Egg Retrieval in IVF - How Does It Work?

What to Expect during the IVF Egg Retrieval Process

Whether you are going for in-vitro fertilization (IVF), freezing your eggs or donating them, the egg retrieval process remains the most crucial for them. Although it might seem daunting, understanding the process beforehand can help set your mind at ease.

What Is the Egg Retrieval Process in IVF?

When you decide to go for in-vitro fertilization to get pregnant, you will have to undergo an IVF egg retrieval procedure. Along with the actual process, the preparation before that is also very important. To start with, you will have to take medication to ensure that your follicles (at least one or two) reach maturity. This will be done by injecting medicine containing the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and a luteinizing hormone (LH). These will help stimulate your ovaries to release many eggs. After 8-14 days, when the follicles reach a specific size, as seen during an ultrasound, egg retrieval be done. The appropriate size differs from clinic to clinic, but 16mm is the average size. Once that is decided by the doctor, he or she will inject the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) to enhance the maturation and growth of the eggs. This injection will be administered at a very specific time so that the egg retrieval can happen just prior to starting of ovulation.

What Happens during an Egg Retrieval?

Egg retrieval is done two days after the HCG shot stimulates the eggs to mature. The timing is extremely important and will be determined by your doctor. The egg retrieval process is a quick surgery which lasts for about 15-30 minutes and is not very invasive. You will be under anaesthesia so the pain will be minimal. This is how the egg retrieval process is conducted:

  • The doctor uses a vaginal ultrasound probe to first locate the ovarian follicles.
  • A needle will be inserted into the ultrasound guide which goes through the vagina to reach eggs inside the follicles.
  • A device connected to the needle will then be used to retrieve eggs from the follicles.
  • After this, the retrieved eggs will be sent to an IVF lab where the following process will take place.
  • The fluid within them will be extracted so that the eggs can be identified and incubated in a culture media.
  • After 4-6 hours, the eggs will be ready to be either frozen or fertilized depending on the purpose.
  • If fertilized, it will take 18 hours from the time of fertilization to see whether it has been successful and the eggs have begun to develop into embryos. Following this, they will be incubated for 2-5 days more before being frozen or transferred into the uterus. This is when the eggs will be checked for any genetic abnormalities.

IVF Process

How to Prepare for the Egg Retrieval Process

Since the procedure takes place under sedation, you will have to fast (not eat and drink) for around 8 to 10 hours. You will also be asked to remove your jewellery, nail polish or contact lenses. It is a one-day procedure, it is better you take the day off and rest for the next two days after that. The nurse or anesthesiologist will start an IV for you before the procedure and give you some important medical information. Once things get started, you will be given anaesthesia either through a face mask or IV.

What Is the Number of Eggs Retrieved?

The average egg retrieval age for IVF is usually between 30-40 and the number of eggs that can be retrieved can range from 1 or 2 to more than 30. If a woman is older, the number of eggs retrieved will increase because then the chances of getting a normal embryo will be more. For example, a woman who has had 4 eggs retrieved by IVF compared to a woman who has had more than 10 eggs retrieved has a slightly lesser likelihood of successful embryo transfer and ensuing pregnancy

Is Egg Retrieval for IVF Painful?

Since you will be under anaesthesia, you will be unconscious throughout the procedure and will not feel anything. You may experience cramping in your abdomen afterwards, similar to period cramps, but it is nothing to worry about. The doctor can prescribe a simple pain-relief medication to get you through it.

How to Care For Egg Retrieval Process

There are several steps to care about an egg retrieval process –

  • The doctor will put you on several medications – hormonal supplements to give support to the lining of your endometrium in case you have an embryo transfer, an antibiotic to protect against infection and steroids to lessen any inflammation that can happen in your reproductive organs. It is imperative to take these medicines properly as advised.
  • The doctor may ask you to abstain from having sex, soaking in a bathtub or swimming for some time. You will have to use a sanitary pad instead of a tampon if any vaginal bleeding occurs.

What About IVF Success Rates?

You will get to know the results after 24 hours of your egg retrieval process. After retrieval, you can expect a 50 percent loss at each growth stage of your eggs. This value differs from person to person, and some may be given different odds.

  • 50 percent of eggs retrieved would fertilize
  • Out of that, only 50 percent would last until the third day
  • Out of that, 50 percent would last till the sixth day for freezing or implantation, provided they also test normal during genetic testing.

This makes the number of eggs retrieved to be very crucial so that you can increase the probability of successful fertilization towards the end. But typically, up to 80 percent of eggs retrieved can be normal, mature and ready for implantation or freezing.

When to Worry

Post egg retrieval process, you will have to watch out for the following symptoms and call your doctor immediately if you see them manifest –

  • A fever above 101 F
  • Pain while urinating
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Any swelling in your abdomen
  • Heavy pain in your abdomen
  • Severe vaginal bleeding (Light bleeding is common but if you keep changing your pad every one hour, call your doctor)
  • Continuous vomiting or nausea

Although the odds may seem very daunting if you do everything according to what your doctor says, there is no reason to lose hope or think that your IVF egg retrieval process may not be successful. It is important to stay calm and push any worries aside so that you can be ready to start the wonderful chapter of being a parent soon.

Also Read: Cramping and In-vitro Fertilization
What are the Main Causes of IVF Failure?

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