Ultrasound Scans

Ultrasound scans can play an important role in fertility treatment because they allow us to see what is going on inside your body. We may recommend scans at several different stages before or during your IVF treatment. The results will help to guide your treatment and ensure that each procedure is performed at the best time.

What is Ultrasound Scan?

Ultrasound scans or sonograms are imaging tests that can be used to look at your reproductive organs. The scan uses soundwaves that are outside the range of human hearing to create pictures of your insides.

When you have an ultrasound scan, the doctor or sonographer who is performing the test will use a handheld device called an ultrasound probe. The probe sends out ultrasound waves and then collects the echoes that are bounced back by your internal organs. The echoes are converted into pictures that will appear on the screen during the scan. Ultrasounds are completely safe and they won’t cause any side effects. The pictures can reveal a lot about your health and fertility so they are a very important part of your treatment. You’ll probably need to have several ultrasound scans when you are undergoing IVF treatment.

Types of Ultrasound Scan

Several different kinds of ultrasound scan are performed at different stages in fertility treatment. The scans are usually performed trans-vaginally because we won’t be able to get clear enough pictures through your abdomen. The scan uses a specially designed ultrasound probe that can be inserted into your vagina. You may experience some mild discomfort, but it shouldn’t hurt at all. In fact, most women find having an internal ultrasound less uncomfortable than getting a cervical smear.

The first scans are usually performed before you begin the treatment, as part of your fertility assessment. Pelvic ultrasound scans are performed to check on your reproductive system, including the ovaries and womb. The scan can check the structure of these organs and look for any issues that could be affecting your fertility. It is possible to tell whether your ovaries are producing mature eggs. The scan can also reveal conditions such as fibroids or endometriosis that could make it harder to fertilisation or implantation to happen.

You may need to have a special type of ultrasound called hysterosalpingo-contrast-ultrasonography as part of your fertility assessment. It is performed in the same way as other internal scans, except that a special fluid will be injected into the uterus. The fluid can then be tracked as it moves through the fallopian tubes in order to reveal if there are any blockages. This type of scan is performed because the fallopian tubes are too small to see clearly on normal ultrasound scans. If the fluid isn’t able to move freely through the fallopian tubes it could help to explain why you haven’t been able to conceive naturally and it will help your fertility specialist to decide on the right approach to treatment.

Other types of ultrasound scan will then be performed during your IVF treatment. Fertility scans often have to be timed for a certain point in your menstrual cycle and may need to be repeated several times to monitor the changes in your womb or ovaries. The scans can reveal how well your body is responding to the medication used to regulate ovulation and when the eggs are ready to be collected. Ultrasound pictures can also be used to measure the endometrial lining inside the womb, which can ensure that the embryos are transferred at the correct time.

If the treatment is successfully and you have a positive pregnancy test then you will soon be able to have an ultrasound scan to check on your baby. The earliest pregnancy scans are usually performed from about 6 to 7 weeks into the pregnancy to check that it is viable. Pregnancy scans are performed trans-abdominally, using an ultrasound probe that is placed against your belly.

When is it Recommended?

Ultrasound scans are recommended at several different stages of fertility treatment. Your doctor might recommend some or all of the following scans.

  • Fertility Checks: an ultrasound can help us to assess your fertility and to check for any underlying conditions that could be causing problems, such as growths in the womb, ovarian cysts or a blocked fallopian tube. Sometimes it is possible to treat these conditions to improve your fertility.
  • Follicle Tracking: we can check to see whether follicles are maturing as expected or to see the impact of medication you are taking to stimulate your ovaries before we collect eggs for IVF. The scan can tell us when the mature eggs are ready to be collected.
  • Endometrial Lining Measurement: we can measure the thickness of the womb lining to assess your fertility or to see if you are ready for the embryo transfer during IVF treatment. The lining should reach its thickest point around the time you ovulate.
  • Egg Collection or Embryo Transfer: ultrasound can be used to direct the needle when we are collecting eggs for IVF treatment. A scan may also be performed when the embryo is being transferred into the womb.

How to Prepare?

Having an ultrasound scan is a straightforward procedure so you won’t need to do much to prepare. Most fertility scans are performed as internal ultrasounds, so you should make sure that you’re wearing comfortable clothes that can easily be pulled up or removed from your lower half. You will also need to empty your bladder before the scan, which you should be able to do when you arrive at the ultrasound clinic.

