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The Egg Retrieval Process: An Overview and Tips from a Fertility Nurse

At Grain Fertility, we are dedicated to providing resources to help patients understand the different parts of the fertility treatment process so they can feel more confident and empowered in their own journey. After all, how can we expect someone to ask informed questions if they are struggling to understand the basics of their care?


The egg retrieval represents the culmination of weeks of physical and emotional work and fertility patients often put a lot of pressure on themselves in the build up.


Doctor performing egg retrieval
The egg retrieval can be both overwhelming and hopeful

To help you feel more confident during your own egg retrieval, maximize your chances of success, and ensure a smooth recovery on the day of the egg retrieval, we have drafted this primer to help provide the support you need:


Before the Egg Retrieval:

Unfortunately, doctors cannot schedule the precise day of your egg retrieval weeks in advance. Because of this, when starting the ovarian stimulation process, it's crucial to keep several days open in your calendar for potential surgery dates. As much as we would love to have this much control over the schedule and process, unfortunately this is something fertility patients will have to struggle with throughout their journey.


While this can be hard, here are some steps to help you plan ahead before your procedure:


  1. Keep days 10-14 of your cycle open for potential egg retrieval (keep in mind that this is the average date of retrieval, your retrieval may fall out before or after).

  2. You will need to arrange for someone to pick you up and accompany you home.

  3. Plan to take off the day of your procedure and reserve work or errands for the following day.


It is important to talk to your doctor and care team regularly throughout your cycle to help plan for this.


The Day of the Egg Retrieval:

Your care team will contact you 1-2 days before your procedure with critical instructions such as:

  • The time to arrive at the surgical site

  • When to stop eating

  • When to stop drinking

  • Specific valuables they recommend that you leave at home


Before your procedure, you will meet with your healthcare team, including:

  • The Nurses

  • The Anesthesiologist

  • The Fertility Doctor (note that the doctor of the day may not be the same one you've been working with throughout the process)

  • The Embryologist


You may have last-minute questions that are itching to ask your care team. Go for it! They are there to answer all of your questions and make you feel comfortable before the procedure begins.


It may be useful to write down questions you have before the appointment so you are organized and don't forget. We know you will have a lot going on and it can be easy for forget something you intended to ask before the retrieval starts.


Post-Procedure Tips:

Tip #1: Relax!

Congratulations! You've done it! After numerous evenings of medication injections and feeling like a pharmacist yourself, along with a successful surgery, the hard part is behind you. Now, it's time to prioritize quality rest and a full recovery.


While you might feel okay once you are discharged from the hospital/clinic, it will take 24 hours for the anesthesia to fully clear out of your system. Therefore, it's crucial to rest and take it easy. This is the ideal opportunity to indulge in binge-watching the latest show on Netflix that you've been eager to watch. Snuggle up on your couch, order some take-out, and relish the day off from work.


Tip #2: Pain Management 

After the egg retrieval, it's common to experience cramping, tenderness, and constipation. It's essential to stay ahead of the pain and manage any discomfort effectively.


Here are some suggestions:

  1. Heating Pad: Placing a heating pad on your abdomen can provide relief from cramps.

  2. Medication: Over-the-counter options like Tylenol or Advil can help alleviate post-procedure discomfort.

  3. Stool Softener: Constipation is another common issue after egg retrieval, often due to elevated progesterone levels, the use of narcotics during the procedure, and inactivity following retrieval. To alleviate discomfort and promote bowel movement, consider taking a stool softener like Colace to help relieve stress and discomfort associated with constipation.

  4. Hydration and Fiber: Ensure you stay well hydrated and consume fiber-rich foods to help combat post-anesthesia constipation.


Tip #3: Protein Rich Diet 

Indulge in some french fries and a cheeseburger! It might not sound like typical advice from a doctor, but the truth is, after an egg retrieval, salty and protein-rich foods are exactly what you need.


In the days following the procedure, patients are at the highest risk of developing OHSS (Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome), a complication where excess fluid from the ovaries leaks into other parts of the body. To mitigate this risk, doctors often recommend consuming foods rich in salt. Salt helps draw out extra fluid from the ovaries, reducing the likelihood of OHSS. Looking for a healthier alternative? Try coconut water, popcorn, or fish.


Tip #4: Expect a Heavier Period: 

You should anticipate your next menstrual period to arrive anywhere between 7-12 days after your egg retrieval, and it likely will be heavier than usual. Lupron typically results in a period about 7 days later, while hCG (Pregnyl or Ovidrel) usually leads to a period about 10-12 days later. The first period following the egg retrieval may be heavier than usual due to the increased hormone levels you administered for 10+ days, which not only facilitated follicular growth but also stimulated the thickening of the uterine lining.


Once your body recognizes that pregnancy hasn't occurred, the uterine lining sheds, resulting in a heavier period than usual. We recommend using a heating pad and taking over-the-counter Tylenol/Advil for pain management, and changing pads/tampons frequently as needed.


Conclusion

Preparing for and undergoing an egg retrieval can be a complex and challenging process, but with the right information and support, you can navigate it successfully. It's essential to plan ahead, stay informed about what to expect, and prioritize self-care during the recovery period.


Remember to keep communication lines open with your healthcare team, including nurses, who can be valuable resources for answering any additional questions or concerns you may have. They are there to provide support, guidance, and reassurance throughout your journey.


It is also important to remember that while the greater the number of eggs you retrieve, the higher chance you have of developing normal embryos, retrieving a lower than expected number of eggs is not the end of your journey. If you need to, talk to your care team, a mental health professional, or a support group to help manage the psychological aspects of your egg retrieval.


Our Coaches Can Help

If you have any further questions or need assistance, don't hesitate to reach out to your Patient Empowerment Coach. If you are not a Grain Fertility Premium Member, you can sign up here or if you are a member using our free version, go to your Account to upgrade your service.

Our coaching can offer personalized advice and support tailored to your specific needs and circumstances. Trust in their expertise and lean on them for assistance whenever needed. With proper preparation and support, you can navigate the egg retrieval process with confidence and peace of mind.

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