If you’re waiting to have your egg retrieval or egg collection, you’re likely wondering what the process will involve for you and possibly your partner. You might be curious to know if there’s anything you can do to prepare for ‘the big day’, whether you’ll feel any pain and what the procedure itself will involve.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to know all the facts ahead of time so you can be as prepared as possible. Thankfully, I’ve got you covered! I recently went through my first egg retrieval so I’ll be sharing some of my own experience, general dos and don’ts as well as what you can expect during the week leading up to egg collection and the few days after your procedure.
You made it!
The time leading up to this point in your IVF process will have been filled with appointments, tests, paperwork, consents, scans and remembering to take your medications on time – this is the part where you truly get to sit back and let the doctors take control. They have your very best interests at heart, so the first thing to remember is that you’re in safe and capable hands. You have been through so much already so remember to give yourself a pat on the back because you’ve done incredibly well just to get to this point. IVF is a real roller-coaster so give yourself credit, because it’s not easy.
I found the egg collection stage of IVF both nerve racking and exciting at all once. I was naturally apprehensive but it also signified the start of the next chapter for us. Knowing that on the day your eggs are collected, they will be fertilised by your partner’s (or donor) sperm and then (fingers crossed) go on to form an embryo that could become your baby is… mind blowing. There is something really quite amazing about being so aware and present in those early days of conception. There’s no feeling quite like it... it makes all the effort so far, worth it. So well done for not giving up.
The week before egg collection
During the week leading up to egg collection you’ll still be administering your stimulation injections until you are advised to stop it There are lots of different stimulation medications used and yours will be selected according to your clinic and your unique case..
There will be more internal vaginal ultrasounds at your clinic, so more close encounters with ‘Wanda’ the ultrasound wand. You’re likely very familiar with this process by now, but I found wearing a long skirt and coming prepared with a pad for afterwards were key. Your clinic may also monitor your blood oestrogen levels.
You’re probably feeling a bit bloated, hormonal and tired by this point and it’s completely normal given the hormonal medications you’re on. However, if you start to feel it is important to call your clinic for guidance and assurance.
The days leading up to egg collection
Eventually you’ll have your final monitoring ultrasound where your fertility nurse or doctor will say you’re ready to ‘trigger’ your follicles – which causes the eggs to go through the final phase of maturation. At the same time, they will schedule your egg collection.
Taking the final injection, called ‘the trigger’ is of utmost importance. The specialist will tell you what ‘trigger’ injection to take, at what dose and at what time. Make sure that you have that injection at home. Administration of this injection is precisely timed with your egg-collection schedule, so do not fall asleep and miss it!
Having been through this process myself I definitely didn’t realise just how much rest I’d need in those final few days. Your body is in overdrive right now and I found myself needing a lot more sleep than normal.
The night before egg collection
This may be an injection free day for you now that you’ve done your trigger shot.
By this time, I was ready to get those eggs OUT. It’s hard to describe the feeling but the only way I can explain it is that you’re very aware of your ovaries and you’ll notice them more, like when you’re walking or sleeping. It all feels very full. After all, there are a lot of follicles in there.
Now is the time to ramp up the self-care. Hopefully by now you are off work and are able to focus purely on yourself and getting into a relaxed head space. The last thing you need is to be worrying about signing off on a project or meeting a deadline. I recommend taking off the day before egg retrieval so you can get yourself sorted for tomorrow (pack a little bag including a book, water, change of clothes and phone charger etc) and rest.
Get some of your favourite foods in, go on a slow walk, watch a feel-good film, snuggle up with a good book and stay hydrated. However, you will be asked not to take any solid food after the midnight, only to take sips of water until 3 hours before the egg collection is scheduled. Of course, any oral medicine at night and in the morning of the the procedure is allowed.
Today and tonight is all about YOU. Switch off from technology and blue light 2 hours before bed to help you drift off easier, because you’ll want to get a good night’s sleep ahead of tomorrow.
Egg collection day
It’s here! The day you’ve been building up to for months now. All that’s left to do is keep calm, carry on and enjoy the sedation nap. Oh, and the post procedure biscuits and hot chocolate, but more on that later…
Today you’ll need to skip breakfast and stick to the water as well as avoid any perfume, strong smelling deodorant or nail polish. Eggs and embryos are particularly sensitives to chemicals so keep these out of the equation.
Do not arrive late! Once you’ve signed in at your clinic and they are ready for you, you’ll be taken through to your waiting area and medical bed. You’ll have your blood pressure taken and they’ll likely check other vital signs too. You will be seen by the anaesthetist who will put you to sleep in the theatre.
Around this time if you’re doing IVF with your partner, he will be asked to go off and provide his semen sample.
Its go time
One of the nurses peeped through the curtain to say they were ready for me and I walked through to the little theatre .
Once you’re inside the theatre the embryologist will confirm all your details again and then you lie down on the bed. Sedation medicine will be administered. Now, the next stage differs for everyone. Some people go to sleep, and don’t remember or feel anything whilst others are more aware of what’s going on. But no one should feel pain during the procedure.
If you have any concerns about this, please talk to your doctors as they are there to listen.
I personally don’t remember too much from the procedure itself. I did feel some discomfort but it was very abstract – a couple of quick pokes - and I do remember them saying to me: “We’ve got 8 eggs so far you’re doing really well.” I was very out of it overall.
The egg retrieval itself is done using trans vaginal ultrasound aspiration. An ultrasound probe is inserted into your vagina to identify your follicles before a thin needle is inserted into an ultrasound guide to go through the vaginal wall and into the follicles to retrieve the eggs. The eggs are then removed from the follicles through a needle connected to a suction device. The procedure itself only takes on average around 15-20 minutes and before you know it, you’ll be back in the waiting area resting and awaiting results.
Some ladies sleep at this point, others simply doze and some are awake but hazy. I was in the awake but hazy club. After the procedure I didn’t sleep but simply lay there feeling... quite frankly relieved as the nerves had been pretty major. After a little while you’ll be offered something to eat and drink and my advice is to try and enjoy this time. You’ve earned it and trust me those post egg collection biscuits will taste like nectar from the gods after your fast and adrenaline come-down. You did it! You should be so proud.
Once you’ve managed to go to the bathroom and your vitals are looking healthy it’s time for the embryologist to give you the update on how many mature eggs they managed to collect. It’s worth bearing in mind that not every follicle will contain a mature egg. After this initial drop off, I was concerned, but I needn’t have been. We ended up getting 7 genetically normal embryos. It’s quality, not quantity with IVF so if you’re initially disappointed with your number, hang tight.
You won’t be allowed to drive after egg collection so make sure you have someone to drive you home. You’ll want to take the rest of the day off resting and perhaps the next day too. You may feel a little tender down there but it should be nothing major. I felt a little sore the day of egg retrieval, the emphasis being little. It was more of a tender feeling. I felt completely back to normal the next day but did take it easy because of the sedation.
The few days after egg collection
You’ll now be receiving updates from your embryology team regarding fertilisation rates and how many of your embryos have made it to the 2,4,6,8 cell stage and how many have made it to day 5 or day 6 blastocysts. This can be a really nerve-racking time so try to find things to keep yourselves distracted.
We knew by this point that the results were out of our hands which felt both exciting and scary when so much up until this point had been dependent on us following a specific protocol and ticking boxes.
Mostly we were pleased to be done with injections for a while and there is something incredible about knowing your future children are potentially being made, right now.