At the IVF network, we provide information about all areas of fertility treatment, through our website, blog and channel, so that you can make informed choices. 

Egg retrieval is a vital part of the IVF and egg freezing procedures and deciding whether or not to freeze some of your eggs is a choice that will need to be made, if you are wanting to preserve your fertility for longer.

What is egg retrieval?

For couples who have decided to go for IVF to increase their chances of conception, the process includes putting eggs and sperm together in the laboratory to create embryos, which are then implanted into the female partner. If you intend to use your own eggs, these will need to be retrieved surgically, under light sedation. If you are not ready to start your family yet, another possibility is to have your eggs retrieved and frozen, ready to go through the IVF process later.

What happens prior to egg retrieval?

Women are born with around one million eggs – all of the eggs that they will ever have. They are stored in the body as ovarian follicles. Each month, several follicles are activated, but usually only one egg is released. 

Your fertility specialist will check your ovarian reserve, which is the number of ovarian follicles that you have left. This can be done by an ultrasound, to count the visible follicles, or by a blood test, to check the level of AMH (Anti-Mullerian Hormone) in your blood. 

Around 10 – 12 days before egg retrieval, fertility medication is given, to stimulate the ovaries to mature numerous eggs, ready for collection. After the eggs have started to mature, your doctor will give you an injection of human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) to induce ovulation, 35 hours before the egg retrieval procedure.

Your fertility specialist will explain in depth what the egg removal procedure involves and what you will need to do, for example, you are not allowed to eat or drink for several hours prior to the procedure.  

What will happen on the day of egg retrieval? 

On arrival, you will need to be put under light sedation. An ultrasound probe will be inserted into your vagina to identify follicles. A needle will be inserted through your vaginal wall and the eggs will be drawn out, one at a time, using a light suction process. They will then be clearly labelled and handed to the embryologist. The process takes around 15 minutes.

You won’t feel anything during the process, due to the sedation.

After the egg retrieval, you will need to rest and be monitored at the clinic for a while, before being allowed to go home. Someone will need to be with you to take you home and it is recommended that you spend the remainder of the day resting, with another adult with you.   

Before you go home, the fertility specialist will tell you how many eggs have been collected.  

Will I have any symptoms after the egg retrieval process?

The following symptoms are common after egg retrieval:

  • Fatigue, due to the effects of the anaesthetic
  • Tenderness around the abdominal area
  • Abdominal pain/discomfort or cramps, similar to period pain
  • Light vaginal spotting 
  • Bloating 

If you have any other symptoms, or you feel that your symptoms are severe, it’s wise to contact your clinic for advice.

What happens to the eggs next?

If your eggs are going to be frozen, they will be taken to the laboratory and cryopreserved securely.

If you are going through the IVF process, the eggs will be washed, then, if ICSI has been requested, the sperm will be injected in. If standard IVF has been requested, sperm droplets will be placed on the eggs. The next day, they will be assessed, to see how many eggs have fertilised and the embryos will then be stored in an incubator and monitored.  

After a few days, you will be notified as to whether there are any embryos suitable for transfer.

At the IVF network, we understand the huge emotional investment (and in many cases financial investment) involved in IVF. That’s why, through our website, blogs and channel, we aim to provide as much information and advice as we can, to support you on your fertility journey.