What Is a Saline Ultrasound & How Does It Work?
Infertility affects men and women equally. Approximately one-third of infertility is attributed to the female partner, another third can be attributed to the male partner, and the final third can be attributed to both partners or is unexplained. 1 in 8 couples (12% of married women) have trouble conceiving or sustaining a pregnancy.
A diagnosis of infertility does not mean that your dreams of building a family are over; it just means that you'll need a little help from a reproductive endocrinologist or fertility specialist.
Before starting fertility treatment, a fertility specialist utilizes several screening tools to rule out any medical conditions. Below we outline what to expect when your physician orders a saline ultrasound, more commonly known as a saline sonogram or sonohysterogram.
How a Saline Ultrasound Procedure Works
A saline ultrasound is sometimes also called sonohysterography. Despite the fancy-sounding name, it simply means that your uterus will be filled with a saline solution to capture an image of its interior.
The saline helps to achieve a clearer sonogram by gently causing the walls of the uterus to expand, producing a better image of your uterine cavity.
The doctor will insert a small, flexible tube past the cervix and into the uterus, which will carry the saline solution. The ultrasound probe is then inserted and used to capture sonographic images of the patient's uterus.
What Does a Saline Ultrasound Show?
A saline ultrasound is unique because it can offer a view of polyps, fibroids or abnormal tissue growth that may not be visible on traditional ultrasound. The saline solution holds the uterus' walls apart, generating a clearer view of the uterine cavity.
How to Prepare for the Procedure
If you are scheduled for a saline sonogram, your doctor or care team member will tell you exactly how to prepare for the procedure, but the process is relatively straightforward and simple. Though saline ultrasound pain is typically minimal, you may take pain medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to minimize discomfort.
Your doctor may also prescribe a medication called misoprostol that dilates the cervix and allows for easier insertion of uterine catheter. This medication is taken orally the night before the saline ultrasound. Generally, no other preparation is necessary unless your doctor indicates otherwise.
Potential Side Effects of Saline Ultrasound
There are few potential side effects associated with a saline ultrasound. Most patients experience mild discomfort; others may have unusual discharge, pain, and fever. You may experience minor bleeding and cramping during and after the procedure due to the inflammation of uterine tissue. Pelvic infection can result from a saline ultrasound in a small fraction of cases.
How Long After Saline Ultrasound Can You Start IVF?
Many people who receive a saline ultrasound inside the uterus do so to detect potential barriers to conception. You may do this before beginning in-vitro fertilization.
If you're wondering about pregnancy after a saline ultrasound, you will first need to talk with your doctor about the results and ensure that IVF is a viable option for you. If you are approved to begin IVF, your doctor will provide a timeline after your saline ultrasound and let you know when treatment can begin.
Saline Ultrasound vs. HSG: What’s the Difference?
There are several options for uterine imaging, including saline ultrasounds, hysterosalpingography, or HSG. Like a saline ultrasound, HSG can capture an image of the uterus, but it does so by using X-ray technology rather than ultrasound technology.
Purpose and Pros and Cons of an Ultrasound
A saline ultrasound produces a sonographic image of the interior of the uterine cavity. This image helps identify and diagnose any abnormalities which may exist in the uterus. It offers remarkably accurate images that can lead to a more accurate diagnosis. Some of the advantages include clear imaging of the uterus with minimal pain or discomfort. The only disadvantage is the very rare possibility of pelvic infection.
Purpose and Pros and Cons of HSG
HSG is an alternative method of uterine imaging that also offers a view of the fallopian tubes. It is done using a contrast dye that an X-ray machine can detect.
Like a saline ultrasound, the HSG provides accurate imaging of the uterine cavity and information about the fallopian tubes. Patients may often experience more pain during HSG than during a saline ultrasound.
Ultrasound, IVF, and Fertility Solutions for Your Family
If you're looking for fertility support and compassionate care, entrust your family planning needs to the RMA Network. RMA Fertility Clinics offer 19 locations throughout four states, serving California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Florida.
Saline-infused ultrasounds are often performed in hospitals, doctor's offices, or fertility clinics. RMA fertility clinics offer saline ultrasounds to patients in California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Florida.
Saline ultrasound pain is generally minimal or nonexistent. Most patients report only mild discomfort, and many feel nothing at all. If you are worried about feeling pain, you may take a pain reliever such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen before the procedure.
Prices for a saline ultrasound vary widely and depend on whether you’re paying out-of-pocket or with insurance. If your insurance happens to cover a saline ultrasound, you may be able to have part or all of the cost covered. Talk to your doctor or one of our financial coordinators for more information on cost.
It’s best to schedule a saline sonogram early in your menstrual cycle. Ideally, this will be shortly after your period ends but before you ovulate, but your physician will determine the best time for the procedure.