Causes & Treatment

The IVF egg retrieval process – what to expect (from start to finish)

Emma Harpham in partnership with Gynem Fertility Clinic  |   20 Jul 2023

Waiting on an egg retrieval and wondering what the process is like? When you’re on an IVF journey, this procedure represents a significant step – but can also often feel like an intimidating part of the process.

With almost three decades of pioneering bespoke and cutting-edge IVF treatment, Gynem Fertility Clinic has supported thousands of patients through egg retrieval procedures.

Read on for their expert insight and our most helpful pointers on how to prepare for your IVF egg retrieval process, as well as what to expect on the day of your appointment, and what side effects and recovery period can look like.

How to prepare for the egg retrieval process

Prepping for your egg retrieval effectively starts on day one of your IVF treatment.

In the weeks leading up to your retrieval, you’ll have had all your pre-cycle tests done, and you’ll be well underway with your ovarian stimulation, which starts on the second day of your menstrual cycle and encourages your body to produce more eggs than usual.

You’ll be attending monitoring appointments, and you may be starting to feel a bit tired and hormonal as things progress.

In the days before the egg retrieval procedure, you’ll complete the final and most important step of the medical side of the preparation – administering your trigger shot. This usually happens around 36 hours ahead of your egg retrieval – this timing is a crucial part of the preparation, as it is what signals mature eggs to be released from their follicles.

Afterwards, it can be worth taking the day off before your procedure so you can prioritize your personal preparation, too. 

In terms of egg retrieval recovery (keep reading for more in-depth tips), rest and self-care are so important at this point – this looks different for everybody but the following checklist can be a helpful starting point.

  • You won’t be able to drive yourself home after your egg retrieval, so you should arrange for someone to accompany you to and from the clinic.
  • Pack a little bag to take with you to the appointment (a bottle of water, your charger and a book are good staples)
  • Choose some comfy clothes to wear to the appointment – basically, anything that’s easy to change out of before the surgery.
  • Nourish your body with some of your fave healthy, anti-inflammatory foods (remember you won’t be able to eat or drink anything after midnight though, not even water)
  • Take a break from your screens and get an early night.
egg retrieval preparation

On egg retrieval day

You’ll likely need to skip breakfast, and on arrival at the clinic, you’ll have to complete some paperwork before having your vitals taken. Gynem recommends getting help from your clinic’s administrative team, who should be on hand for this part of the process.

What happens during egg retrieval surgery?

Once you’ve been given a general anaesthetic, your doctor will begin the procedure by performing a vaginal ultrasound examination to check your follicles. This stage will mirror the familiar routine of your morning monitoring appointments you’ve been having.

Once the follicles are clearly visible, the doctor will carefully insert a slender needle through your vaginal wall and into each egg follicle. Using a specialized device, the doctor will extract the fluid from the follicle.

This fluid will be collected in a test tube and subsequently handed over to the embryologist for evaluation under a microscope. Your embryologist will then count the number of eggs obtained.

This process, involving the careful puncturing of the follicles with needles, gentle fluid extraction, and egg counting, will be repeated until all of your viable follicles have been drained.

According to Gynem, depending on the number of viable follicles you have, the procedure usually lasts anywhere between 10 to 30 minutes. 

Does egg retrieval hurt?

Since the procedure is performed under general anaesthetic, you won’t feel any pain or discomfort during the procedure at all. As well as being painless, it’s a relatively non-invasive procedure, and you’ll wake up within 10 to 15 minutes of the end of the procedure. 

Gynem always recommends that if you have any concerns regarding pain or anaesthetic, talk to your doctors – they’re there to listen and support you.

egg retrieval side effects

Egg retrieval recovery

After about an hour when you’re fully awake, you’ll find out the exact number of eggs retrieved during your surgery. You’ll also get some aftercare instructions from your clinic, and be allowed to go home – taking the rest of the day off to start your recovery is always recommended.

Egg retrieval side effects

You might feel some side effects after your egg retrieval procedure – not least because you’ve been under general anaesthetic, which can make you feel woozy at the best of times! 

The most common side effect is post-surgery bloating, which should reduce after a few days. This is typically due to your ovaries swelling in size from the stimulation and high levels of estrogen. You can help to reduce bloating after egg retrieval by ensuring a good fluid intake, and exercising gently when you feel able to.

Patients can also experience pain after egg retrieval, but this is usually in the form of tenderness or mild menstrual-like cramps for about 24 hours following the procedure.

What to eat after egg retrieval

When it comes to what to eat after egg retrieval, high in fibre and low-processed foods are your best bet. Not only do foods high in dietary fibre like fruits, veggies and whole grains help ease that bloated feeling that many tend to experience, but they are also fantastic at balancing your body and reducing excess oestrogen.

It can also be a good idea to start consuming foods to aid embryo implantation. This includes nourishing, high-protein foods like egg whites, fish and lean meat, and natural yoghurt containing lactobacillus to help create a stable vaginal microbiome.

The bottom line

The reality is that the egg retrieval process comprises much more than just the treatment itself, and as a crucial part of the IVF cycle as a whole, it’s so common to have questions and concerns pop up as the retrieval day approaches.

Gynem Fertility Clinic is here for you every step of the way. They put together tailor-made treatment options after an initial free consultation, as well as giving considered end-to-end support and advice. They also offer a 20% discount on your 3rd cycle of treatment, if needed. Get in touch with them here.

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