What is an ultrasound?
Ultrasound technology delivers high-frequency soundwaves (inaudible to the human ear) through the tissues of your body. These soundwaves echo when they reach internal tissues, and these echoes are digitally collected to render real-time images of reproductive organs, developing fetuses, and more. Ultrasound technology is also used to identify structural abnormalities, evaluate your baby’s health, and more.
The equipment itself consists of a handheld device called a transducer, a computer console, and a video display screen. The transducer delivers the sound waves while collecting the echoes. The result is a detailed live broadcast of internal tissues, which both you and your doctor will be able to see.
Ultrasound is a versatile treatment that can assess:
- The size and shape of the ovaries, as well as the state of ovarian cysts. Large cysts could indicate endometriosis.
- The dimensions of the uterus, as well as the presence of polyps or fibroids.
- The thickness of the uterine lining (endometrium).
- The presence and location of reproductive organs, as well as the amount of blood being delivered to the organs.
- The number of antral follicles, which can reveal the state of a woman’s ovarian reserves.
- Swelling of the fallopian tubes (this specifically requires a two-dimensional ultrasound).
- Adhesions among the reproductive organs, especially the ovaries.
- Other ovarian issues, such as torsion.
The ultrasound procedure
On the day of your procedure, your doctors will ask you to arrive at your appointment wearing loose, comfortable clothing. In the procedure room, your doctors will ask you to remove your clothing and wear a gown. You’ll then lie down in a position that will allow the application of the transducer (near the organ) for analysis. Next, a thin layer of gel will be applied to the surface of the skin.
This will allow the transducer to make complete contact with the skin, free of any air pockets, to more effectively deliver sound waves and receive the echoes. Once your doctor has taken the necessary readings, he or she will wipe away the gel. Any remaining gel dries quickly and will not stain your clothing.
Ultrasounds and in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycles
During the ovarian stimulation stage of the IVF treatment (which spans about eight to 12 days), you’ll undergo ultrasound exams to assess follicle development. Egg retrieval takes place once testing confirms that the eggs are mature. An ultrasound is also used during the egg retrieval and transfer of the fertilized egg to the uterus, which takes place about two to five days later.