The IVF Egg Retrieval Process Explained

By Toni Henning
Edited by Kelli Harris

Published November 21, 2021.

IVF egg retrieval process

The process of retrieving eggs from your ovaries may seem daunting but, it is quick and painless. In this article, we take you through the In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) egg retrieval process from start to finish.

An IVF procedure takes place thirty-four to thirty-six hours after you have received a trigger shot. Trigger shots are given once per cycle before ovulation and your cycle will not be messed up after egg retrieval.

What is Egg Retrieval Surgery?

In vitro fertilization, or IVF, is a procedure to remove the eggs from follicles in your ovaries.

What Happens During the Egg Retrieval Process?

The doctors performing the procedure on you make use of an ultrasound to visually guide a small needle through the vagina into the ovaries during the egg retrieval procedure. The needle enters the follicles. The follicular fluids, which contain the eggs, are removed using gentle suction. The procedure takes less than thirty minutes.

What happens after egg retrieval, you may ask? The eggs are suctioned into a test tube by the IVF physician and the tube is given to an embryologist to complete the process.

How Long Is the Egg Retrieval Process?

The IVF process from start to finish takes about three weeks. Occasionally, the steps are phased, so the process can take longer.

Can You Be Awake During Egg Retrieval?

No, you are sedated and closely monitored by an anesthesiologist during the procedure.

How Many Eggs Are Normally Retrieved?

The number of eggs produced and removed depends on your age, ovarian reserve, response to ovarian stimulation, and, in some cases, the ability to access the ovaries with a needle. The number of eggs retrieved for IVF decreases with age and so does their quality.

How Many Eggs Is Too Many?

Typically, retrieving more than 15 eggs can increase the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).

Can IVF Work With 2 Eggs?

There is a low success rate amongst all age groups if less than two eggs are retrieved.

Is Egg Retrieval for IVF Painful?

You should feel no pain or discomfort during the procedure, because you are sedated. It's normal to experience some discomfort and even cramping before egg retrieval, similar to what you'd experience during your period.

How Long Does It Take To Recover From Egg Retrieval?

You need to keep your activities to a minimum on the day of the retrieval and the day after. Normal activity can resume after two days. Strict bed rest is no longer required or even recommended. After egg retrieval, you may expect and experience some side effects such as a small amount of bloody discharge, mild cramping or bloating, and constipation.

What Can You Eat After Egg Retrieval?

Ideally, you should eat whole foods, healthy fats, and reduce your sugar intake. Fresh fruits and vegetables are always beneficial. Consider the following foods: bananas, beets, berries, broccoli, dates, greens with leaves, sprouts and sweet potatoes. Eat lean and nutritious protein sources, high in fiber or healthy omega-3 fatty acids like anchovies, beans, eggs, hummus, nuts, salmon, sardines, seeds, and yogurt.

Are You More Fertile After Egg Retrieval?

Natural conception after IVF is possible, although it is uncommon.

What Are the Risks of Egg Retrieval?

Can Egg Retrieval Damage Ovaries?

Your procedure is performed under ultrasound guidance and the needle can be seen on the ultrasound, the risk of serious complications is extremely low. There could however be some complications associated with IVF.

Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS)

OHSS is a condition caused by the use of injectable fertility drugs such as HCG to produce multiple eggs. Bloating, abdominal pain, nausea, and weight gain are some of the symptoms. The mild symptoms disappear within two to three days and more severe symptoms, which typically last one week, may necessitate abdominal drainage of accumulated fluid and occasional hospitalization.

Bleeding During Your Egg Retrieval

Bleeding is managed with simple pressure and stops without the need for additional intervention. Internal bleeding from the ovaries when they are pierced is uncommon but the risk is always present.


Infections can develop anywhere where germs or bacteria have been introduced. To avoid such infections, you might be given prophylactic antibiotics during the egg retrieval process.

Ovarian Torsion

This is an uncommon yet dangerous side effect. Ovarian torsion occurs when the ovary or fallopian tube bends around its supporting tissue, cutting off the ovary's blood supply. Rapid surgical intervention is necessary to fix it.

Ectopic Pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy very rarely occurs when the embryo develops outside of the uterus (usually in the fallopian tubes).


If you are struggling to fall pregnant naturally, IVF is a relatively safe alternative. IVF has a 55% success rate, especially for women under age 35. Read more about the IVF process, step-by-step, to help alleviate some of your concerns and educate you about this exciting journey of fertility.