How To Prepare for Your First HSG (Hysterosalpingography)
This morning I had my first HSG and lived to tell you all about it! Honestly, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be but I understand that everyone may have different experiences.
In case you missed my last blog post, click here to read my recap of our consultation with our new reproductive endocrinologist (fertility specialist), Dr. P. Reading that blog post may help preface this one.
First, let's talk about what HSG is because I know that everyone reading my blog has not had one done or may not have even heard of it because you are only months into trying to conceive. HSG stands for Hysterosalpingography and no, I cannot say that word out loud. I need to meet the men and women who make up these things! If you Google search "HSG" you'll find the word "procedure" used a lot and I would like to change that because I don't think it's technically a procedure. To me, it was more of an exam. And I think if people called it an exam more often, it would be a lot less scary. According to Wikipedia, which we all know isn't the most trusted source, an HSG is described as, "a radiologic procedure to investigate the shape of the uterine cavity and the shape and latency of the Fallopian tubes". Again, that is a great description except I thought of it more like an exam.
Leading up to my HSG, I was so nervous. I already suffer from generalized anxiety as it is so the thought of having to do this exam was not something that I was looking forward to but when I researched the topic more and saw words like "catheter" and "inserted into the cervix", my chest got tight. I mean, that sounds so painful. Am I right? Luckily, I have such supportive women all around me so I can ask for opinions and experiences and get honest answers. I talked to multiple Dreamers on Instagram and I got a few bad experiences and more than a few good experiences. It seemed like the bad experiences were just a lot of pain and cramping after the fact. In my support group, all of the women that offered up their experience said that it wasn't that bad and the anxiety was worse than the actual exam.
I titled this blog post "how to prepare for your first HCG" because I want to share with all of you what I did to prepare my body for my appointment today. I have Endometriosis so I have pain a lot of the time and cramping randomly, is my body's specialty. Pap smears are often very painful for me as is sex. It's not always like that but 8 out of 10 times, it is. So I just assumed that this exam would be super duper painful for me because of the pain and cramping I experience with Pap smears. I mean, at my last Pap smear -- I cramped for 2 days. It was very painful. For 2 days before my appointment, I drank a lot (and I really mean a lot) of water. Something that I learned when I worked in the medical field is that when your body is well hydrated, your pain tolerance is higher because your body can react to pain differently. It makes perfect sense. Along with drinking water, I also thought it would be smart to baby dance the night before our appointment. To be totally honest, I had just had my period and we had a lot going on so it's been at least a few weeks. And because I already have a hard time with the pain aspect, I thought it would be best and may help my situation. And the last thing that I did to prepare was take 2 Advil, 45 minutes prior to my appointment. I didn't have to do a lot to prep my body but I think that doing these three things, really helped me. I almost did acupuncture for pain beforehand but my appointment was just too early.
Now that I told you how I prepared for the appointment, let's talk about the actual appointment itself. When the nurse called me back, I thought I would have a few minutes to collect myself, get vitals, weight, etc but no, we didn't do any of that for this appointment. She literally took me right back to an exam room that had stirrups, an X-ray machine, and a bunch of monitors. She told me to undress from the waist down only, laid the one sheet on the table for me to use to cover up with, and left a pad on the table and said "you'll need this afterwards because the dye will leak out of you" and then she left the room. I could tell that they literally do these daily and just knew how to get in and out, which I appreciated.
I felt so awkward undressing and sitting on this table. The one-sheet was very small and hardly covered my lab so my butt was showing from behind. Not a cute look! The doctor came in the room, and not the same doctor I saw at my consultation, introduced himself, explained what we were doing today, and told me how to put my legs in the stirrups. About 20 seconds after my legs were in the air, the catheter was already inserted in my cervix. This guy was good, I didn't feel a thing. There was a speculum in there just like a pelvic exam but they don't have to open it as wide (at least that's what it felt like to me) and the only thing I felt was a little pressure when he inserted the catheter. It felt a lot like having to pee, honestly.
I actually thought that this exam was really cool. The doctor told me to look at the screen and showed me what I was looking at, which was my uterus and my Fallopian tubes. I got to watch as he inserted the dye. Now for the good news, he said my uterus shape looked great and the dye flowed through my tubes quick and smooth! Everything checked out. I was so relieved to hear that but part of me was bothered because at least if something was wrong with my tubes - I would know why I wasn't pregnant.
But, I'll take this good news because I did not want surgery or anything like that.
My advice for anyone having to do the HSG is to not worry about it at all. Drink your water, maybe baby dance the day before, and take ibuprofen! I think that the trio really helped me. I also drank a large coffee before the exam but that was a selfish want on my part. Caffeine calms my nerves for some reason. Definitely don't worry about it. I know it's natural because it seems scary but I was in the exam room for maybe 3-5 minutes total. It was quick, I got the results in real time, and it was not painful at all.
Now don't be alarmed after the exam, the dye is red and it does come out of you for the next few minutes so it looks like blood. You may even bleed a little because that happens when something goes in and out of our cervix. It's totally normal however if you cramping is severe and the bleeding continues - I would call your doctor! That's what I was told after my exam.
The next step for us is for my husband to complete his semen analysis. We live a little over an hour away from the clinic so he has to do it in office and he is not very excited about it but he knows it's important. I think it's pretty nervous about the results too. If you have any advice for him, comment below! I know it would calm his nerves.