20 IVF Egg Retrieval Tips
If you are unfamiliar with the IVF process, then check out our IVF process guide. However, I imagine if you are here then it’s likely you already have a good idea of what you are letting yourself in for! Egg retrieval is a big day in IVF, we have got these tips from our own IVF cycles and talking to many others who have been through the IVF process.
What is Egg retrieval?
So you’ve been stimulated till you have replaced your ovaries with a bunch of grapes. The clinicians have scanned you and found that you have appropriately sized mature follicles which have the best chance of containing mature eggs! You have been given a time to take you hCG injection and now the time has come to have those eggs retrieved.
You’re going to be excited, anxious, nervous, worried, elated and tired this is one of the biggest milestones in IVF and not one to be taken lightly. This is after all a surgical procedure. You will likely be given a combination of light sedation and pain killers, although some people will have general anaesthetic if there are specific reasons as to why this is the better option.
Once your clinician has ensured you are appropriately medicated, relaxed and ready they will proceed. In simple terms it consists of the following steps:
- They insert a needle through to the top of your vagina (the bit below your cervix).
- It penetrates the vaginal wall then puncture the follicles. This helps the egg detach from the follicle wall
- The fluid from the follicle is drained, which hopefully contains a mature egg
- This is repeated for each follicle on the first side.
- The process is then repeated for the follicles from the other ovary
- You’ll then recover on the ward for a few hours following the procedure, you’ll be given a drink and food (which is wonderful as you will have fasted beforehand) and you’ll need to urinate before you can leave
- Then you need to rest at home for 48 hours.
Before IVF Egg Retrieval Tips
I think what surprised us and a many other IVF patients is that the process of egg retrieval starts before the day of egg retrieval and there are many things that you can do to minimise stress on you both.
You will be having scans, timing medications and planning the day so here are our key before IVF egg retrieval tips
Tip #1 – Write down the size of your follicles during your transvaginal scan. – If you’re like many of the people we have spoken to, they seem to immediately forget this when they walk out of the room and want to remember. So, if you have an IVF diary then take that along with you or just jot it down in your phone and add it later.
In an ideal world mature follicle are between 15-24mm and a good reaction to stimulation should get around 8+ mature follicles. However, don’t worry if you have less, we have met many people who have had successful IVF treatments with 5-6 mature follicles.
TIP #2 – SET AN ALARM! – A strange tip I know. But you should set multiple alarms for your hCG. After a scan which determines you are likely to be ready for egg collection you will be given an exact time and day to take your hCG injection. Make sure you both set alarms and many of them.
The timing with this injection is crucial as if you take it too early then you can ovulate, which will mean that your eggs will be released and sadly not able to be collected. Too late and the final maturation of the eggs won’t have happened. So if you do take it too early or late, let your clinic know straight away and they will likely move around your retrieval.
Tip #3 – Remember to fast – You shouldn’t eat and drink before your egg retrieval, remember it is a surgical procedure. IF you do eat and drink it can cause complications including aspiration (vomiting or eating food and breathing it into the lungs) and other undesirable side effects. You will be told by your clinicians when to stop eating and drinking, so be sure to have your favourite meal an hour or so before you must stop eating.
Tip #4 – Ask for an anti-emetic (anti-nausea medication) – If you are prone to nausea and vomiting, or you have had previous surgery and suffered with sickness you’ll know how unpleasant this is. The medications that are used for the procedure can make you feel very nauseous, and they are happy to give a prophylactic (preventative) anti-emetic before starting the procedure, so make sure you discuss this with the clinicians before the day and they will make sure that this is administered before the procedure.
Tip #5 – Men abstain from any kind of joint or self-assisted seminal emissions. This one seems obvious, but I have met a number of couples who have experienced this sperm emergency.
You should not ejaculate for 3-5 days before egg retrieval as this will ensure that you have the best quality sperm ready to fertilise those eggs your partner has been working on for a VERY long time. Trust me when I say she won’t be happy if she endured those medications for months only for you not to be able to wait a few days. For an ideal sample however, ejaculating about 6 days before hand is recommended.
Tip #6 – Plan your journey, take into account traffic, parking, walk and then give yourself even more time. There is nothing more stressful than being late to one of the biggest days of IVF which you have been working towards for months and months.
