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The role of fertility ultrasounds in assessing female reproductive health

Understanding your fertility may seem complicated when starting or growing your family.

With so many different tests available, it can often feel overwhelming trying to figure out where to start. However, one of these tests is particularly important from a female reproductive health perspective, and that’s a fertility ultrasound.

In this guide, we’ll explain the role and importance of fertility ultrasounds, the different types that are available and how to interpret your results effectively.

What is a fertility ultrasound?

A fertility ultrasound is a type of imaging scan that can be used to assess and monitor female reproductive health.

It provides fertility experts with a visual examination of your uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes and other surrounding parts of your reproductive system, offering greater insights into your fertility.

The importance of ultrasounds for fertility assessment

Fertility ultrasounds play an important role in evaluating your reproductive health and overall fertility. They can also identify certain conditions that may make it harder for you to conceive, allowing you to start treatment sooner rather than later.

Through these insights, fertility ultrasounds can also support the personalisation of your treatment plan, offering you the best possible chance of conception. This is because there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to fertility treatment. Since everyone is different, it’s essential to understand your own reproductive health by identifying ways to boost it effectively.

How a fertility ultrasound works

Fertility ultrasounds use sound wave technology to create images of your reproductive organs.

The ultrasound probe gives off high-frequency sound waves, which bounce off your reproductive organs and return to the probe, creating something called an echo. These echoes are converted into electrical signals which are interpreted by the ultrasound machine and converted into images.

Using this visual data, your sonographer or fertility specialist will then be able to analyse your ultrasound images and make recommendations based on your results.

Are fertility ultrasounds safe?

Fertility ultrasound scans are completely safe and the radio waves will not affect your fertility.

Unlike x-rays, ultrasounds use sound waves which do not pose any risk of radiation exposure or long-lasting side effects.

What can a fertility ultrasound check or diagnose?

Fertility ultrasounds can be used to check, monitor and diagnose a wide range of conditions. This includes:

  • Fibroids

  • Pelvic infections

  • Ectopic pregnancies

  • Polyps

  • Abnormalities of your reproductive organs

  • Your antral follicle count

  • The health of your uterus lining

However, it’s important to note that fertility ultrasounds cannot detect all possible fertility problems. Therefore, you may need further tests to confirm, rule out or diagnose certain other fertility-related issues.

Why might I need a fertility ultrasound?

Fertility ultrasounds are an important part of your fertility journey and you don’t necessarily need to be experiencing any problems conceiving to have one.

However, if you are experiencing issues or problematic symptoms, they offer a great way of further investigating these to determine the root cause.

Some of the main symptoms that can benefit from having a fertility ultrasound include:

  • Pain during sex

  • Back pain

  • Nausea

  • Fatigue

  • Irregular periods

  • Painful periods

  • Changes in your bowel habits

  • Pelvic pain outside of menstruation

Understanding your reproductive health before trying to conceive is important when stepping into new or continuing parenthood. Therefore, while fertility ultrasounds are most commonly used as a diagnostic tool, you don’t need to be experiencing symptoms to have one.

Types of fertility ultrasounds

There are different types of fertility ultrasound, with each one providing slightly different insights into your reproductive health.

Determining the right type of fertility ultrasound for your needs will depend on your personal circumstances and situation.

We have listed some of the most common types of fertility ultrasounds below.

Transvaginal ultrasound

A transvaginal ultrasound (TVS) creates images of your uterus and ovaries to detect potential problems that may hinder your ability to conceive.

During this test, a small ultrasound probe will be gently inserted into your vagina to relay images back to the screen. While this can feel slightly uncomfortable, it does not usually take very long to complete.

After having a transvaginal ultrasound, you might experience some light vaginal discharge. However, this should stop within a day.

Pelvic ultrasound

A pelvic ultrasound is a non-invasive test that assesses all of the organs within your pelvis. This includes your uterus, cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes and vagina.

After being pressed onto your lower abdomen, the ultrasound probe will then relay images back to the screen, providing your fertility specialist with visual data to interpret.

Sometimes, you may need a transvaginal ultrasound to be performed as well. However, this will be discussed with you during your consultation.

Ovulation ultrasound and follicular monitoring

Tracking your ovulation can be necessary when undergoing fertility treatment or trying to conceive naturally. While there are ways you can keep track of this yourself, such as using an app or counting the days in your cycle, your predictions might not always be correct.

An ovulation ultrasound offers a great way of accurately predicting or confirming your ovulation. To do this effectively, your ovarian follicles (small sacs of fluid where eggs are released) will be checked using an ultrasound scan at regular intervals during your menstrual cycle.

Your ovarian follicles can also be monitored through a fertility ultrasound to check for a low ovarian reserve. This is where you have less than six follicles per ovary – a common cause of fertility-related issues.

Ovulation ultrasounds are also usually carried out as either a transvaginal scan or an abdominal scan (where the probe is pressed onto your lower stomach). However, in some cases, both scans might need to be performed.

Interpreting your fertility ultrasound results

After you have a fertility ultrasound, the generated images will be assessed by your fertility specialist. Your results will then be discussed with you at a follow-up appointment, even if there are no abnormalities.

If your results show a potential problem with your reproductive health, your fertility consultant will go over your personalised treatment plan. This may include interventions like:

  • Medication

  • Monitoring

  • Further testing (blood tests)

  • Emotional support (counselling)

  • Fertility treatment

  • Surgery

No matter what your results are, you’ll be provided with all the support you need to move forward.

Our friendly team of fertility experts at the Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine (BCRM) are dedicated to your health and wellbeing, both physically and emotionally, and will tailor your treatment plan around your personal needs.

Book your fertility ultrasound with the Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine

Fertility ultrasounds provide you with a window into your reproductive health and play an essential role in your conception and fertility plans.

If you are looking to understand your reproductive health better and boost your fertility, book a fertility ultrasound with us as part of your initial consultation today.

At BCRM, our team is here to offer you the support and care you need during this next, exciting stage of life. We will be with you every step of the way to ensure you make the right choices for both your body and future.