If you have difficulty conceiving a child, you may have discussed in vitro fertilization (IVF) with your doctor or specialist. IVF is the most effective solution for someone having trouble conceiving a child. It is a medical procedure in which an egg is fertilized by sperm outside of the woman’s body.
Prior to proceeding with IVF, your reproductive specialist may recommend performing a variety of tests before determining if you are a good candidate for IVF.
In this blog, we share a comprehensive look at the egg retrieval process to help you understand what it is, how it works, how long it takes, and how to prepare for it.
Egg Retrieval Process Step-by-Step
Here is a step-by-step look at the IVF egg retrieval procedure:
Step 1: Preparation
Once you have decided IVF is the best option to help you achieve pregnancy, your fertility specialist will conduct a thorough medical history before treatment begins. You and your partner may undergo several fertility tests and analyses to help doctors understand what’s causing infertility.
Next, you will receive a prescription for birth control pills or estrogen to control the timing of your menstrual cycle. This helps maximize the number of mature eggs available for retrieval.
Step 2: Ovarian stimulation
During a typical menstrual cycle, only a single egg matures enough to ovulate. During ovarian stimulation, a woman receives injectable hormone medications (e.g., human chorionic gonadotropin or hCG) to help several eggs mature simultaneously. The type, dosage, and frequency will be tailored to your unique needs and medical situation to ensure optimal results.
During this time, your fertility specialist will monitor the eggs regularly to determine when they are mature enough for retrieval. Approximately 36 hours before the egg retrieval process, your fertility specialist will administer a final injection or “trigger shot” of hCG or Lupron to finalize the maturation process.
Step 3: Egg retrieval
When your eggs are mature and ready for fertilization, you are ready for the egg retrieval procedure. As this step is mildly invasive, pain medication and sedation are available.
During the process, your fertility specialist will connect a tiny suction device to a long, thin, hollow needle. This needle is then inserted through your vagina. It will puncture ovarian follicles and pull mature eggs into the needle.
Once removed, the mature eggs are placed into a sterile Petri dish along with special solutions (e.g., salts, sugars, amino acids, and lipids) to promote growth. The eggs, Petri dish, and solutions are placed briefly into an incubator while the sperm are washed and prepared.
Step 4: Sperm retrieval
Your fertility specialist will typically collect sperm from your male partner or donor on the morning of the egg retrieval. Once received, it will be rinsed with a special solution and centrifuged to remove dead sperm and cellular debris. From there, an embryologist analyzes and identifies a single, high-quality sperm for fertilization.
Step 5: Fertilization
During IVF, eggs can be fertilized by introducing sperm into the Petri dish or by a process called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). During this process, an embryologist collects a single sperm into a hollow glass needle and injects it directly into the egg. Over the next several days, the fertilized egg, or embryo, is monitored as it grows and develops. Once it has progressed to the blastocyst stage, it is ready for transfer into your uterus or frozen for future use. The egg retrieval process for freezing is the same, the only difference being when the embryo transfer occurs.
Step 6: Embryo transfer
Most embryos are ready for transfer 3-7 days after fertilization. This 10-minute procedure is very similar to an annual pelvic exam or Pap smear.
The first 24 hours following an embryo transfer are critical. During this time, your doctor may advise bed rest or limited activity to give the embryo every opportunity to attach to the uterine wall.
How Long Does the Egg Retrieval Process Take?
The IVF egg retrieval process takes approximately 20-30 minutes, which includes 5-10 minutes for sedation.
This process is mildly invasive, so sedation is typically used. Following the procedure, you are transferred to a recovery room to rest and given an oral antibiotic to minimize the risk of any infection that could compromise the embryo transfer.
How to Prepare for Egg Retrieval
Here is everything you need to do before the egg retrieval process, but the key takeaway is to take care of your health.
- Talk to your doctor about fertility supplements (e.g., folic acid, vitamin B12, zinc, selenium, iodine, and omega-3 fatty acids)
- Avoid unhealthy chemicals (e.g., formaldehyde (commonly found in nail polish), parabens, triclosan, benzophenone, and BPA)
- Limit alcohol use
- Quit smoking
- Eat whole foods, fruits, and vegetables
- Limit processed foods and saturated fats
- Take care of your mental health
Knowing what to expect after egg retrieval is just as important as knowing what to do before egg retrieval. It is vital to follow all post-procedure care instructions and contact your healthcare provider immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms after egg retrieval
- Excessive pain
- Inability to eat or drink
If you have any questions or concerns about the egg retrieval process, IVF, or other fertility treatments, call the skilled team at Pacific Reproductive Center. We are ready to help you create the family you’ve always wanted. Call 424-340-0871 today to schedule an appointment.