Ultrasound and the Fertility Test
Any consultation with a fertility specialist is very likely to include an ultrasound. This is due to the highly reliable set of facts that emerge from the test. The results from the ultrasound can be used to assess the reproductive organs, like the overall condition of the ovaries and the uterus, follicle development on the ovaries and the thickness of the uterine lining. To test male fertility, scrotal ultrasound is often suggested.
What to expect during the Ultrasound?
Ultrasound scanning is always done by an expert, usually a sonographer or a radiologist, in a room especially equipped for ultrasound. You will be asked to wear a medical gown, which will expose the lower part of your body. A typical pelvic ultrasound usually last for about 20-30 minutes.
You will be allowed to see the ultrasound images of your insides on a screen. They will be grainy, gray colored pictures, which will appear as real-time sonograms. You may be given immediate feedback; however, a proper interpretation of the report will be done by the fertility specialist you will be consulting. The exact test, and your experience of it, will depend on the particular type of test.
The Scrotal Ultrasound
For the ultrasound scanning of the testes, a device called transducer will be passed over the pelvis. This sends the high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound waves) through the area, including the testicle, the blood vessels and epididymis (the tube transporting sperms from the testicle). A water-soluble gel will be applied on the scrotal skin before the scanning. The penis is usually placed on the abdomen or the examiner might place his hand under the scrotum for support. The transducer is moved back and forth to obtain images from different sides. This is usually painless and lasts 20-30 minutes.
The Transabdominal Ultrasound
The Transabdominal ultrasound is often the first choice of doctors for gynecologic assessment. It brings to light the condition of the ovaries and uterus, and is also helpful in detecting the formation of cysts. For this ultrasound scanning, the whole of your lower belly will be covered in the sonogram. As a preparation for the test, the radiologist might ask you to drink up to 6 glasses of water before the test. This is to fill up the bladder, which causes the intestines to be pushed out of the way, and other organs in the region appear with more clarity.
You will be asked to lay face-up on a table. A gel will be applied to enhance the absorption of the rays. You will be asked you lay perfectly still while the transducer is moved all over your abdomen. You might find it a little awkward, because of the tickling sensation or the temporary pressure when the technician will press down. But, the whole procedure is painless. Once done, the gel is wiped clean and you may go round your usual activities right then.
The Transvaginal Ultrasound
When doctors wish for a clearer picture of your reproductive organs, it is the Transvaginal ultrasound that is most commonly recommended. This ultrasound scanning provides high resolution images of the insides.
This test is slightly more daunting than the Transabdominal ultrasound, but not anything that should scare you. This involves the use of a very small and thin transducer that is covered and lubricated. The cover might be of latex, so if you are allergic to latex, it is extremely important that you inform the technician before the test, so that a latex-free cover can be used.
The Transvaginal ultrasound requires this transducer to be inserted 2 or 3 inches into the vagina, from where it captures images from multiple orientations. You may not feel comfortable during the test, but it is completely painless and should not cause you any anxiety.
This is one of the least common ultrasound tests for fertility testing in women. This is usually recommended when the doctor wishes for a more detailed sonogram of the internal walls of the uterus. This is often, when the doctor has already figured that there might be some problem in the uterus itself. This technique, also called sonohystogram, is particularly helpful in scanning adhesions, cysts, and polyps inside the uterus, especially if the patient has undergone several miscarriages.
Typically, a hysterosonogram is scheduled at a one week gap from menstruation. The procedure of the test is quite long. It begins with the Transvaginal ultrasound, following which a speculum is inserted into the vagina. Then the cervix is cleaned and a catheter (which is a small, lightweight tube) is introduced into the uterus. After this, the speculum is removed and the transducer is re-inserted. The catheter is used by the technician to fill a sterile saline solution into the uterus, the purpose of which is to enhance the visibility of the topography of the inside of the uterus. If requested by the doctor, during the same examination, the technician can also perform the Doppler ultrasound, which gives information regarding blood flow. It uses the same transducer so you will not have to undergo anything extra for this.
You may experience cramps because of the saline solution. For this, the doctor often gives an acetaminophen or ibuprofen, either before or after the examination. The doctor may also prescribe antibiotics, to guard against any possible infections because of multiple insertions.
Once the procedure is complete, the saline solution will slowly drain out from the uterus. So, it is recommended that you wear a pad. The experience after the test is different for different individuals. Some women return to normal work, while others may need some rest. You might also get some light spotting for 1 or 2 days afterward.
For a more detailed list of ultrasound tests in men and women for fertility, visit this link.
The Use of Ultrasound in Infertility Treatment
If your doctor begins a fertility treatment after seeing the results, you will have a number of regular ultrasounds, though these will last not more than 5 minutes. These tests are performed to check the progress of the fertility drugs.
The ultrasound itself is not a treatment using radiation. It only accompanies your drug treatment. For example, the treatment of premature ejaculation in men will require regular ultrasound scans to check the progress.
To read articles and to watch videos of women sharing their experiences, click here.
For more information, check this PDF by National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).