The Use of Ultrasound in Fertility Evaluation
During a fertility evaluation, it’s likely that your doctor will order an ultrasound. You might have an ultrasound exam as part of an initial consultation with a reproductive endocrinologist, or you might have one after your hormone levels have been tested. Your doctor will use the results of the ultrasound to assess the overall condition of your uterus and ovaries, the thickness of the lining of your uterus (the endometrium), and follicle development on the ovaries.
Getting Ready for Your Ultrasound
The ultrasound scanning will be performed by a radiologist or a sonographer (ultrasound technician) in an equipment-filled examining room. You’ll change into a medical gown to expose your lower body, but you’ll probably be able to wear your bra and socks. A pelvic ultrasound exam typically lasts from 20 to 30 minutes, and during that time, you’ll see grainy, gray pictures of your innermost self, as a real-time sonogram appears on a monitor. You may or may not get immediate feedback about what you’re seeing, but the results of the test will be interpreted by your fertility specialist. The test, and your experience, will differ according to the type of ultrasound test you have.
The Transabdominal Ultrasound
For general gynecologic assessment, doctors often choose transabdominal ultrasound. It is routinely used to evaluate the condition of the uterus and ovaries, and it’s helpful in the detection of cysts.
For transabdominal ultrasound testing, all of the action will happen on your lower belly. To prepare, you may be asked to drink up to six glasses of water an hour before the test, since a full bladder will push the intestines out of the way of the other organs.
Once you’re face-up on the table, the technician will apply gel or oil (warmed, if you’re lucky!) to your abdomen. This will facilitate the movement of a small, hand-held device called a transducer. The transducer sends reflected sound waves to a nearby computer, producing images on the monitor. You’ll remain still as the transducer is moved gently but firmly over the skin. You may feel tickling or temporary pressure if the technician presses down, but the procedure is painless. When you’re done, the gel will be wiped away, and you can empty your bladder (whew!), and get dressed. You can expect to resume your normal activities right away.