If you’ve been reading up on egg freezing and other fertility treatments, you might have noticed the phrase “egg harvesting” being used in some outlets. It sounds a little sci-fi, but in reality, it’s just a non-scientific phrase used by some to describe the egg freezing, egg donation, or in vitro fertilization process.
“Egg harvesting” typically refers to the egg retrieval
Egg freezing. In vitro fertilization. Egg donation—a process in which a young and/or healthy woman undergoes fertility treatments and donates the eggs retrieved to be used in IVF by another woman or couple who are having trouble conceiving with their own eggs. All three are forms of assisted reproductive technology (ART) techniques that follow the same basic format: hormone medication is used to prompt the ovaries to produce multiple eggs, which are then obtained in a short procedure called an egg retrieval.
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It’s the final step of egg freezing—the egg retrieval, scientifically known as a transvaginal (through the vagina) oocyte (egg) retrieval—that’s most often referred to as “egg harvesting,” because it’s during that procedure that the eggs are “collected.” However, egg harvesting is also sometimes used to refer to the entire process of egg freezing or egg donation; because it’s a non-scientific phrase, it’s not always clear what the exact definition is.
Because clarity is one of our primary goals when we communicate with women considering egg freezing, we prefer to use phrases such as “egg retrieval” that are medically accurate and unambiguous. Additionally, “egg harvesting” is a phrase borrowed from the worlds of agriculture and animal husbandry, usually used to describe the process of collecting reptile or bird eggs from a nest performed by a farmer or caretaker. There’s a reason we never use those bad stock photography images of chicken eggs and ice cubes—you’re not a chicken (or a corn field), and we’re not farmers.
“Egg harvesting” may sound a little scary, but in fact, the egg retrieval is quite non-invasive. It takes about 15–20 minutes, and you’re put under sedation so you don’t feel a thing. The doctor inserts a needle, guided by ultrasound, through the wall of the vagina to retrieve the eggs from your ovaries. No cuts, no stitches, no scars.
Learn more about the egg retrieval experience.