The Egg Collection Process and Risks

The egg collection process is the main surgical procedure involved in the IVF cycle. It's also sometimes called egg harvesting, egg pick-up, OPU and oocyte pick-up.

What Happens

Retrieving eggs for fertilization is done by a doctor in an operating room. With vaginal ultrasound egg collection procedure, a tiny needle with an attached internal ultrasound probe is inserted into the vagina and slowly passed through the top wall of the vagina. The ultrasound allows the doctor to insert the needle into each follicle and drain the fluid through a tube. You'll be able to see the image of what the doctor is doing on the ultrasound screen and so will your partner. The process takes about 20 minutes.

The other method of egg collection is laparoscopic egg collection. During this process a fiber-optic nerve with a tiny video camera is inserted into the abdomen through a small incision just below the belly button. Carbon dioxide is pumped into the abdominal cavity with a needle to inflate it and create working space. When the egg retrieval is finished, the incisions are stitched closed with absorbable stitches.

Pain Management During Egg Harvesting

Most women don't experience excessive pain during the procedure, but usually you have two options. The first and most common option is a mild sedative and local anesthetic. The other option is general anesthesia. Most doctors discourage the second option and prefer the woman be awake during the procedure. They often want the woman and her partner to be able to enjoy watching the egg retrieval and sorting on the ultrasound television monitor. There are fewer risks with a local anesthetic and the recovery time is shorter. It also tends to cost less.

Immediately After the Egg Retrieval

Most places will take you to a recovery room after your procedure for two to four hours or more if you underwent general anesthetic. You should not drive yourself home or travel alone even if you just had sedation and/or general anesthesia. Critical activities are usually discouraged for 24 hours after the procedure. These included driving, signing documents or operating machinery.

The Risks

The vaginal ultrasound egg collection method can cause mild to moderate discomfort. Some women experience a very short period of sharp pain during the retrieval. There's the chance of bleeding from the ovary or the top of the vagina during or after the egg collection. In severe and very rare cases a blood transfusion may be necessary. There's a small risk of infection which can be immediately treated with antibiotics. There's also an extremely tiny risk (1 in 1000) of damage to the internal organs like the blood vessels, bowels or bladder.

The laparoscopic egg collection procedure carries the same risks as the vaginal ultrasound egg collection method, but the chance of internal organ damage is higher. There is some pain, bruising and itching around the cut for several days after the procedure. It can take as long as seven days to recover from laparoscopic egg collection.


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