Tip #7 – Take AT LEAST 2 days off work post IVF egg retrieval. This is vital. You are having a surgical procedure and medications which won’t leave your system quickly. You are not allowed to drive; you should rest, and you should not be working. So, book them off as annual leave or ask for them as planned medical leave. But be sure that both of you get time off work and for the one not having the operation, these 2 days are to be on beck and call to their every need! – We haven’t had chance to write a lot about fertility and work yet. But Katy Linderman of Uber Barrens Club has a superb number of articles on it our favourite of which is #FITW – Fertility In The Workplace.
Tip #8 – Pack a day bag, there are some things which you are likely to need these include:
- Change of underwear
- Pantyliners or sanitary towels as it is likely you will get some post-operative bleeding
- Change for any tolls or parking
- Phone with music you’d like to listen too as many clinics allow this to be played through the procedure if you are awake.
- ID some clinics need this to retrieve your eggs
- Water bottle this is really useful
- Slippers and a dressing gown for while you’re waiting to go into the procedure room to cover up that lovely surgical gown you’ll be wearing.
Tips on what to and not to wear for your IVF egg retrieval
Tip #9 – Wear your lucky socks or if you don’t have some get some – This sounds silly but it is a pretty common IVF tradition that people have lucky IVF socks, many of them are fluffy and warm and keep your little tootsies warm on the cold floors of the ward.
Tip #10 – Wear comfortable loose-fitting trousers. Think about those trousers you wear on the worst day of aunt flow! Think sweatpants, yoga pants or big flaring adjustable trousers. You will likely experience some bloating and abdominal tenderness so it’s good to have a pair of trousers that are super comfortable.
Tip #11 – Wear a top which makes you and your partner smile – I know this is a little odd, but it can be a little stressful and anything to lighten the mood and make things easier is great.
Tip #12 – These items are unlikely to be allowed:
- make up
- contact lenses
- Hair products
- Nail varnish
It’s unlikely any of these things are allowed in the operating theatre and might not be good for the embryo. This is not a day when you need to look your best, so just be comfortable and have as little with you as you need.
Tips for Partners during IVF egg retrieval
Tip #13 – Expect the unexpected – By this I mean don’t be surprised if it’s not as easy for you to produce your sample as you expect. I have never had a problem with this before but on our first IVF cycle it took me 40 minutes to do so! You can read more about this and the male perspective of IVF in our article.
Tip #14 – Get them something a little special. It’s tough on your partner I mean really tough. They have already gone through months of medications; they’re hormones are shot and as we all know IVF has an impact on relationships. It only needs to be something small, so they know that you are there and thinking of them. There are some amazing little IVF cards so take a look at those.
Tip #15 – Make sure you have the day of the transfer and the day after off of work. You’re partner will need to be able to get home and have someone with them for at least 24 hours after their operation. Plus, it’s nice to have a duvet day with films and chocolate together the day after.
Tip #16 Go for a walk – You will have 1.5-2 hours where you may be asked to leave the ward. Rather than going and sitting in the waiting room where you will sit and mull and worry and stress. Stretch your legs, go for a walk, grab a coffee. Just keep busy and the time will rush by.
Tips for after your IVF egg retrieval
Tip #17 – Use a hot water bottle or warming pads – The procedure will often leave you sore and a little bloated, so be sure to have your favourite hot water bottle ready to go when you get home, it will help ease some of the pain.
Tip #18 – Plan nothing for the next 24-48 hours, enjoy a duvet day with chocolate and binge on a series. Be kind to yourself give your body time to recover because you will be having them implanted if things go well.
Tip #19 – Keep your phone charged – Your embryologist will give you call around 36 -48 hours after your procedure to let you know how many of your eggs have fertilised. This is a call you don’t want to miss. Remember to record this in your fertility diary for future.
Tip #20 keep hydrated – Water aids the recovery process so be sure to drink plenty whilst you’re recovering from the treatment. Some people recommend electrolyte water instead of regular to reduce the bloat and OHSS risk but either way keep hydrated.
These are our 20 IVF egg retrieval tips. Most people we have spoken to and also our own experience reflects this is that egg retrieval isn’t exactly fun or a walk in the park but when all is said and done it is nowhere near the worst experience you’ll have and for many it’s easier than the side effects from some of the IVF medications.
We would love to hear about your experience of egg retrieval and anything that you did to make this time in your life that little bit easier.