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What to Expect Before During and After Egg Retrieval

If you're considering in vitro fertilization (IVF) or egg freezing, you may wonder what to expect from the egg retrieval process. While having your eggs retrieved may sound scary, in this blog post we provide a full overview, so you can feel informed and prepared!

6 Second Snapshot

  • During ovulation, you will receive an injection of medications for 8-14 days to induce the ovaries to generate as many mature eggs as possible. This is called ovarian stimulation.
  • You will be monitored very closely during every step of the way.
  • Egg retrieval is performed under light sedation and is an out-patient procedure.
  • Depending on if you’re doing a “fresh” or “frozen” cycle, the steps after retrieval can vary.

Before Egg Retrieval

Before your egg retrieval, you will go through a process called ovarian stimulation, during which your fertility doctor will prescribe hormone medications and a specific protocol based on your fertility characteristics and goals. These hormones will help increase the number of follicles that will develop over a single cycle to help improve your chances of a pregnancy.

Next, you will have several appointments to monitor your follicles' size (each follicle contains an egg). Then, when your reproductive endocrinologist feels your eggs are mature and ready to be retrieved, they will give you a "trigger shot," and the egg retrieval will be scheduled.

During Egg Retrieval

During the retrieval process, you will be put under light sedation, which can take anywhere from ten minutes to a half-hour. Once sedated, your doctor will use a transvaginal ultrasound to insert a thin needle through the vaginal wall to retrieve the eggs. Then, you will be taken to a recovery room to be monitored to ensure you're experiencing all normal signs and symptoms after the retrieval.

It's very common to feel discomfort and even cramping similar to your period or PMS cramps. You'll be monitored, and only when your medical team feels you are doing well enough will you be released to go home.

Whether you head home or go back to work should be discussed with your doctor. Some feel more comfortable heading home since they were given anesthesia and are unsure how their bodies will feel after their eggs are retrieved. Should you have any questions, you should speak to your doctor on that matter.

After Egg Retrieval

If you're doing egg freezing, your eggs will be frozen using a process called "vitrification." This fast-freeze method keeps ice crystals from forming on your eggs, preventing them from being damaged. They are then stored for later use.

If you're doing a frozen embryo cycle, any resulting embryos will be frozen at the blastocyst stage for later use. Some doctors recommend this if they plan to use genetic testing.

If your eggs were retrieved for an IVF cycle, what happens after the retrieval depends on whether you're doing a "fresh" or "frozen" IVF cycle. If you're doing a fresh process, your eggs would be retrieved, fertilized with your partner or donor's sperm, and then monitored in a lab. Your doctor would then determine which and when any developing embryos would be transferred to your uterus within the next few days in a process called embryo grading.

While it's understandable to be nervous about your egg retrieval procedure, remember that you have a team of experts who are there to support you as well as resources, reproductive technology, and your patient advocacy skills to help you along the way!

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