If you are thinking about receiving infertility treatment, you will probably have to undergo numerous ultrasounds. You don't have be too afraid though, because ultrasounds are actually a painless and quick part of fertility treatment. Ultrasound is also invaluable to fertility specialists, as it allows them to assess your reproductive health and monitor treatments quickly and easily.
What is an Ultrasound?
Ultrasound therapy is a technique used by medical professionals to examine parts of your body that are otherwise invisible to the naked eye. It is often used to look inside your abdomen or chest in order to get a good look at vital organs and bodily structures. Ultrasound imaging is very similar to the x-ray, only without any of the side effects of radiation.
How does an Ultrasound Work?
Ultrasound uses high frequency sound waves in order to create images of what's going on inside your body. These sound waves bounce off of your internal organs and tissues and produce an ultrasound picture. This picture is then relayed back to a television monitor, which allows your health care provider to analzye what is going on inside of you. Ultrasound is a painless procedure and can be done in relatively short periods of time at your local clinic.
Types of Ultrasounds used in Infertility Treatments
There are two main types of ultrasounds used during infertility treatment. You will probably undergo both procedures numerous times.
The abdominal ultrasound, or pelvic ultrasound, is the one that most people are familiar with. It is commonly used during pregnancy to check on the health of your baby. For infertility treatment, abdominal ultrasound is used to assess the overall health of your reproductive system. It can locate:
What Happens During an Abdominal Ultrasound?
During an abdominal ultrasound, an ultrasound probe will be moved over your stomach. Ultrasound gel will be rubbed over your belly to facilitate the movement of the probe. In order to produce the best picture possible, you will have to go into the procedure with a full bladder. This helps to push the bowel away from your uterus, providing a better image. It also aids in transmitting the sound waves produced by the ultrasound machine. Though an abdominal ultrasound is far from painful, it can be uncomfortable because your bladder is full.
The transvaginal ultrasound is used to assess the health of your harder-to-see reproductive organs, including:
- your cervix
- your fallopian tubes
- your ovaries
The vaginal ultrasound is also an essential part of assisted reproductive treatments, especially IVF and IUI. It is used to analyze the health of the eggs in your ovaries and it is also helpful in determining how your follicles are responding to hormone treatment. Transvaginal ultrasound is also used to determine when to induce ovulation during IVF treatment.
What Happens During a Transvaginal Ultrasound?
During a transvaginal ultrasound, an ultrasound probe is inserted into your vagina. This is not painful, and feels very much like a tampon. Ultrasound waves emitted by the probe travel up your vagina and bounce off your ovaries. This provides your reproductive specialist with a very clear image of your eggs and ovaries. You do not need to have a full bladder during your transvaginal ultrasounds.
Using Ultrasounds in Infertility Treatments
Ultrasounds are used frequently during infertility treatments and procedures. They are often used in order to monitor the growth of egg follicles and to determine when procedures should be completed. They are also used to aid in egg retrieval.
Ultrasounds in IVF
Ultrasounds are commonly used throughout different periods in infertility treatments like IVF.
After Hormone Treatment
After initial hormone injections are given, ultrasound is used to monitor follicular growth and development. Your doctor will use a transvaginal ultrasound in order to count the number of follicles in your ovaries and to assess their size and health. This will help your doctor to decide when it is time to give you hCG in order to stimulate ovulation. Ultrasound is also used to monitor for hyperstimulation syndrome, a condition in which the ovaries become overstimulated by hormone therapy and swell to large sizes.
After your follicles have been stimulated to ovulate, your doctor will perform another ultrasound. This ultrasound will be used in order to detect when it is time to remove your developed eggs.
During Egg Retrieval
Another ultrasound will be performed in order to guide egg retrieval for IVF. It is necessary that your specialist has a precise image of your ovaries in order to remove the right eggs at just the right time.