How Does the Egg Retrieval Process Work?

Guide for Egg Donors

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In vitro fertilization (IVF) retrieval takes place when the eggs that have developed in the follicles of a woman's ovaries are removed.

Production of the eggs must be STIMULATED using certain hormones over a period of time. IVF retrieval happens after a specified number of egg follicles have developed and matured.

Sperm is then mixed with each egg to fertilize the eggs. If fertilization is successful, the embryos will be implanted back into the woman.

An egg follicle is a sac filled with fluid found inside of the ovaries, with each follicle containing one egg. Women inherit millions of egg follicles that contain immature eggs at birth, and each month hormones cause the follicles to develop and mature.

The strongest follicle will attract the follicle-stimulating hormone, causing the follicle to release the egg. The other follicles will die off. This is called ovulation, and it is extremely important to IVF retrieval.

What takes place during Ovulation?

Ovulation is so important because in order for IVF retrieval to work, there need to be multiple mature eggs. The follicles have to be artificially stimulated using certain drugs that are delivered either orally or through a subcutaneous injection in order to produce multiple strong and mature follicles and eggs.

The egg can be too mature for fertilization, so the ovaries are monitored to make sure that the IVF retrieval will take place at the right time.

What is the Egg Retrieval Process?

After the maturation of the egg follicles is determined, the IVF retrieval procedure can begin. The woman is anesthetized, and a needle is placed through the top of the vagina in order to reach the ovary, which contains the follicles. The fluid in the follicles is drawn into the needle.

The eggs release from the follicle wall and are pulled out of the ovary. Depending on the woman's age and the effectiveness of the fertility medication, between five and 20 eggs might be retrieved. The process takes five to 30 minutes.

After IVF retrieval, the fluid containing the eggs is sent to an IVF lab. The lab is able to identify the eggs in the fluid and rinse them in a culture media, which is a liquid or gel that is specifically designed to support the growth of the eggs. The eggs are then placed in small culture drops in plastic dishes.

The eggs are kept in special IVF incubators under controlled conditions and monitored. After it has been determined that the eggs are viable, they are mixed with sperm for fertilization.