As part of our failed IVF follow up, I asked to have a HSG test. Of course, as we all do, as soon as it was confirmed that I could have the test, I got straight onto Google. I wanted to know exactly what I would be in store for.
Replies on the usual TTC forums and Facebook groups varied loads. Some accounts may as well have been horror stories while others said it was a breeze. Here’s my account.
What is a HSG?
HSG is the common abbreviation of the unpronounceable hysterosalpingogram. It’s an X-ray procedure that is carried out by a gynaecologist consultant to enable them to get a good, detailed look at the uterus and fallopian tubes.
A catheter is inserted into the uterus and dye is pumped through. It highlights the shape of the womb and allows any scarring (adhesions), fibroids or polyps to be seen. In addition, the dye travels through the fallopian tubes to highlight any blockages.
Why have a HSG?
To be honest, it’s always baffled me that a HSG procedure isn’t completed as standard as part of the initial investigations when referred to a fertility clinic. Whilst I knew I had PCOS, I have worried for years that there was something else going on that hadn’t been investigated.
So at my follow up appointment I asked the consultant if there was a reason it hadn’t been offered, and reiterated my experience with the copper coil IUD. She explained that the test isnt routinely carried out in women under 40 who haven’t been exposed to chlamydia. Chlamydia is a cause of blocked Fallopian tubes. However, she agreed to refer me to be tested for my own peace of mind.
How to prepare for a HSG
The HSG test needs to be carried out at the beginning of your menstrual cycle, when there’s no possibility of being pregnant. As I have irregular cycles, I was prescribed provera to kick things off.
As the test is performed using X-ray, I had to go to the main X-ray department of the hospital for it. My test was at 8am on a Friday morning and I was told when booking in that I had to start a course of antibiotics 24hours before the procedure. I was given a 5 day course of both metronidazole and doxycycline to take. The antibiotics are just precautionary, to prevent any infection that could arise during the procedure itself.
After checking into the X-ray department, a nurse showed me to a tiny side room where I changed into a hospital gown. Quickly after, she ushered me into the room where the HSG was taking place.
There were three other people in the room: the nurse, my consultant who performed the HSG, and a radiographer. He manned the computer system to take the images. The nurse who showed me in prepared the instruments for the consultant then stood with me and held my hand throughout.
The team were lovely and the consultant explained everything both at the time and then afterwards. The initial part was like having a smear test. I assumed the position (if you know, you know!) while the consultant popped a speculum in and cleaned my cervix.
After a couple of coughs, she was able to thread the catheter through my cervix and inflate a balloon to hold it in place during the procedure. I won’t lie, this was uncomfortable. Like a sharp, continuous cramp. Many people have described it as period pain-like cramping. For me, it was nothing like that.
Luckily, I didn’t have too long to wait until the dye was being flushed through. I was able to watch in real-time as the screen for the consultant was angled for me to watch, too. The consultant instructed the radiographer to take a few images and before I knew it, we were done.
The pain lasted throughout. But as soon as the catheter was taken out, it went. The consultant talked me through what we could see on the screen and asked me to remind her what else we’d agreed upon as next steps.
The nurse showed me into the bathroom where I was given some products to clean myself up with and I went on my way. I did feel able to drive myself home straight away but had planned to take it easy otherwise.
Following on from the procedure, I did have some spotting for a day or so. The only other ill-effects I suffered with were a result of the antibiotics. For the duration of the course of tablets I felt nauseous and had a strange, metallic taste in my mouth.
Have you ever had a HSG? What was your experience of it?