Egg Retrieval Process: What To Expect Before, During, & After

Egg retrieval is the first step in IVF, where the mother’s eggs are extracted from her ovaries, after she takes hormone-inducing medications, to fertilize them in a lab with sperm. The resultant embryos are inserted back into the uterus for implantation.

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IVF is the procedure of extracting eggs from the ovaries, fertilizing them in a laboratory with sperm, and then transferring the embryos into the uterus. The IVF egg retrieval process is a prominent first step in this treatment for your journey towards pregnancy. The egg retrieval cost is included in the overall treatment cost of IVF. As with any major procedure, there can be a lot of concerns regarding the process and what is required to get the greatest desired results. This article aims to answer many of these concerns while also offering a basic summary of what to expect throughout the process.

Egg Retrieval Procedure and its Aftermath

The egg retrieval procedure consists of these fundamental steps:

  • For roughly two weeks, the woman takes fertility-boosting medications to release multiple eggs.
  • The next step is to go to the hospital to have the eggs surgically extracted.
  • The woman then needs a day for recovery before returning to her usual routine.

After the egg retrieval operation, most women experience little to no pain. You won’t feel anything and will be sedated during the actual process. Following this, vaginal pain and cramps like menstruation cramps are typical. As the anesthesia wears off, you could also experience lightheadedness or nausea. Let’s study these steps of egg retrieval in detail.

Preparing for Egg Retrieval

Preparing for the IVF egg collection process requires the expectant mother to follow certain lifestyle factors which ensures that the eggs she produces are healthy and viable for fertilization. Such factors include:

Avoid unhealthy lifestyle choices: When preparing for egg retrieval, avoid all harmful lifestyle habits that include smoking, restricting or eliminating alcohol consumption, avoiding dangerous behaviors, and monitoring your intake of high-fat and processed meals.

Take Fertility Supplements: Pregnant women should take prenatal vitamins, and those preparing for egg retrieval should take fertility supplements. Supplements help to ensure that your body receives the necessary nutrients to protect your eggs and improve ovarian function. Some fertility supplements contain folic acid, vitamin B12, zinc, selenium, iodine, and omega-3 fatty acids. Before starting any supplements or medications, consult with your fertility specialist.

Avoid Unhealthy Chemicals: There are several harmful compounds that can disrupt a woman’s hormones, reproductive health, and prenatal development. These are known as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), and they are present in a variety of household items. To prepare for egg retrieval, avoid products containing formaldehyde in nail polish, parabens, triclosan, and benzophenone in cosmetics, moisturizers, and soaps, BPA in food packaging, and potentially toxic items such as plastics, medication coatings, nonstick cooking tools, and electronics.

Production of Multiple Eggs

Your ovaries release one developed egg into the fallopian tube during ovulation, where it waits to be fertilized by sperm. However, with egg retrieval, medical professionals aim to collect the maximum number of mature eggs in a single ovulation cycle.

How can several eggs be produced in the ovaries?

The woman preparing for retrieval uses injectable fertility medicines to produce enough hormones to allow several eggs to mature. She normally injects the medications herself for one and a half to two weeks, while doctors evaluate the outcome with ultrasounds and blood tests. When enough ovarian follicles (fluid-filled sacs) produce mature eggs, the woman takes one final “trigger shot” 36 hours before retrieval, which urges the body to release the eggs.

Egg Retrieval Surgery

Egg retrieval is a surgical technique that uses a mild sedative called twilight anesthesia administered through an IV. The patient will breathe on their own throughout the surgery, but they will not remember or feel anything.

After being anesthetized, the patient’s legs are positioned in a stirrup, and surgeons perform a vaginal ultrasound. They will inject a needle through the vaginal wall and into the ovary. The needles are inserted into each ovarian follicle and gently suctioned to remove the fluid and egg. Doctors administer this fluid to the embryologist, who can quickly determine how many eggs they have. Typically, doctors collect between 15-20 eggs.

