Ultrasound is an important part of female fertility assessment. Ultrasound is most accurate when an internal transvaginal scan is performed. It can be uncomfortable as the ultrasound probe is inserted in the vagina using lubrication. The ultrasound probe is connected to an ultrasound machine and screen and the clinician will be able to visualise the structure of the female reproductive organs. Most women tolerate these scans well and they are performed as an outpatient.
The internal ultrasound scan may be preceded by an external (abdominal) ultrasound scan. This is usually performed with a full bladder and then the bladder will be emptied for the internal scan. If you suffer with pain inserting tampons or with sexual intercourse always discuss this with your doctor first. Despite this the vast majority of women tolerate the internal fertility assessment scans. The scan is very good at identifying structural abnormalities with the womb and conditions such as polycystic ovaries.
The scan will also assess the Antral Follicle Count (AFC) which is used as a surrogate marker of a woman’s ovarian reserve. Early immature follicles in the ovary show up clearly and the clinician will count these and record your AFC. This can then be used to help diagnose any problems with a low ovarian reserve.
It is not possible to see the fallopian tubes on a basic transvaginal ultrasound scan unless they are blocked and swollen and contain fluid. This is an uncommon finding but may be identified during the fertility scan.