The natural reproductive cycle implies the release of an egg from one of the ovaries each month. However, during an IVF cycle, the ovaries are stimulated with medication to produce as many eggs as possible. These eggs will then be collected and fertilised with sperm to generate an embryo. But what does egg collection involve?
Let’s go by parts. During IVF, you first take medication to ‘switch off’ your menstrual cycle (down regulation), followed by the stimulation medication that forces the ovary to develop more follicles and eggs. Your doctor will monitor you closely with scans and will identify the best time to collect those follicles and eggs. Around 34-36 hours before collection, your doctor will tell you to have the HCG injection which will ensure the final maturation of the eggs and allow the release of the eggs from the follicle.
The egg collection procedure involves using a needle, inserted through the vagina, that aspirates the ovarian follicles and eggs. This is performed by your doctor, using a needle with a thin tip that reduces pain and the risk of bleeding.
It is performed under ultrasound, to identify where the eggs and follicles are located. The procedure is usually done under sedation and lasts from 10 to 20 minutes. You will be able to go home on the same day.
You may feel cram-like pain for 24-48 hours after the egg collection. You may also pass a small amount of blood which comes from the site of needle puncture.
Egg collection presents small risks: infection and puncturing the bowel or a blood vessel. If you feel unwell or feel severe pain, please go to an emergency department of the closest hospital.
Eggs are very fragile outside the human body and will be kept in a special solution of amino acids and nutrients to help it survive.
If you are collecting eggs for IVF, the sperm sample from your partner will be prepared at the same time, or a frozen sample can be used. The sperm will be mixed with the mature eggs in a petri dish, fertilization begins, and the fertilized eggs are placed in the incubator to develop.
If there is a problem with sperm quality, usually the embryologist will perform ICSI which involves selecting a specific sperm and injecting it into the egg. Once fertilized, it is placed in the incubator.
There is also a new technique – IMSI – which uses a microscope to magnify the sperm 7000 times, allowing the embryologist to select the best sperm before injecting it into the egg.
The fertilized egg needs to develop in the incubator and in a few days, you will know if your fertilized eggs developed into embryos. Embryos are usually transferred between two and six days following egg collection.
If you are collecting eggs for fertility preservation, your eggs will be frozen (cryopreserved) to be used at a future date. You can learn more about the freezing process here.
If you want support during your fertility journey, to help you either emotionally or physically, schedule an appointment with our fertility expert nurse specialist and coach here.
Nurse Specialist | NLP Coach of 2017 | TEDx Speaker