Egg Retrieval Surprising Facts

Egg retrieval is a common reproductive assistance procedure that can increase your chances of conceiving. It’s often the first step before undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) or egg freezing. This procedure is done to remove eggs from the ovaries, and it requires the patient to begin taking hormone-stimulating medication in the weeks before.

It’s a short procedure (often only 10 to 15 minutes) and is considered minimally invasive. But even though it’s safe and commonplace, there are still factors and risks the patient needs to be aware of.

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Below, we discuss some of the most surprising things about egg retrieval to help you know what to expect and how to prepare. This isn’t always an easy procedure, but it can be life-changing if it helps the patient conceive a baby. Here’s what you should know.

There Are Multiple Reasons For An Egg Retrieval

Don’t assume you know the reason a person is undergoing egg retrieval, as there are many reasons why a person may opt for it.

One of the most common reasons is that the person is undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF). The eggs need to be harvested, so they can be mixed with sperm, and then the embryo is implanted in the uterus. If you want your eggs used during IVF, even if you’re using a surrogate to carry the pregnancy, egg retrieval is one of the first steps. Similarly, if you’re donating your eggs to another person to use, you’ll still need to go through the egg retrieval.


Conversely, some people undergo egg retrieval even if they don’t plan to have kids immediately. Many women see it as an important way to keep their options open for the future. The retrieved eggs can be frozen for later use. They can also be mixed with sperm to create embryos, which can be frozen for the future.

Regardless of the reason for egg retrieval, the process tends to look the same. The individual undergoing the procedure must take fertility-boosting medications for several weeks before going through the surgery to retrieve the eggs.

Egg Retrieval Is An Actual Surgery

Many people don’t realize that egg retrieval is an actual surgery. It may be safe and minimally invasive, but that doesn’t downplay the stress it puts on the body as well as the various risks.


According to Parents, the individual undergoing the egg retrieval will be given a mild sedative via an IV (this is called twilight anesthesia). Though you’ll breathe on your own during the procedure, you won’t remember or feel a thing. The person’s legs are then situated in a stirrup, so the surgeon can conduct a vaginal ultrasound. A needle is given to the vaginal wall, which uses suction to retrieve the eggs (surrounded by fluid) out of the ovaries. The embryologist can immediately tell how many eggs they were able to collect.

Typically, the patient will wake up within 30 minutes and will spend a couple of hours at the medical center recuperating. They’ll then be able to go home, where they should rest for the first day. But most people can return to work the next day. The procedure doesn’t require any scarring or stitches.


There Are Risks To Be Aware Of

As with any surgical procedure, there are risks associated with egg retrieval. Most of the time, the side effects are minimal and will subside in a few days. But in rare cases, it’s possible to experience more severe side effects.

The side effects and risks of egg retrieval are:

Constipation

You’ll be instructed to keep yourself hydrated and possibly take a stool softener to mitigate this uncomfortable but non-serious side effect.

Bloating & Cramping

The ovaries become enlarged during the retrieval due to medication and hormonal fluctuations, which can lead to cramping and bloating, similar to what you may experience during your period.

Breast Pain

HOrmones can also cause you to have sore breasts, similar to PMS symptoms. You’ll be able to take over-the-counter pain relief, such as Advil.

Vaginal Discharge

You may experience a clear discharge post-procedure since the cervix is ​​swabbed before the retrieval begins and some discharge may be left. It’s also normal to experience a bit of spotting. Don’t put any additional strain on the body (like lifting something heavy), as this can increase discharge.

Infection

This is a rare but serious side effect. In particular, the needle used at the start of the procedure can cause bleeding, an infection, or damage to surrounding organs (like the bowel, bladder, and blood vessels).

Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome

It’s rare, but you can also experience Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome, caused by the medications needed to stimulate the ovaries ahead of retrieval. This can lead to mild or severe symptoms, including the following:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Blood clots
  • Abdominal pain
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Decreased urination
  • Shortness of breath

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, reach out to your medical provider immediately in order to treat the root cause.

Mental Health

Finally, the egg retrieval process can take a toll on a person’s mental health. It’s normal to experience physical symptoms (like bloating and breast tenderness) in the weeks before the procedure once you start the stimulating medication, and you’ll likely experience some symptoms post-procedure. Experiencing weeks of feeling unwell can be stressful and have a bearing on your mental health.

Moreover, there are no guaranteed results with egg retrieval. You can’t know until after the procedure how many eggs were retrieved and how many are viable. In some cases, you may pay for a cycle only to be left with no viable eggs. This can be stressful and anxiety-inducing. And if you don’t experience the results you want, it can lead to depression.

Monitor your mental health closely while undergoing egg retrieval, and speak to your healthcare provider if you feel anything changing.

Egg Retrieval Is Costly (& You Have To Pay For Storage)

If your plan after the egg retrieval is to store your eggs and/or embryos for later use, know that there’s a price to pay – literally. You’ll be expected to pay an annual storage fee to keep the products on ice.

The overall cost of the egg retrieval process is expensive. Fertility IQ predicts that the average patient spends between $30,000 to $40,000 on the initial treatment and the first year’s storage fee. This doesn’t include the annual cost to store the eggs following the first year. The average cost of egg retrieval is $15,000 to $20,000, though most women must do an average of two cycles.

It often costs a couple of thousand dollars to store the eggs. Fertility IQ explains that, on average, Patients will pay $2,000 on top of the egg retrieval procedure to store the eggs for five years. Afterward, it may cost $500 annually or more.

The cost of egg retrieval can vary depending on where you’re located and what clinic you go through. Patient-related factors can also affect the cost of the treatment, such as the age of the woman and how much medication she requires.

Sources: Parents, CNY Fertility, Fertility IQ, Stanford Medicine,

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