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What to Expect Before, During and After Egg Retrieval

Egg retrieval is the procedure to remove eggs from the ovaries. Even though this seems intimidating, it’s actually a fairly common procedure with minimal discomfort. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t plan for the day. In fact, you should clear your day completely and, if possible, plan for a day of pampering and relaxation.

On the day of your egg retrieval, you will be asked to arrive at your clinic at a specific time, usually in the morning. It is critical that you are not late to the clinic as the timing of the egg retrieval is scheduled just before your ovulation. The timing of your ovulation is controlled by “trigger shot” (a.k.a. HCG or human chorionic gonadotropin shot), a medication that preps your body to release the eggs 36 hours after - just in time for your scheduled retrieval.

Your medical team will make sure you know exactly when to take the shot and exactly when to arrive for your retrieval. The egg retrieval procedure takes about 10-15 minutes. But, you need to arrive earlier to get ready. You will stay in the clinic after the procedure to recover. So, expect to be in the clinic for 2-3 hours in total.

Before retrieval

Here are a few things to expect before the egg retrieval

  • Most patients will be instructed not to eat or drink anything after midnight the night before the egg retrieval.

  • You should avoid wearing perfumes or scented products; some clinics have other restrictions such as not wearing makeup or contact lenses.

  • Some clinics have a hospital-type operating room with medical equipment, lights and a procedure table. Others will have a less clinical atmosphere.

  • After arriving at the clinic, you will be provided with a locker for your clothing and belongings, and you will change into a gown.

  • In many clinics, the medical team works on a rotating shift. Therefore, the doctor who performs your retrieval may not be your doctor. If your clinic operates in this way, you can ask your nurse or patient coordinator ahead of time to find out who will be performing your egg retrieval.

  • In the procedure room, the anesthesiologist will insert an IV and administer sedatives and pain relievers. You will go into a medication-induced sleep during which you’ll be breathing on your own. In some clinics, even lighter sedative medication is used so that the patient remains conscious, yet has minimal discomfort.

During retrieval

Using an ultrasound guide, the doctor will identify your ovaries and will gently insert a thin needle attached to a catheter through the vaginal wall into the ovary. The needle will go into each follicle and, using gentle suction, pull out the fluid and the egg that comes with it. The fluid and eggs are collected in test tubes, which will then be handed off to the embryologist. The embryologist will look through the fluid and isolate the eggs.

After retrieval

After the retrieval, you’ll be transferred to a recovery room, where a nurse will monitor you for approximately 30-60 minutes as you wake up and rest. Then, before you leave the office, your medical team will let you know how many eggs were retrieved and moved to the embryology lab.

You should have someone, like a friend or family member, drive you home from the procedure. It’s recommended that you go straight home and relax for the rest of the day. You should expect a little cramping and spotting for a few days. In the days following retrieval, your medical team is expected to check on you to ensure you are recovering as expected. One possible complication is ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), which involves enlarged ovaries, bloating, and fluid buildup in the pelvis and abdomen. Your medical team will provide instructions on how to monitor your symptoms and how to minimize the risk.

What’s next?

After your retrieval, your mature eggs are ready to be fertilized with your partner’s (or donor’s) sperm. Your medical team will update you on the status of fertilization and the embryo’s growth over the next couple of days.

Acknowledgement: a big thanks to Stefan Halisky for proofreading.

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