IVF ultrasound, also known as transvaginal ultrasound, is a medical procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of the female reproductive system. It is a crucial step in the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process, which involves the fertilization of an egg outside the body and its subsequent implantation into the uterus.
During the IVF ultrasound, a small ultrasound probe is inserted into the vagina to provide detailed images of the ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes. This allows the doctor to assess the number and size of follicles, which contain the eggs that will be retrieved for fertilization. The ultrasound also helps the doctor to monitor the growth and development of the follicles and to determine the optimal time for egg retrieval.
In summary, the IVF ultrasound is an important tool used in the IVF process to monitor follicle growth and to determine the best time for egg retrieval, helping to increase the chances of a successful pregnancy. (1)
What is Baseline Ultrasound?
Before IVF treatment begins, a baseline ultrasound is conducted to assess the woman’s ovaries’ health and determine whether any mature eggs are being produced. This ultrasound is done during the woman’s monthly cycle.
The fertility specialist can identify issues such as ovarian cysts during the examination and may require additional treatment before beginning IVF treatment. If there are no issues found during the ultrasound, the IVF treatment can proceed as planned. (2)
What is ultrasound used for?
- Fertility Drug Monitoring
Fertility drug monitoring using ultrasound is an essential part of the initial stage of IVF treatment, which involves stimulating the ovaries to produce mature follicles using fertility medication, usually administered via injections.
To monitor the effectiveness of the medication, patients will undergo multiple ultrasounds during this stage of treatment, usually starting three days after the first injection and then scheduled every one to two days. These ultrasounds provide important information that helps the doctor decide whether to proceed to the next stage of treatment or adjust the medication plan.
- Egg Retrieval
After mature eggs are produced in the ovaries during the IVF treatment, medical professionals collect them for fertilization in the laboratory. To ensure that the eggs are not damaged during this process, extreme care and precision are necessary.
Therefore, doctors rely on ultrasound technology for guidance during the egg retrieval procedure. By using ultrasound as a visual guide, your doctor can collect the mature eggs with great care and accuracy, minimizing any potential harm to the eggs or surrounding tissues.
Embryo Transfer and Pregnancy
Ultrasound technology is utilized by fertility experts during the embryo transfer process to ensure the safe and accurate transfer of healthy embryos into the uterus. If a pregnancy occurs, additional ultrasounds will be used to track fetal growth.
Typically, the first ultrasound is scheduled at around six or seven weeks after embryo transfer, with follow-up ultrasounds at around week nine and week 12 of pregnancy. After the week 12 ultrasound, prenatal care will usually be transferred to the patient’s OB/GYN. (3)
According to fertility expert Raúl Olivares,
The frequency of ultrasound scans during IVF treatment depends on the protocol used. With a long protocol, scans may be required even before starting stimulation, while a traditional protocol with antagonists may only require a few scans; the first one between days 8-10 of the cycle and the second a couple of days later. If the ovaries don’t respond as expected, more scans may be necessary to ensure the right number and size of follicles are present for oocyte pick-up.This is not a problem and is done to reach the desired outcome.
Strickler, R. C., Christianson, C., Crane, J. P., Curato, A., Knight, A. B., & Yang, V. (1985). Ultrasound guidance for human embryo transfer. Fertility and sterility, 43(1), 54-61.