You will be asked to lie down on your back or side with your knees lifted up towards your chest. The ultrasound probe will then be carefully inserted into the vagina. You might feel a bit uncomfortable during the scan, but it shouldn’t hurt. You will be able to go home immediately after the scan and there won’t be any after effects.

Risks Involved

Ultrasound scans are very safe. The ultrasound waves that are used to perform the scan are completely safe. Ultrasound can’t damage your cells in the same way as the radiation or X-rays used in some other kinds of imaging tests. There are no known side effects or long term risks from having ultrasound scans, so it is safe to have as many scans as necessary during your fertility treatment.

Having an internal scan can be a little bit uncomfortable, but most women find it less intrusive than having a cervical smear test. The ultrasound probe is just a little bit thicker than a finger and there is no need to use a speculum to open up the vagina. The probe will have a sterile cover and be coated with gel to ensure that it is sterile and as comfortable as possible. Some clinics may use latex covers for the ultrasound probe, so it is important to mention it if you have a latex allergy so that a different type of cover can be used. If you’re feeling at all anxious about the scan then you can talk to your doctor or sonographer so that they can help you to feel more comfortable about the test.


The images produced by the ultrasound machine will appear on the screen right away. You will be able to see them during the scan. The doctor or sonographer who is performing the ultrasound scan may be able to give you the results right away. However, it is sometimes necessary to analyse the ultrasound pictures more carefully before giving you the results. A full report including the scan results and ultrasound pictures will then be provided for you and your fertility specialist. The doctor will be able to explain what the results mean and answer any questions you might have about the scan.

Depending on the type of ultrasound scan you’ve had, the results might help to diagnose the cause of your fertility problems or to guide the timing of your fertility treatment. The next steps might require more scans and tests or moving on to the next stage of the IVF treatment if you are ready.

We can support you through every stage of your fertility treatment in the UK or overseas, including getting the ultrasound scans that you need before or during your IVF treatment. We can arrange IVF scans in the UK or at a clinic in Dubai, Bahrain or Greece if you are having IVF abroad. Our doctors will be able to advise you on the timing of your fertility scans and to explain in detail what the results mean.

If you want to learn more about ultrasound scans during IVF treatment then don’t hesitate to get in touch to speak to one of our experienced fertility specialists. We can arrange your IVF scans in London or overseas.

Ultrasound Scan FAQs

Ultrasound scans use a special type of soundwave to produce pictures of your insides. The soundwaves are sent into your body by the ultrasound probe. The echoes that are reflected back from your internal organs are then collected and turned into pictures. The scan works a bit like a bat using sonar to see.

Women will usually be offered an ultrasound scan as part of their fertility check. The scan can check on the structure and function of the reproductive organs, specifically the ovaries and uterus. It can help to diagnose problems with ovulation and gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis and fibroids that could be affecting fertility. The scan can reveal whether it will be possible to collect eggs for IVF. It may also detect problems that can be treated to improve your chances of conceiving.

Ultrasound scans may be performed at several stages during IVF treatment. Ovarian or follicle tracking scans are performed to check that eggs are developing in response to the medication. The scan can also determine when the eggs are ready to be collected. Endometrial lining scans can be performed to check that the womb lining is thick and ready for the embryo to be transferred after fertilisation has taken place in vitro. The scans will be timed according to your menstrual cycle and the medication you have been taking.

Ultrasound scans are very safe as there are no short or long term risks associated with them. Scans have been performed for many decades, with no signs of any negative effects. Having an internal ultrasound scan can feel a bit uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t be painful.

Internal or trans-vaginal ultrasound scans are performed using a probe that is placed inside the vagina. The probe is very thin and it will be coated with lubricating gel to ensure that the experience is as comfortable as possible for you. You might still feel a bit of discomfort during the scan, but most women find that it isn’t painful. If you have had a cervical smear test before then you should find that the internal scan feels less uncomfortable than that.

Ultrasound scans are usually performed as part of female fertility assessments. You will probably also have some scans after you begin IVF treatment. The number of scans you need to have will depend on the reasons for your fertility problems and the fertility treatments that you are having.

Fertility checks and IVF scans are performed using a trans-vaginal ultrasound probe because it enables the doctor or sonographer to get the clearest pictures of your internal organs. You might be more familiar with the trans-abdominal scans that are performed during pregnancy, but these only work because the womb moves up out of the pelvis when you are pregnant. It wouldn’t be possible to see the womb and ovaries in enough detail to perform a fertility check or to track the developing follicles using this type of ultrasound scan.

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