If you're undergoing (or considering) fertility preservation or IVF, you might be left feeling unsure and overwhelmed by the idea of egg retrieval. While it's an important decision in your fertility journey, the actual process of retrieval is fairly common and one our experts are here to guide you through.
Whether your unique situation requires egg freezing, embryo cryopreservation, or IVF--this post will answer many of your questions about the preparation, procedure, and recovery from egg retrieval.
Calming Common Fears Around Egg Retrieval
When talking with patients who are considering procedures that require egg retrieval, the most common concerns associated with an egg retrieval are around the process itself. We believe that transparency is key when explaining any of our processes, so let's dive into two of the most common topics we talk through with our patients:
Anesthesia, injections, and in-procedure monitoring:
- The procedure takes 10-20 minutes, and the anesthesia is twilight general anesthesia. Typically, the patient breathes on their own without the need for help from a machine. The patients tend to return to work the next day and continue to work throughout the injection process. Although monitoring can be difficult to fit into a busy schedule, frequent monitoring allows the physician to manage the medication regimen with the most precision--and, as a result, we see better outcomes. We are very careful to work with and around our patients' schedules. However, this process does require a time commitment that is beyond your typical medical treatments.
Cryostorage security and safety:
- Cryostorage is, in its basic form, a simple process. As long as an intact tank is available, our skilled staff monitors of the liquid nitrogen level and replenishes it when needed. Of course, an alarm backup is the key to preventing a storage disaster. Here at Kofinas, the safety of your eggs and embryos are our utmost priority--and, as such, we keep all our tanks onsite, where we can maintain quality control.
The Most Crucial Stages of Egg Retrieval
It’s important to remember that the medication administered to grow your oocytes (eggs) are so that they can mature enough to retrieve during your final-stage procedure. During the time of the retrieval, your fertility specialist is actually "looking" at a snapshot of your egg health from 2-3 months ago. It takes about 2-3 months to see any effect (positive or negative) on your oocytes from typical preparatory medication.
This means that if you're considering freezing your eggs, and you have 3 or more months to increase your cellular health, it would be very beneficial to:
- Increase protein intake
- Eat whole foods with plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Decrease any foods that may lead to inflammation or poor nutrition.
There are also internal factors to consider (alcohol consumption, smoking, etc.), but also external ones that can affect the quality of your eggs, such as air quality.
Another crucial time is during the injections of the medications. We monitor how your eggs are responding to the medication and your external environment. It is important to be very honest with your doctor about your lifestyle and follow your doctor’s recommendations concerning physical activity.
The medications’ purpose is to optimally prepare your body’s environment and grow your follicles into mature eggs--and if you are used to physical activity, this is something you will have to essentially stop until after you get your menstrual cycle following egg retrieval.
Over-stimulation can occur in your ovaries, and when combined with excessive physical activity, it can lead to a very serious condition where your ovaries can turn inside your body, cutting off blood and oxygen supply. This may lead to losing the function of your turned ovary and is a surgical emergency, which we of course want to avoid at all costs.
If you stick to the plan advised by your fertility team as they closely monitor your growing follicles, you should thankfully not experience this situation.
What to Expect After Egg Retrieval
After your retrieval, you might experience some common and completely normal pain and cramping. Because this is an outpatient procedure, the recovery period is much shorter compared to a procedure that requires a specialized surgical unit and operating room.
Weight gain can also occur with egg retrieval. However, this is usually a sign of water retention and ovarian hyperstimulation. If you experience weight gain of more than 5 pounds during your injection cycle or after your egg retrieval and/or you have significant bloating and pain, let your fertility doctor know immediately.
As you get further from egg retrieval, these side effects decrease rather quickly. One of the strategies very commonly employed to prevent severe complications is to delay the embryo transfer 1 month and to freeze the embryos. As a result, you will get your period 10-12 days after retrieval, and the ovaries will have returned to normal size and normal hormonal function.
Although a few people may experience long-term effects, there is no real evidence that the retrieval process or IVF in particular causes long-term bloating, pain, weight gain or any changes in menstrual patterns.
Next Steps In Your Fertility Journey
When you're ready to get a more customized understanding of your unique situation and family planning goals, request an appointment with our team of experts--who are here to support you every step of the way.