed, the doctor will examine your vaginal wall and your ovaries. The anaesthesiologist will use a propofol-based anaesthesia—not a general anaesthesia, but rather an intravenous sedation medication—to ensure you feel no pain or discomfort during the egg retrieval process. After the egg retrieval process, you may experience some soreness in the vaginal area, some abdominal cramping, or some spotting, which could last a few days. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as Tylenol will help. Most women feel “back to normal” by the next day.

What Happens to the Eggs After Retrieval?

Immediately after retrieval, each egg is identified under a microscope and then transferred to a special solution to provide all of the nutrients and other substances necessary to maximize the likelihood of successful fertilization of eggs by the sperm. The dishes containing the eggs are then placed into an incubator, so that the environmental conditions surrounding the eggs can be tightly controlled with regard to light, oxygen, and carbon dioxide concentrations, as well as the pH and temperature.

What’s the Next Step?
Most women are able to go home within two hours of the egg retrieval, while the retrieved eggs themselves will be sent to the lab for further evaluation and process. This would either involve the eggs being transferred for fertilization or being frozen for future IVF cycles. Within 24 hours of your egg retrieval process, the patient will know many of the eggs were ultimately frozen; typically, about 80% of eggs retrieved are deemed mature, normal, and suitable for freezing.

Average Number of Eggs Retrieved by Age

Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have. As women age, they will have less and less eggs which means there will be less eggs to retrieve. Thus, an ovarian reserve is defined as the number of eggs in the ovaries. An important point to be noted is that just because you are an individual of a certain age doesn’t guarantee a certain number of eggs. Two women, both the same age, can have completely different eggs. Thus, the number of eggs retrieved will vary from person to person and cycle to cycle for the same person, however around 10-15 mature eggs is seen as an optimal number of eggs.

Egg Retrieval Risks & Side Effects

Given that each patient varies vastly from the other, there will not be two women experiencing exactly the same set of side effects or even risks following the egg retrieval. Some of the commonly associated side effects include pelvic heaviness, soreness, or cramping. Spotting is normal but should be less than a regular menstrual period. During the egg retrieval, cells in the ovary that produce the hormone progesterone are removed along with the eggs. Thus, the patient will be asked to take a progesterone supplement daily for the next two weeks and through early pregnancy.

How to Improve Egg Retrieval Outcomes

For the improvement of egg retrieval outcomes, there are a lot of things that a couple can do over the 90-day preparation period leading up to the retrieval of the eggs. Egg quality is a major factor impacting IVF success, and something that the patients have the power to change. Some of the factors that improve outcomes of egg retrieval include – a high fat diet, with moderate protein intake, and low carbohydrates, alongside high-quality supplements. Some prescription medications to reduce inflammation, improve implantation, and regulate the immune system are also prescribed. In some cases, the retrieval outcomes may depend upon possible therapy or surgery that may be required due to anatomical or other hindrances.

The Bottom Line

Given that the egg retrieval procedure is one of the most important steps in the IVF, utmost care, preparation, and expertise must be followed for the success of the process. The steps leading up to and coming after the egg retrieval make IVF the most effective fertility treatment and it helps most fertility challenges to be overcome. While the egg retrieval process itself is relatively simple and carries few little risks. There are possibilities of failure due to improper preparation.

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