Ultrasound is a very common diagnostic technique in reproductive medicine. It consists of using an ultrasound scan to analyse and obtain images of the ovaries, the uterus and the surrounding structures. It’s a painless procedure that poses no risk to the patient, and it allows results to be obtained in real time.
Ultrasound can be used to screen and diagnose women who are unable to become pregnant, as well as to monitor a pregnancy.
In this article, we go into more detail about why ultrasound plays such an important role in fertility treatments, what it consists of, and what information it can give us.
WHAT INFORMATION DO ULTRASOUND SCANS PROVIDE IN FERTILITY TREATMENTS?
Ultrasound scans are a very common medical tool used during pregnancy, but they can also be used when a woman has been trying to get pregnant for more than a year without success, as they allow the reproductive organs to be analysed in order to detect any abnormalities that may be hindering fertilisation or implantation.
An increasing number of women are delaying motherhood and resorting to fertility treatments at an older age, meaning that pathologies such as adenomyosis or fibroids are more common.
In this sense, the ultrasound scan is a very useful tool in the diagnosis of reproductive disorders, to assess the state of the ovarian reserve and identify possible problems that may interfere with trying to conceive.
Ultrasound scans can be used to detect pelvic pathologies and to rule out any disorders, in order to determine the most appropriate assisted reproduction treatment, and also to facilitate the correct implantation and development of the foetus.
They can also be used to diagnose follicular cysts, a very common fertility problem that can prevent pregnancy. By this means, it’s possible to locate and remove them so as to increase the chances of success of assisted reproduction techniques.
In some cases, this type of examination can be performed using 3D ultrasound, which allows much more detailed images to be obtained from different perspectives to assess the morphology of the endometrial cavity and rule out problems such as uterine adhesions, adenomyosis, tumours or uterine malformations.
On some occasions, it may be necessary to perform an ultrasound scan during the ovulation phase to monitor the growth and maturation process of the dominant follicle, and to know when the mature egg will be released. In this way, it’s possible to determine how the patient is responding to the ovarian stimulation treatment, and to set the day for embryo transfer or insemination.
After undergoing ovarian stimulation, it’s time for the follicular puncture, where the mature eggs are retrieved and fertilised in the laboratory to produce the embryos that will be transferred to the patient’s uterus. At this stage, ultrasound scans are used to determine the best day to perform this procedure, and also to provide guidance to carry out the follicular puncture.
Ultrasound scans are also an essential tool for embryo transfer in IVF treatments. Firstly, to evaluate the condition of the uterus before the embryos are transferred and, secondly, to ensure that the embryos are deposited in a favourable position to increase the chances of successful implantation.
When undergoing IVF, the first ultrasound scan showing images of the foetus is possibly one of the most emotional moments for the prospective parents. However, it should be remembered that these types of treatments can cause patients a great deal of anxiety, therefore being able to see for themselves that everything is going well can be very reassuring.
By this means, it’s possible to confirm that the embryo has been correctly implanted in the uterus, or if a multiple pregnancy has occurred, and that the pregnancy is developing normally. In short, ultrasound has become an essential tool in assisted reproduction treatments, not only to identify the cause of fertility issues, but also to carry out in-depth monitoring at every stage of the process, whether during ovarian stimulation, before embryo transfer, or during pregnancy.