IVF: egg retrieval process

You’ve done your stimulation injections and now you’re going onto the next step but what it is?

Up to 48 hours before your procedure you will self-inject with HCG hormone to help release your eggs.

You will arrive at the clinic about an hour before your allotted time slot. Change into a theatre gown and have a cannula fitted and left to wait. You will hopefully have a partner there for support. Your partner (if applicable) will provide a sperm sample whilst you are in theatre, this will be cleaned and combined with your eggs for fertilisation latter in the day.

You will likely walk down to theatre and be asked to remove your dressing gown and lay on the bed. The anesthetist will inject several items through your cannula one is a saline solution to flush and make sure your vein is ok. You will be given anti-sickness medication and some sedative. The sedative is designed to help you relax and doesn’t take away any pain. For some ladies the sedative can make you groggy or fall fall asleep but not everyone is lucky to experience this.

Will there be pain?

Yes, you could experience pain or mild discomfort this is very much dependent upon your personal pain threshold.

You will be given some sedative which is designed to help relax you and is not actually pain relief. If you experience some significant discomfort you may be topped up.

What will it feel like?

The procedure itself starts of feeling like a very invasive smear test. The consultant will use long medical needles to extract your eggs from their follicles. These are inserted into the vagina and up to your ovaries guided by ultrasound. The first needle may take you by surprise and can be uncomfortable or painful. Depending on the number of follicles (which would have been stated during your intravaginal ultrasounds days before) will depend on how many times the needle is inserted. Remember if you have follicles on both ovaries the procedure is repeated on both sides.

If you are not great with pain please speak with your consultant before the procedure. You will find it better to try and relax during the procedure. The more relaxed you can try and make yourself the less tense your uterus will be. You could be in theatre for up to 20 or so minutes.

What happens after?

Your stomach will be wiped down from the petroleum jelly used for the ultrasound. You will then be wheeled round to your cubicle to your awaiting anxious partner. You will be helped from the bed into a reclining chair / bed (depends on your clinic). You will be given a couple of blankets to keep warm and left to rest for a little while.

You may fall asleep which is a normal side effect from the sedation. You will likely feel cramping from the procedure which ranges from mild to severe menstrual type cramps. You can take some paracetamol for this later if not already provided some. Some ladies are given a small dose of codeine with paracetamol. Again the combination depends on the clinic.

Once you’ve rested a little while you will be asked to drink and eat something as well as go to the toilet. Only when you are able to do these will the cannula be removed and you will be able to go home. Before you finally go home the embroyogist will speak with you to remind you how many eggs they were able to collect and let you know the next step.

Some ladies are able to go back to work but it is recommended that the day if egg collection you are able to go home and rest. You will likely feel sore and uncomfortable – a bit like the build up to Aunt Flow (AF) arrival. You can use a hot water bottle on your stomach just make sure it’s not too hot or making direct contact with the skin.

The following days afterwards

You should be able to resume normal duties the next day albeit using some mild form of pain relief like paracetamol.

You should receive a phone call from the embryologist (usually between 9-10am) the next morning to let you know how many eggs fertilised over night.

You will then receive regular telephone calls to give you an idea of how your embryos are developing. The embryologist will inform you or the days they will call and then next steps. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask them.

Some outcomes are not as positive as others so you will need to be prepared for all types of answers which include:

  • Unfertilised eggs
  • Low quality of eggs fertilised
  • All eggs fertilised
  • All eggs fertilised to move straight to freeze cycle
  • Embryos not developing as well as should or stop cell division altogether
  • Embryos develop well and cell division is in line with expectations.
  • Embryos forming to day 3 / 4 morula
  • Embryos left to progress to day 5 blastocyst

Should you progress to the next stage you will need to prepare for embryo transfer. Read the next article on IVF: Embryo transfer

Katherine xo

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