Tips to prepare for your egg retrieval

Anticipating your egg retrieval (ER) can make your anxiety soar. You’re giving yourself (and partner) the better odds for pregnancy by going through this process, but there are so many ‘what ifs’ and worries that can consume your thoughts. Will it be painful? Will it go smoothly? Will I recover quickly?

Remember this: millions of people around the world have done this or will soon, just like you. I’m one of them. You’re part of this collective, even though nobody wishes to be a member. Taking from what I’ve learned, the best thing you can do is prepare, prepare and prepare and then let go and trust the process. Whether it’s your first time or not, putting your efforts into preparation will give you back a sense of control, make the day of ER go more smoothly, and set you up to feel more relaxed. Letting go will give you that next level de-stress.

Every clinic is different but there are some things to do to prep for this mental game no matter where you’re for the egg collection. Here are the tips to help put your mind at ease. Drum roll please…..

  1. Create a detailed logistical plan ahead of time. Your clinic should help with this prep.
  • Think through everything such as taking time off work. Giving a heads up to your boss or taking vacation or sick days for 2 to 3 days minimum is the usual. Some take up to two weeks off. It depends if you develop OHSS. You might want to take off a day or two before ER if you’re feeling really bloated and/or tired.
  • Think through your self care leading up to it and after. You might feel very bloated and emotional from the meds and from the emotional toll. Make a play list for the ride to the clinic? Watch a comedy the night before?
  • How will you get to the clinic, who will drive you to and from, and do you need to rent a car or take a taxi?

2. Plan how to go through the procedure itself and deal with the strong sensations.

  • Everyone is different in terms of the strength of the pokes (aka feeling pain) and every clinic is different in terms of the kind of sedation they use. You might have general anesthesia or twilight sedation where you’re awake but medicated.
  • If you are awake during the procedure, every clinic is different in terms of what pain meds are offered. Often you’ll be given something to reduce your anxiety and something to make you feel less lucid. Usually you’ll get an IV. Then your procedure will start.
  • It usually takes 15 to 30 minutes.
  • There is usually a nurse right beside you to hold your hand.
  • If you will be awake, consider these 3 options to do during the procedure and practice ahead of time during your blood tests or other pokes leading up to ER:
    • Meditate. Focus on your breath going in and out. Notice how shallow or deep your breath is going in and out. No need to change it, just notice that. Feel free to count each in breath and each breath out—e.g. Breath in, 1. Breath out, 2. Breath in, 3. Breath out, 4 — until a count of 10. Then start from 1 and repeat. Keep completely focussed on your breath, 100% focussed until the pokes are done. Or use the Mindful IVF app for some great guided ones. Netflix has a great Headspace series to get you started too.
    • Breathing exercises. Try box breathing where you breath in for a count of 4, hold for 4, breath out for a count of 4 and then hold for 4.
    • Remember a fantastic memory. Decide ahead of time which memory or memories you’ll use. Then go over it in your head in detail. For me, it’s picturing the first time I used a standup paddle board and made my way down a narrow inlet on Salt Spring Island, watching the jellyfish and fish pass me as I paddled and laughed with my sister. It was delightful with the warm sun kissing my skin, without a care in the world. Maybe for you it’s a trip you took, or your wedding day, or a swim in a lake on a sunny summer day or a big birthday celebration. Whatever it is, try and remember it in detail and go through that memory moment by moment and remember how it felt, how it looked, even how it tasted. Mmmmm.
    • As a back up, ask the nurse to have a conversation with you to distract you. Be ready to tell her a detailed story. When she speaks, listen really carefully as if she’s telling the most juiciest piece of information.

3. Have a heating pad ready. Once you’re home giving yourself all the self care available to you, something warm on your belly will probably feel comforting. Ask your clinic if this is safe for your personal situation.

4. Be ready for post retrieval.

  • After your procedure you’ll have someone pick you up, likely your partner. You’ll want to go straight home and rest. Or have a streaming or movie watching-fest. For most people you will have at least some form of OHSS. Check out this post on prepping to prevent OHSS.

5. Talk to your doctor about taking a stool softner starting a few days prior. E.g. Restoralax.

  • A lot of people are constipated from their meds or from the stress of infertility and IVF. But your clinic will probably ask you to have pooed before you come in for your ER. A stool softner generally takes up to 3 days to work. Consult your doctor before taking it of course, like all these considerations.

6. Be realistic about your expectations.

  • Based on your ultrasounds and bloodwork you should have some expectation about how many eggs you’ll get. But know that the quantity isn’t a certainty and quality isn’t either. Yes, AMH and your ultrasounds and other indicators can give you some reassurance, but it’s no guarantee. It only starts with the egg and these medically informed guesses. The rest depends on so many factors. It’s an art and a science plus a dash of luck.

7. How will you celebrate?

  • Celebrating this milestone is a must. It shows your self worth and helps you strengthen your resilience.
  • Have something like your favourite ice cream or a little present for yourself waiting for when you arrive home from ER or sometime after.
  • Even if you’re not proud of yourself, I’m proud of you and anyone who goes through this journey!

Still scared? Please call me and I’ll talk you through it. You don’t have do this alone.

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