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09 April, 2016

Understanding the Difference between Eggs and Follicles

eggs and follicles

There are many women who are not completely conversant when it comes to discussing fertility issues and IVF in particular. So when they approach doctors with fertility issues, the may find the questions raised by the consultant hard to answer. A lot of women are under the impression that because they ovulate, they’re producing eggs of good quality every month. And they assume that since they are producing eggs of good quality, there should not be anything that stands in the way of their getting pregnant.

“This misconception has been perpetuated by ignorance and holds no truth.”

But it is not necessarily true that women who have an active ovulatory cycle produce good eggs. In fact, it’s possible that women who ovulate can produce eggs of poor quality. When women undergo ultrasound scans to track the follicles and ovulation, and the results of the scan show sturdy growth of follicles, it is assumed that they’re producing eggs of good quality. But that’s not always the case.

This holds true especially in the case of older women. One must understand that not all follicles (even the healthy ones) contain eggs. Not all eggs will be mature. And not all eggs will successfully be fertilized.

During a scan only a shadow image of the follicle is visible, as the ultrasound machine works on eco-sound waves. The actual egg is only seen once the follicle has been aspirated and the fluid has been scanned in the ART lab under a microscope.

Hence one can only be assured of the presence of eggs in follicles during the retrieval process, not by the results of the ultrasound scan. While some follicles can be empty (no eggs present), others can contain eggs of poor quality. So both the presence and the quality of eggs are evaluated during the egg retrieval process.

IVF doctors and gynecologists must make sure not to overstate the case and misguide patients about the presence or quality of eggs by merely looking at the results of an ultrasound scan. The key is to understand that not all follicles contain eggs; neither do healthy follicles ensure eggs of good quality. The presence and quality of eggs can only be gauged by an embryologist after the egg retrieval process in an IVF laboratory.

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