In Vitro Fertilization is an assisted reproductive procedure, and egg retrieval is an essential part of this complex process. After the hormonal treatment that stimulates the maturation of follicles and eggs, the egg is being extracted so that it may be fertilized in a lab dish. The egg retrieval procedure is also known as egg aspiration or egg pickup.
The Egg Retrieval Procedure
In order for the egg to be mature and ready to be extracted for in vitro fertilization, the patient will have to go through an ovarian hyperstimulation treatment. The treatment may be administered in the first days of the menstrual cycle in the form of drugs or injectible solutions, which will facilitate the production of viable eggs that can be fertilized.
The condition of the follicles and eggs will be monitored closely and the fertility doctor will decide on the best day to retrieve the egg. Ultrasounds and measurements of hormonal levels will determine when the follicles are mature.
The egg aspiration procedure is performed under local or general anesthesia, so that the patient will not feel any discomfort. The egg will be retrieved by introducing a small needle in the vagina. The needle will be introduced carefully, following the paths as indicated by the latest ultrasound. Alternatively, a small camera can be attached to the needle, to guide the entire operation. Once the needle reaches the ovaries and the follicles, the needle will aspirate the liquid and the eggs present.
The entire egg retrieval procedure takes between 5 and 15 minutes, and it is an outpatient procedure. Once the egg is mature and extracted, the fertilization should happen within the next 36 hours, as this is the timeframe the fertilization is most likely to be successful.
The IVF Procedure
Once the liquid from the ovaries is retrieved, it will be taken to the lab and analyzed, so that the eggs will be identified and separated from the liquid. The eggs will be washed and then deposited in a lab dish. The dish may be kept in a freezer or may be used immediately to perform the fertilization. The fertilization also requires viable sperm, which will be injected in the eggs.
Typically, the IVF should take place within 4 hours after the egg retrieval. The embryos are monitored for the following 2 to 5 days and if they look good, they are transferred into the woman’s uterus. This is known as the embryo transfer procedure.
Egg Retrieval Candidates
All women that have viable eggs are good candidates for the egg retrieval procedure.
Egg Retrieval Contraindications
The egg retrieval is not recommended to women that have a fertility problem associated with amenorrhea or anovulation. These conditions may be helped with a hyperstimulation of the ovaries, but not in all instances.
If the woman doesn’t have viable eggs, the in vitro fertilization can be performed using the eggs from a donor.