Post-surgery, the individual wakes up about 30 minutes later, recovers for one to two hours at the health care facility, and then returns home to rest. Because driving is not recommended for 24 hours, a friend or family member frequently accompanies them home. Most people can return to work the next day, though they may feel slight discomfort. The surgery does not leave scars or require stitches.

Side Effects of Egg Retrieval Procedure

The most common side effects of the egg retrieval process include constipation, bloating, cramping, spotting, and discomfort. You may experience some pain because egg retrieval is a surgical procedure. The medicines taken also cause the ovaries to grow significantly larger than normal, and you insert a needle into them.

Some individuals experience a poor reaction to anesthesia, including exhaustion, nausea, and vomiting. Fortunately any severe complications are all very rare since the procedure is guided by an ultrasound. If you develop vomiting, extreme discomfort, or bloating after egg retrieval, contact your doctor.

What to Eat Before Egg Retrieval?

You’re most likely bloated, uncomfortable, or simply exhausted from all of the appointments, bloodwork, and ultrasounds that have led up to this point. However, avoid using a drive-thru or meal delivery service the night before your egg retrieval. Following dietary restrictions, you should avoid fast foods, fried foods, and processed foods the night before your egg retrieval because they can all be inflammatory and create oxidative stress in the body. They can also create further bloating and gas, which is not ideal when your pelvis and belly are already full and bloated. Instead, go for nutritious whole foods and meals that are steamed, boiled or baked.

Choose a heated dish over a raw or cold dish because cooked foods are generally easier to digest and require less energy to break down. If you’re not feeling like cooking, you can still order in, but choose a nutritious option that will leave you feeling better rather than worse afterward.

What to Eat After Egg Retrieval?

Recovery is often required following a retrieval. The ovaries aren’t used to producing and developing so many mature eggs at once, which can lead them to grow in size. Your ovaries are generally almond- to grape-sized, but ovarian stimulation can cause them to enlarge to the size of a peach or orange. As a result, you may experience some pressure, pain, and bloating. Growing numerous eggs and producing high levels of estrogen can induce water imbalances, causing ovarian follicle cells to expand and increase symptoms of bloating. To get this situation under control, the following dietary habits can help:

Stay hydrated: One of the most beneficial things you can do after retrieval is stay hydrated so that your body can flush out the excess estrogen your ovaries are releasing. Aim for a minimum of two or three liters of water each day, and use an electrolyte solution or powder for the first few days after retrieval.

Restore electrolytes: Replenish electrolytes with a cup of coconut water that is rich in potassium and sodium, and avoid fried and salty foods.

Get enough fiber: Dietary fiber found in fruits, vegetables, and minimally processed whole grains can help bind and remove excess hormones such as estrogen. Aim for at least 25 grams daily. This can be obtained from apples, pears, avocados, leafy greens, and vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.

Call your doctor if you have the following characteristics:
  • Heavy vaginal bleeding, compared to a period
  • foul-smelling vaginal discharge.
  • Pain that does not respond to painkillers
  • Fever over 100 degrees
  • Nausea that lasts for 24 hours
  • Symptoms of an allergic reaction such as rashes, swelling, and breathing difficulties


What should I eat or drink before the egg retrieval?

You will be assigned a precise time to check in for your retrieval. This will be one hour before your retrieval time. Timing is critical throughout this process, so prepare appropriately. Make sure you have nothing to eat or drink after midnight the night before your surgery.

Is egg retrieval painful?

Patients experience no pain throughout the egg retrieval operation due to the anesthesia used. Patients may have abdominal cramps for a day or two following the surgery.

How many eggs can be retrieved successfully?

A number of studies looked into how many eggs should be extracted based on a woman’s age. In general, extracting five to 14 eggs is considered appropriate for women under the age of 35. For a woman aged 38, this number rises to between 10 and 34.

What to avoid after egg retrieval?

Heavy lifting and intense exercise should be avoided while the ovaries are still swollen and sensitive. Gentle walking is acceptable. Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Avoid taking baths, hot tubs, Jacuzzis, swimming, or immersing oneself in water between the egg retrieval and the pregnancy test.

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