A Closer Look At Fertility Problems
Female infertility is a common problem affecting almost 1 in 10 women of reproductive age. The causes of female infertility are wide-ranging. Endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), poor ovarian reserve, and uterine fibroids are all causes of infertility. Doctors can often diagnose and even treat the root of the problem through a medical procedure called hysteroscopy. Treating the underlying cause will significantly improve the chances of a successful future pregnancy.
What is a hysteroscopy?
Hysteroscopy is the direct visual inspection of the uterine cavity or uterus without the need for surgical incisions. The cervix is usually numbed with a local anesthetic, but general anesthesia can be used during more complex or longer procedures. The doctor will first use a tool to keep the vagina open, and an antiseptic will clean the vaginal walls and cervix. Next, a small tube goes into the cervix through the vagina. The hysteroscope is inserted through this tube, allowing visualization of the uterine cavity on an external screen. Additional fluid may be added to provide a clearer picture. The doctor can then perform the diagnosis and treatment as necessary. The patient can leave the office shortly after the process is completed.
A powerful diagnostic tool
A hysteroscopy can be used to diagnose problems, but in some cases, the doctor can also treat any abnormalities identified in the uterus. During the procedure, the doctor uses the hysteroscope to look for abnormal uterine tissue that could cause problems during pregnancy. Typical examples include polyps, fibroids, cysts, and infections. If these problems are identified, the OB/GYN can treat the issue and help the woman conceive or carry a healthy pregnancy to term. For example, polyps or fibroids can be surgically removed to improve the uterine environment. Studies show that hysteroscopy can improve live birth rates, especially for women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Risks are rare
Hysteroscopy is considered a safe procedure. There are only mild side effects like pain, cramping, and minor bleeding or spotting. The main risk associated with hysteroscopy is the possibility of a tear in the uterine wall, which would require surgical repair. A few risks are also associated with general anesthesia, but these are rare. Overall, the risk of the procedure is low, and the benefits far outweigh the risks.
Are you a candidate?
Hysteroscopy may help women with problems getting pregnant or who have experienced multiple miscarriages. This procedure is an excellent first step to determine any underlying issues before moving on to more expensive and invasive treatments like intrauterine insemination (IUI) and IVF.