How egg retrieval works and what to expect from the egg retrieval process
The IVF egg retrieval is a major step in an in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle. We’ve written a step-by-step guide to the egg retrieval process, with some helpful tips for before, during, and after.
IVF Egg Retrieval Overview
For approximately two weeks before your egg retrieval, you’ll go through ovarian stimulation. During this process, you’ll give yourself hormone shots multiple times a day. These hormones encourage your ovaries to develop multiple mature eggs, rather than the single egg that develops in a normal menstrual cycle. You’ll go to your doctor’s office for regular appointments to monitor egg development and your body’s reactions to the hormones. When enough eggs have matured, you’ll receive something called a “trigger shot.” Around 36 hours later, you’ll go in for the egg retrieval. The retrieval itself takes less than half an hour. You’ll be at the clinic for a few hours total to receive anesthesia beforehand and recover briefly afterwards.
Step #0: The Trigger Shot
While this first step isn’t technically part of the IVF egg retrieval procedure, it does get the whole process started! Around 36 hours before your egg retrieval, your fertility team will give you a hormone shot called human chorionic gonadotropin (CG). This shot, also called a “trigger shot,” tells your ovaries to get ready to release all the eggs they’ve been developing over the last two weeks.
Step #1: Intake
Your IVF egg retrieval happens around 36 hours after your trigger shot. The timing is very important, and can’t be adjusted. To reduce stress, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to reach the clinic. When you arrive, your team will show you to your room, where you can change into a gown. This is also a good time to check in with your team, answer any last minute questions, and just let them know how you’re feeling. We’re here to support you in any way we can.
Step #2: Anesthesia
The retrieval itself happens under general anesthesia. You’ll receive an IV sedative so you won’t be awake or feel anything during the procedure.
Step #3: Ultrasound Visualization
In order to carefully retrieve the eggs, your doctor needs to be able to see the ovaries and each individual egg follicle. To do this, your doctor will insert a thin ultrasound probe into your vagina. The ultrasound uses soundwaves to create a picture of your vaginal wall and ovaries for the doctor to see on a monitor.
Step #4: Follicular Aspiration
“Follicular aspiration” is a technical term that means we use suction to retrieve the eggs from each ovary. This is the main action of the IVF egg retrieval procedure. A very thin, hollow needle is inserted alongside the ultrasound probe. This needle goes through the vaginal wall and into each follicle. Each follicle contains fluid and a single developing egg, and by this point in the process each ovary should have multiple follicles with eggs. As the tube enters each follicle, your doctor will use suction to retrieve the fluid, with the egg inside, into a test tube. Typically, your doctor can remove all the maturing eggs in fewer than 20 minutes.
Step #5: Recovery & Analysis
After the doctor has retrieved all the mature eggs, they will remove the needle and ultrasound probe, and you will have some time to rest as the anesthesia wears off. You will need a support person with you to drive you home once you have woken up. In the meantime, your doctor will give the follicular fluid to an embryologist. They’ll use a microscope to count the eggs present in the fluid. Before you leave the clinic, ask your team how many eggs were retrieved and what the next steps are, including any medications you should be taking before your embryo transfer.
After the IVF Egg Retrieval: Freezing or Fertilization
Depending on your treatment plan, the embryologist will either freeze the eggs for future use or fertilize them with sperm from your partner or a donor. Some fertilized eggs will develop into embryos, which can be either transferred fresh or frozen to transfer later.
Next Steps Post-Retrieval
Once your support person takes you home after the IVF egg retrieval, take it easy for the rest of the day. Most patients can return to their regular activities the day after their retrieval. Listen to your body, and rest more if you’d like. It’s common to feel some bloating or fatigue after the procedure. If you feel any symptoms of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), including significant abdominal swelling, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sudden weight gain, or shortness of breath, contact your doctor right away.
The egg retrieval is a really important and exciting step in the IVF process. For more information on what to expect, contact our team.