A test for infertility patients, a Hysterosalpingiogram is an x-ray of the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. This is done as an outpatient procedure, and doesn’t have to be done in a hospital. Mine was, because my doctors office happens to be attached to the hospital.
After my husband’s sperm count came back normal, I was scheduled for a Hysterosalpingiogram, or HSG. I was anxious to find out what was happening – I suspected the problem was probably with me because my husband is a young buck at only 30 years old. I was the ‘old lady’ over 35 (37 going on 38).
I read about the HSG test just a little bit online. Contrary to my usual habits, I denied entertaining my curiosity with information about the test, and relied only on the information sheet the ob/gyn gave me when I scheduled the test. I came to really regret that decision!
What happens during an HSG procedure?
I’d like to share with you what I experienced during my HSG. I wish I was more prepared before mine, and would have really appreciated this kind of ‘heads up’ from someone. You should keep in mind, though, that my experience may not be typical, and yours may be completely different.
I went to the hospital on the day of the HSG, and my husband and I waited anxiously to be called. Once I went in, I was shown to a dressing room where I was to change into a hospital gown, removing all clothing from the waist down. I waited in the dressing room to be called, and my husband and I went back to the radiology room where there was a big metal table with a lining covering it.
The assistant helped me onto the table and I laid down, waiting for the doctor to arrive, who did, moments later. He put a round ‘bolster’ pillow beneath my lower back – only it was no pillow – it was really hard and pretty uncomfortable. He inserted a speculum and followed with the tube that the iodine would flow from. It was a little uncomfortable at that point – it felt mostly ‘icky’. I remember asking the doctor if that was ‘it’. I’m not sure how I could have thought that, really, but I guess I was anxious and didn’t really know what was happening (and maybe a little hopeful too!) Once that was in place he removed the rock pillow and I could then lay flat. The radiologist entered, and they asked my husband to leave – they were ready to begin.
Does an HSG hurt?
After I had my HSG, I read online that some women describe the procedure as ‘a little uncomfortable’. I think now that the level of discomfort involved may have to do with the presence or extent of a blocked tube or tubes. Maybe it’s the skill of the doctor performing it, or both.
When the dye was going in, at first it was just a little uncomfortable. I heard the gynecologist and radiologist talking, and I could see the screen with the x-ray projection out of the corner of my eye. After a few seconds, it began to hurt – really hurt. I heard the gynecologist saying that there was blockage in the right tube. I knew then that HSGs could sometimes clear a blocked tube, and I suspected he would try to blow through the blockage.
Now, I am generally a pretty tough cookie, I think, but at that moment I felt as smooshy as a marshmallow. I was hurting so much that tears came to my eyes, and I was moaning. The assistant gave me her hand to hold. She was very young, and I wondered if this was her first HSG. She looked truly concerned for me, and I saw real sympathy in her eyes. She was my angel that day. I told her I was glad my husband wasn’t in the room to see me go through that – I know it would have upset him. I laid there, almost in disbelief that this was causing so much pain. I tried bracing myself and reassuring myself that surely it would be over in a second. Monitor? No, I didn’t remember to look at the monitor – I was in too much pain.
Once the torture was over, the angel called for my husband to return, and she helped me to sit up. The doctor told us that my right tube was blocked, and that meant that every other month I had a chance to get pregnant, but on those months that I ovulated on the right side, I wouldn’t be able to. I wondered then if it was so black and white, that alternated sides every month for ovulation. I did some research later on that showed that it generally does happen that way, though, naturally, there are exceptions.
Anyway, after the 1 minute result debriefing, the doctor was gone as fast as he arrived. After I got up from the table, I was bleeding pretty good, and didn’t realize it until I stood up and saw the trail I had left on the table. I apologized – how silly – and the assistant assured me it was okay. There was a bathroom just off the radiology room we were in, so she showed me to it, along with my husband who carried my clothes and a pad.
I got dressed, and felt pretty okay. I was shaking a bit, cramping a little, but nothing near the pain I felt when he was trying to force the dye through. I think I was mostly relieved it was over at that point. I went home and either rested or worked the rest of the day, I don’t remember. The pain after the HSG was quite insignificant. For the next week to 10 days, I had pain in my right side, where the tube was blocked. I assumed it was sore from the experience, and it eventually went away.
All HSG experiences are different. Some women describe it as ‘a little uncomfortable’. I suspect that either has to do with the amount of blockage or the doctor performing the HSG, or both. Tylenol will help alleviate the cramping afterward (again, mine was really insignificant). The question that kept ringing in my head after the HSG was, if the HSG was as painful as it was, how painful would giving birth be?! At least, though, the end justifies the means without a doubt during childbirth.
What was your experience?Learn more about Hysterosalpingiograms and get answers to your questions.