Egg Retrieval 101: A Different Kind of Easter Egg Hunt

By Jay Palumbo, TTC warrior!

If only you could get your doctor to wear an Easter Rabbit costume, right? No? Just me? OK

When you are in the “infertility world,” you find there are trends to what you get asked. One of the top questions I get asked, is if having your eggs retrieved hurts? Mind you – I wouldn’t recommend it say, over a massage, but it is bearable. I realize that’s not a ringing endorsement, but it is a necessary part of either the egg freezing process or in vitro fertilization (IVF). I also love being lightly sedated for a short time. Not just because I could use the rest, but when someone is going to stick a thin needle in my vagina to suck out some eggs, I’d prefer not to be there for it. Below, I’ll share the process, so you are prepared, and hopefully, amused.

Leading Up to the Recovery after Egg Retrieval

Let’s first discuss what needs to happen to produce the eggs that will be retrieved. A reproductive endocrinologist will prescribe hormone medications. Yaaay hormones! These hormones will stimulate your ovaries, which will aim to increase the number of eggs you produce. Just as a reminder, when you’re ovulating without hormones, you are typically releasing one egg a cycle. Since you’re spending a nice chunk of cash, they want you to create more eggs to help create the possibility of more embryos.

You will be closely monitored to check the size of your follicles on your ovaries (each follicle contains an egg. See? It is an egg hunt!). When your endocrinologist feels that your eggs are at its most mature to be retrieved, they (or your partner, husband, or excellent friend) will give you a “trigger shot.” Your egg retrieval will typically be scheduled 36 hours after the shot is given. Then, a thin needle will be inserted (ouch!) into each of your follicles to retrieve the egg.

Recovery After Egg Retrieval

While this is an outpatient procedure, recovery after egg retrieval is still essential. You’ll be taken to a recovery room and given some juice and snacks (ask for cookies… why not!?). It’s completely normal to feel discomfort and possibly even cramps that are like those you get during your period. Please be sure to mention anything to your team, however, if anything feels out of the ordinary. Overall, since the retrieval itself is a relatively short procedure, and the recovery after egg retrieval is not very long either.

Recovery after egg retrieval in terms of going back to work is between you, your doctor, and your vagina quite honestly. Some patients prefer to go home since they were given anesthesia, while others feel well enough to head back to work. Listen to your body and what it feels comfortable with as everyone reacts differently to having an egg retrieval. After one of my retrievals, I went back to work and was both crampy and cranky. I learned that for me, I should go home for the good and safety for all. Bottom line: Have an over the counter pain medication ready to go if you need it!

What Happens to Your Eggs if You’re Doing Egg Freezing or IVF

While you’re in recovery after egg retrieval, depending on if you’re doing egg freezing or IVF, different steps are taken with your eggs. If you’re pursuing egg freezing for either medical or elective reasons, your eggs will be examined by an embryologist. Using a fast-freeze technology called vitrification, your eggs will be preserved for safe-keeping. This method keeps ice crystals from forming on your eggs, so they have a better successful thaw rate. They will then be stored for when (and if) you want to use them.

If you’re pursuing IVF, it depends on whether you’re doing a “fresh” IVF cycle or a  “frozen” IVF cycle. If you’re doing a “fresh,” the protocol is to retrieve your eggs, fertilize them and transfer the embryo(s) in either three days or five days, depending on what your RE recommends.

These days, since my family building journey has resolved, the only eggs I’m dealing with are the ones I dye on Easter or scramble in the morning. However, I understand that the unknown is scary, and you don’t know how you’re going to feel or how your body will react to this procedure.

What I want to assure you, though, is it’s a very routine procedure, an excellent excuse to go home, put on jammies, and binge watch TV for an afternoon and, hopefully, one step closer to having a family

To learn more about the IVF process, click here

To read more by the brilliant Jay Palumbo, click here


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