HSG: The Dye Test



Initially when I started this blog, I wasn't going to dive too much into some personal things going on for F and I. But, after talking to a family friend who went through a very similar situation, I decided to share some aspects of this process. Why you ask? Well, fertility issues are something that, in some cases, seem to be a bit of a taboo topic. People don't know how to react to things couples are facing; couples don't know how to express how they are feeling to people who may not fully comprehend the situation. Couples don't want to tell everyone and their mom what is going on - it's private, personal. I've decided to share parts of our story, because in all honesty, I hope someone who's going through the same or similar situation will read what I've shared and will share and know that it's OK; know that they're not alone.
After some long talks, F and I have been referred to a fertility clinic. We both were getting to a very frustrated point in this process: when will we get answers? When will we see improvement? What is the issue? It's been over 2 years now with lots of diagnostic tests, visits to the doctor, visits to the lab. It's truly very draining physically and not to mention emotionally. After talking with both of our doctors, we opted to forego further "let's wait it out" speeches and asked for a referral to the fertility clinic.
After contacting the clinic to get in for an appointment, we found out we first had to get some further diagnostic treatment out of the way. This included another SA for F, some blood work and a hystersalpingogram (HSG or dye test) for me. I just had my HSG yesterday and this is something that I was completely dreading and petrified of. The HSG test is a live x-ray procedure to determine if there are any abnormalities of the uterus and fallopian tubes and/or any blockages. 
Here is the warning now: If you get kind of freaked out about medical procedures, read no further. I'm going to talk about how the HSG went for me, how I felt and feel, side-effects, etc.
The HSG: After getting prepped for the HSG, you're placed on a big table similar to when you get a pap smear - quite uncomfortable after a while, my legs were starting to tense from getting tired. The HSG is performed by first placing a catheter into the uterus. Once it is positioned correctly, you are slid back into a flat, lying position. The x-ray machine is placed over your abdomen and the physician begins to insert an iodine-based dye through the catheter into the uterus. 

What are they looking for exactly? The dye appears black on their images and they want to see the uterus fill with dye, then two thin lines on either side (indicating travel through the fallopian tubes) and then end by pooling out into the pelvic cavity.
How It Went: To be completely frank, a pap smear is a walk in the park compared to the HSG. The longest part for me was getting the catheter positioned. After trying for what felt like an hour, they got a new catheter and told me they were having difficulty placing it; that a possible bend in the cervical canal could be the "problem." I mentioned that I had been told my uterus was slightly tilted and adjustments were made. They also had to use medication to dilate the cervix twice to get enough clearance.  The inserting of the catheter wasn't terribly painful, but definitely uncomfortable. I felt short pinching sensations periodically. It wasn't until the balloon at the end had to be inflated that it got very uncomfortable. The physician was very aware of how I was reacting and would slow the process down and ask how I was feeling as we went along - which was really great. It gave me little breaks to breath and calm down. The nurse was also really great. Initially I was lying with my hands crossed on my chest. The nurse immediately came over, took one of my hands and told me to squeeze when it hurt. She then spent the entire time just chatting with me to keep me distracted - which helped to calm my nerves.
The worst pain was during the inserting of the dye. They didn't go too fast, but once I got a big rush of the dye into the uterus, I got a giant cramp. I also was holding by breath at this point, which I'm sure didn't help at all. We took a short break, I focused on my breathing and we were OK from there. As I said, the HSG is a live x-ray; my physician positioned the monitor so I could watch what was going on. They pointed things out and told me what was going on. After the uterus is visibly full of dye, they have you turn your hips slightly to either side to help the dye travel. Once they get all their images, the catheter is removed (not painful at all!) and the nurse helps you down and you get to go home.
How I Feel & Side-Effects: My doctor ordered a round of antibiotics to begin taking the day before and for a total of 5 days: this is to prevent any infection from occurring due to the leftover dye in the body. The nurse asked me if I was taking antibiotics, because, as she said, not all doctors will order them. With everything going on, I'm glad I was given some - I'm not normally very oversensitive about germs, colds etc. but we don't want anything of vital importance in this process to get damaged.
They warned me beforehand that the most common side-effect is cramping: I was told to take about 800mg of Motrin or Aleve about an hour before the test to help with any pain and cramping I had. I was at work prior to heading to the hospital, so I didn't take anything until about 30 minutes prior, but I don't think it was too late/not effective during the procedure. I was the most uncomfortable directly after the test. I had cramping and some shooting pains on the back side of my pelvis on either side.  F picked me up from the hospital, we picked up some lunch and headed home for the day. Personally, I didn't need to take any further pain meds, but I did take about an hour long nap in the late afternoon. I'm still feeling a bit crampy - but nothing too extreme. It feels mostly like light cramping I get before the onset of my cycle. I'm also feeling bloated - more so than I usually ever feel.
The only other side-effect (which everyone will have) is the leaking of the dye: it's got to go somewhere, right? It seems to have stopped already and they do send you home with pads; which just makes you feel like you're wearing a diaper. I was also told to expect some spotting since they had to dilate my cervix.
F was really concerned for me yesterday. He didn't really want me doing anything, but after lying on the couch all afternoon and staring at the dust on the coffee table, I decided to get up and clean it. He kept asking me if I was certain I wanted to clean. He would also get freaked out if one of the dogs would come up on the couch to cuddle with me if they got too close to my abdomen. I don't like to be babied, but it is really sweet how much empathy he has when something is going on with me.
In all, the procedure wasn't all too bad; it was mostly just my nerves - worried if something was wrong, if it would hurt, etc. I was told at the end that everything looked clear and free of any abnormalities and that the full report would be sent to my doctor by the end of the day. Now we get to schedule our consultation at the fertility clinic to discuss what our options are. I'd love to hear about anyone else's experiences!

CONVERSATION

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