In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week (April 24-30th), it’s important to remember that ultrasounds are not just used during pregnancy. They can also be used prior to pregnancy to evaluate your fertility and detect any potential issues.
Ultrasound exams used to detect fertility issues
During a fertility evaluation, it’s likely that your doctor will order an ultrasound. You may have an ultrasound exam as part of an initial consultation with a reproductive physician, or you may have one after your hormone levels have been tested. The results of your ultrasound will be used to assess the overall condition of your reproductive structures.
Often helpful in the detection of cysts, transabdominal ultrasounds help to evaluate conditions of the uterus and ovaries that could affect fertility. To perform a transabdominal ultrasound, a gel is applied to the lower abdomen, which will facilitate the use of a small device called a transducer. The transducer is moved over the abdomen, sending sound waves into the body, capturing their echoes, and then sending those differently-reflected sound waves to a computer. The computer then translates the sound waves into images on a monitor.
Transvaginal ultrasound is used to produce higher-resolution images of the uterus. It is performed using a small, very thin, transducer that is lubricated and inserted only a few inches into the vagina to capture images from different orientations.
Though less common, sometimes a detailed sonogram of the inside of your uterus will be used to gather information, such as after multiple miscarriages. A hysterosonogram is used to investigate uterine abnormalities, including adhesions, polyps, and cysts.
A hysterosonogram is usually scheduled one week after menstruation, and it begins much like a transvaginal ultrasound. A speculum is inserted, the cervix is cleaned, and a small, lightweight tube (catheter) is introduced into the uterus. The speculum is then removed and the transducer is re-inserted. A catheter is used to fill the uterus with sterile saline solution that enables the doctor to see the uterus more clearly.
The use of ultrasound in infertility treatment
If the results of your fertility examination lead to treatment for infertility, you’ll likely have more ultrasounds. Ultrasound is essential for many fertility treatment plans, because it helps specialists monitor follicle development and ovulation. Doctors also use ultrasound to guide medical instruments during fertility surgical procedures, such as egg retrieval for IVF. If pregnancy is detected, ultrasound is commonly used to confirm the location of the pregnancy and assess the gestational sac. Once fertility treatments have succeeded, an ultrasound is frequently used to detect the heartbeat of a fetus.
To schedule an ultrasound with the experienced sonographers at Alaska Family Sonograms, call (907) 885-0390 today.