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How Eggs Are Harvested for In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

Learn how eggs are harvested for in vitro fertilization (IVF) in this Howcast video about infertility.


During the process of in vitro fertilization, eggs need to be harvested from the ovaries to then be available for fertilization and the development of embryos. The actual retrieval of the eggs occurs under general anesthesia and occurs in the IVF suite of the fertility office.

A woman will not have anything to eat or drink from the night before and arrive at the center at a designated time in preparation for egg retrieval. She's then placed into stirrups, and the anesthesiologist provides a medication to allow her to become sedated.

The sedation is deep enough to allow no pain to be felt, but there are no intubation tubes or gases used in the process. The surgeon then takes a special ultrasound probe fitted with a needle guide and places that probe into the vagina under ultrasound guidance.

The needle is advanced into the ovaries, and the fluid from the follicles is aspirated using a specialized suction mechanism. The eggs are then collected into specialized test tubes and are given to the embryologist who will then look under a microscope and identify the number of eggs.

Once the egg retrieval is completed, the woman is awakened and brought to the recovery room where she'll generally rest for approximately one hour before being released to go home. In order to optimize the chances of pregnancy, a good egg yield is required.

Women who produce greater than six eggs have a higher chance of conceiving than those who produce less. However, the number of eggs is not always associated with the quality of the eggs. Particularly, in young women with a low number of eggs, often the eggs that they do have are high quality. In contrast, in many women who have high numbers of eggs but are older than 35, the number of eggs that are actually high quality is limited. Again, age is a very important factor for egg quality and number.

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