Oocyte (egg) retrieval with or without general anaesthesia
An unusual story to reassure you that there is no need to fear the oocyte retrieval procedure.
We woke up very early on the day of the oocyte retrieval (OCR). We had to be at the clinic by 7.30AM, as my OCR was scheduled for 9.30AM.
I followed the list of instructions I received by the clinic: slippers, robe, and ID cards ready to go. The only thing left to do was to iron my favourite nightie. My husband did it for me because first of all, he is much better at ironing than I am, and second of all, as he said, it was his participation in the oocyte retrieval. I was not allowed to eat, drink, or smoke after midnight, because the oocyte retrieval might be performed under general anaesthesia. The clinic also asked me to remove nail polish or artificial nails (but I don’t wear any so I did not have to concern myself with that).
I could not believe that altogether the whole procedure took only 10 minutes. I would not call it the most comfortable experience of my life, but I would definitely not call it painful either; if anything, it was absolutely tolerable.
We arrived at the clinic on time and as planned. After a quick check-in, during which we filled out several forms, we were asked to say goodbye for a while because we both had important tasks to fulfill separately. We had enough time for one more kiss and a “it’s going to be alright” hug - reassuring each other that everything will go smoothly.
A very kind nurse guided me to one of the preparation rooms and asked me to change and get ready for the procedure. When I stepped out of the bathroom in my freshly ironed nightie, I met a doctor in the room who wanted to have a last consultation with me before the oocyte collection. He informed me that due to the COVID-19 situation the hospitals are ordered to minimise the number of anaesthesia procedures (probably because the anaesthesiologists were busy with seriously ill Covid patients). He proceeded to explain to me that general anaesthesia is not absolutely necessary in my case because of my low egg count. He reassured me that all will be fine and promised me that there is nothing to worry about. I was not able to answer anything other than a very weak “OK”.
I asked for just five minutes to calm myself down a little bit. I laid down on the bed and tried my best to meditate (thank God I could finally use what I learnt in my online meditation classes). After a little while I got to take anti-anxiety medication prior to surgery. I would have preferred to take a few more than just one but the kind nurse reassures me that one would be enough.
While waiting for my painkiller injection, I started to recall everything that I have learnt about the oocyte collection procedure. The doctor will use an ultrasound probe with a needle attached to it, and he will insert the needle through the vaginal wall into my ovaries in order to reach my follicles. Afterwards, they are going to use the needle to suction out the fluid from the follicles and, hopefully, the oocyte will be retrieved along with it.
I have decided not to call my husband and tell him that I will undergo this procedure without general anaesthesia as I did not want to worry him during his semen collection. So I just continued to relax and meditate until it was time for the oocyte retrieval.
The nurse returned to let me know what the team was ready for me and she showed me the way to the surgery room. It looked similar to a normal gynaecology room except that everything looked and smelled very sterile. I was asked to lay down on the bed and they double checked my name and my birth date to make sure that all my oocytes were going to be labelled correctly. My doctor promised to explain everything to me throughout the procedure. He even showed me the monitor where, like he said, I could check if he was doing his job properly. On the screen I saw my five amazing follicles - they looked like little berries inside of a balloon.
The doctor then asked for my final confirmation to make sure that I was ready and he began the collection. I could only feel a slight sting during the insertion and right after that I could see how he reached the follicles one by one. After just a few minutes he told me that I did a great job and that we were DONE. My five incredible eggs came out of their follicles and they were ready to go to the lab to meet the “boys”. Mission accomplished!
I could not believe that altogether the whole procedure took only 10 minutes. I would not call it the most comfortable experience of my life, but I would definitely not call it painful either; if anything, it was absolutely tolerable. The main trick is to remain still and not move despite the discomfort.
I know that my story is a little bit unusual because 95% of you are going to have an oocyte retrieval under general anaesthesia, which will allow your surgeon to take their time to collect all of your oocytes - and hopefully it will be a greater number than in my case. Nevertheless, I felt like it was important to share my experience to reassure you that there is nothing to be afraid of during an oocyte retrieval.