For the past 10+ years I’ve been retrieving eggs for people. A process that if you’re a new patient, can be daunting. You may be wondering, what exactly is involved?
Just like any surgery it is serious business and a procedure that goes best when there’s careful planning.
As a doctor who’s been doing this for over a decade, I want to give you my top 9 tips for how to be the most prepared patient. Why? Preparation will help set the stage for your best retrieval experience. Any why wouldn’t you want that?!
My Top 9 Tips for Your Best Egg Retrieval Experience
Pro Tip #1: Know where you’re going
My general rule with all things is that if you know where you’re going you have a much lower chance of getting lost! (For the record: This is coming from someone who has absolutely no sense of direction except for when it comes to placing an embryo.)
And when I say know where you’re going, I do mean literally.
There are many clinics that have satellite clinics in different cities and the lab in another city. Make sure you know exactly where you’re going and if you have any anxiety about getting lost, be sure to take a trip and visit the lab location ahead of time. And don’t think this hasn’t happened. I’ve seen it for myself! I had a patient show up at a wrong IVF center completely for her retrieval! She was just so excited she didn’t realize the mistake she had made.
Pro-Tip #2: Know your Anatomy
An egg retrieval is a procedure on your ovaries. I know it sounds obvious, but knowing where your ovaries are located and how you’ll feel as you go through the process is really important.
Imagine if nobody tells you that gaining up to 5 pounds in water weight is normal. Or that you may go from feeling 0 to 4 months pregnant in 10 days. Or that you could have egg white cervical mucous and breast tenderness as your estrogen is rising and feel more hormonal combined with nausea and have less of an appetite. Those are a lot of changes in your body!
If you don’t know your body and aren’t prepared for these changes you may think you’re having an eggsplosion and have to go to the Emergency Room!
Knowing what to expect in your particular situation with your anatomy can only happen if you know your anatomy.
My suggestion is this: Ask your doctor how many eggs they are expecting. Probe them to see if they’re worried about ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). If they are, what is going to be done to prevent it?
Pro-Tip #3: Stay Hydrated
During your Egg freezing or IVF cycle, you may feel less inclined to eat. If that’s the case try a protein shake for a meal substitute or a hydrating drink that’s appetizing to you. The simplest well-hydrating fluids to find in my opinion are V8 and Coconut Water.
Pro-Tip #4: Food as Medicine
Nutrition is always important. It’s especially important during an IVF cycle. I encourage you to ask your doctor the best diet for you. The Mediterranean diet is a great go-to pro-fertility diet. Why not use your IVF cycle as an opportunity to get into the best shape of your life!
Pro-Tip #5: Mindful Meditation
It’s not required that you wear a leotard on your front lawn as this woman does above. However, I do ask my patients to practice meditation and deep breathing. There are countless resources to guide you in doing so. Find an app that you feel a connection with. Test them out. Pick one that’s your calm companion.
- talktherapy.com for one on one therapy
- resolve.org for a support group and professionals for one on one and couple’s therapy in your area
Pro-Tip#6: Make sure you don’t have a Sperm Emergency
No one wants a sperm emergency. And in order to prevent it, we need to have a sperm conversation. Here’s what I recommend to my patients:
- Depending on your case, it’s okay to have intercourse, outercourse or have your partner ejaculate 3–5 days prior to the retrieval. This allows for what you’ve heard “cleaning out the pipes” to allow for fresh swimmers with good DNA to fertilize your eggs.
- Find out what the collection room is like. What time is the collection. And if there are any issues with performance anxiety, easy fix is to do a sperm freeze ahead of time and you can still collect fresh day of. BYOP: Yes, you can bring your own porn. Most centers have a wi-fi connection and you can browse on your own device or on their device. Believe it or not, there’s also VR Porn in some collection rooms now!
- Have your partner eat a good breakfast so they aren’t feeling faint at the site of blood if they are watching your IV placement and get a good night sleep before.
Pro-Tip #7: Know what to expect the Morning Of Surgery
My patients are at the IVF center for a total of 2 hours and 15 minutes. They check-in on an empty stomach with their ID in hand, no fragrances, and wearing comfy clothes 45 minutes ahead of time. They change into a gown that connects to a warmer, and wear a bonnet. After the Operating Room Nurse places your IV, the anesthesiologist will greet you and answer any questions you may have. I will meet with you before your procedure to review:
- The number of eggs I’m expecting to retrieve
- What you can expect in the days following the procedure
- When you’ll get embryology updates from me and when we will next meet in person
We will then walk right into the OR together where I will literally perform a pelvic ultrasound while you’re asleep!
Through an elaborate system of test tubes, suction lines, and a pedal the egg retrieval is performed and tubes with eggs inside are handed over to the embryologist to identify.
After the procedure, we gently move you to a gurney and move you right back where you started for your smooth 45 minute recovery.
If you had a partner in the collection room, they come join you as you’re recovering or you can have a fertility friend there too. Just no Uber drivers to take you home. You have to have someone with you just in case you need a hand from the operating room and for the rest of the day. Cabana boy please?
Pro-Tip #8: Must-Haves Post-Retrieval
- Pain meds: Yes! Getting your ovaries poked with a needle IS a surgical procedure. Women deserve better. Being told, “your pain is normal” is just not acceptable. Pain meds are made for post-op pain, not for drug addicts. All of my patients get a prescription for pain medication just in case. The last thing you want is to need a prescription at 2AM that you don’t have so you can get a good night’s sleep.
- Poop emergencies are a thing: Combination of a swollen ovary pushing on your bowel and the medications from anesthesia, you could experience constipation so be sure to get ahead of any bowel problems and make sure you have a stool softener like docusate sulfate and start it when you think you need to.
- Panty liners are a must: After a retrieval, it’s normal to have spotting that doesn’t quite require a super absorbant pad and I don’t recommend tampons. But when your period starts, it’s okay to use tampons and make sure to be prepared for a possibly heavier period than usual.
- Emergency contact: All my patients know how to find me. Be sure to know who to call if you’re having any post-op issues
Pro-Tip #9: Updates please! Ask for your schedule for updates.
You think the 2 week wait to find out if you’re pregnant is hard? Well the 2 week wait from egg retrieval to finding out if you have viable blastocysts is THE hardest wait of all. If you’ve ever been through it you know exactly what I mean.
Every clinic is different. I typically check-in with patients at the following times:
- The night of the egg retrieval
- The morning following the retrieval with the fertilization report
- Depending on the situation it may be that you get a Day 3, Day 5, and Day 6 report followed by a PGS report 1 week later.
I ask all patients to meet with me 2 weeks after the egg retrieval to review everything we learned about the cycle so we can review next steps!
I want everyone to have a really positive egg retrieval experience. Surround yourself with things that bring you joy when you get home.
Make that day a “me day” and know that it’s normal to take a nap for a few hours but don’t change any passwords or go make any large purchases because chances are you may still have a little amnesia from anesthesia.
Surround yourself with love and positive influences and do all you can to remove stress from your home and surroundings and make sure your relationships are sound going into the retrieval.