What to expect with the egg retrieval process
Though an egg retrieval is relatively simple, we understand the prospect of having any type of medical procedure can be intimidating. However, one of the easiest ways to alleviate anxiety before any procedure, including an egg retrieval, is to develop a better understanding of what to expect.
While not every patient will undergo an egg retrieval, it is a part of several common fertility-related processes, including:
The steps that follow egg retrieval will differ depending on your overall treatment plan. The egg retrieval procedure, however, is always the same.
Before Your Procedure
Before the egg retrieval procedure can be scheduled, you have likely been taking some type of ovarian stimulation medication to recruit more follicles and bring them to maturity. Once your follicles reach a certain size, as deemed appropriate by your physician, and as seen visible during monitoring via ultrasound, you are ready for your egg retrieval.
When the follicles have reached maturity based on labs and ultrasound monitoring, your physician will likely order an injection, often called a “trigger shot”—a hormone that helps to finalize the maturation process of your eggs. In most cases, this will be either human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) or leuprolide acetate (Lupron). The timing of this injection is crucial, as the retrieval needs to occur 36 hours after the trigger injection. This ensures enough time for the eggs to release from the wall of the follicle so they can be retrieved from the follicle fluid, but before the eggs release out of the ovary.
In most cases, when anesthesia is given, you will be asked to refrain from eating or drinking for 8 to 10 hours before your scheduled procedure.
Day of the Procedure
Your physician may start you on a precautionary antibiotic to prevent infection to lower any possible risk of infection.
Your egg retrieval will take place at one of Shady Grove Fertility’s fully accredited ambulatory surgery centers (ASC).
A trusted adult will need to bring you to the ASC, stay for the duration of your procedure, and drive you home, as you won’t be able to drive after receiving light anesthesia.
You’ll be asked to arrive between 1 to 1.5 hours before your scheduled egg retrieval.
A nurse will meet you, check your ID, and give you a surgical gown to change into. You will be asked to remove contact lenses and jewelry. You will be given a private locker or room to store your personal belongings.
Once you have changed, your nurse will take your vitals and discuss your procedure. He or she will then provide you with discharge instructions so you know what to expect when you return home. He or she will also provide you with a consent form to sign that explains the details of the procedure. Your doctor has already reviewed this; however, it must be done again the day of the procedure.
Next, a nurse anesthetist (CRNA) or registered nurse (RN) will insert your IV in preparation for anesthesia. The anesthetist will review your medical history and then administer IV sedation to start to put you to sleep.
At some point during the steps above, before your IV is started, the physician doing the procedure that day will discuss your procedure and plans for fertilization and your embryos as previously discussed with your primary SGF doctor. The physician who is performing your scheduled egg retrieval may not always be the primary SGF doctor you see typically. Feel free to ask any questions you have about your procedure. We want you to feel comfortable and informed throughout the entire egg retrieval process.
During the Procedure
The egg retrieval procedure itself only takes about 20 to 30 minutes. Your guest will be asked to wait in the waiting room area of the ASC until your procedure in the operating room is complete.
Once the anesthesia has started and you are asleep and comfortable, the physician will use an ultrasound to locate your ovaries and look at the follicles—the fluid-filled sacs containing your eggs.
Using ultrasound guidance, the physician will introduce a needle into each ovary to remove the fluid via suction from each follicle.
Once the physician has removed the fluid from all of the follicles that can be safely accessed, the procedure is complete. As the fluid is being aspirated, the embryologist immediately scans the fluid under the microscope to identify every egg that is retrieved. We can tell you how many total eggs were retrieved the same day before you go home; however, the quality of the eggs is more difficult to determine because the eggs have supporting cells that surround them.
After the Procedure
The exact amount of time you spend in recovery may vary. Patients typically spend about 30 minutes in the recovery room, resting and allowing the effects of anesthesia to wear off.
The person you selected to bring you to the procedure can then drive you home where you will follow discharge instructions and rest. Most patients are back to their normal activities the following day.
If you are preparing for an embryo transfer, your physician may also start you on a course of hormone supplements designed to support your endometrial lining in preparation for the embryo to attach and become a pregnancy.
You will be advised to avoid sexual intercourse for a period of time following your retrieval, as well as avoid swimming, taking baths, or any other submersing yourself in water.
You will also be asked to refrain from tampon use. Use a maxi pad for any post-procedure bleeding.
A nurse will also call you the day after the procedure to make sure you are recovering well and answer any additional questions that you may have.
Uncommon Warning Signs
Please report any of the following problematic symptoms to your physician right away:
- Fever above 101 F
- Severe abdominal pain or swelling
- Heavy vaginal bleeding (Light bleeding is expected and normal. However, if you need more than one pad per hour, contact your physician.)
- Painful urination
- Fainting or dizziness
Medical Contribution: Kara Nguyen, M.D., M.P.H., of Shady Grove Fertility’s Reading, PA office
Last Review Date: November 2017