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Egg Retrieval

Collecting Eggs from the Ovaries

The next step in IVF involves collecting the eggs from the ovaries. The eggs are contained within small fluid collections in the ovaries called follicular cysts. Successful egg retrieval occurs in 95 percent of all cases. With IVF, egg retrieval is performed via a transvaginal ultrasound. Patients undergoing this procedure are first given intravenous sedation. Next, the ultrasound probe is placed into the patient’s vagina and a needle is inserted through the vagina and into the ovary. Each follicle is then aspirated to retrieve the eggs. Typically, one oocyte is collected per follicle.

Fertilization in Vitro

The first step of fertilization in vitro involves asking the male to produce a semen specimen by masturbation. This is done the day before or shortly after the scheduled egg retrieval. Occasionally he will be asked to produce on both days. To separate the semen (the liquid portion of the ejaculate that surrounds the sperm), a small amount of semen is mixed with a sterile culture medium in a test tube. The mixture is spun in a centrifuge, and the washed sperm form a pellet in the bottom of the test tube. The sperm wash is repeated several times. Some of the sperm are then placed with the eggs and they are allowed to incubate together for approximately 18 hours. The following day, the egg is observed under a microscope to determine if fertilization has occurred.

If a fertilized egg is detected, it is then transferred into a second culture medium and incubated for an additional 22 to 46 hours. At this point, the embryo is ready to be transferred to the uterus.

In certain situations, such as with severely low sperm counts, poor sperm quality or defects in the egg membrane, fertilization may fail to occur. Newer techniques of micromanipulation may correct these problems.