A woman is born with millions of immature eggs waiting to be released from the ovary. When you ovulate, a mature egg is released through the fallopian tube, and becomes available for fertilization. Since egg + sperm = baby, to prepare for the same, the uterine walls thicken in anticipation. In the event that no conception occurs, both the uterine lining and blood will be shed by the body as the monthly process of menstruation.
Now an egg is available to be fertilized by a sperm for only 12-24 hours, and at a given ovulation cycle, it is just one mature egg that is released. If you are trying for a pregnancy, this is the time to have an intercourse to get favorable results. Most women who have regular menstrual cycles will ovulate between day 11th and day 21st of the cycle, counted from the first day of the last menstrual period. However, this is not necessary, and many women may ovulate at different times or different day each month. This is why it is important to track your cycles and hence ovulation, especially if you are not very regular with your sexual routine. One such method that is adopted by doctors is the transvaginal ultrasound follicular tracking or folliculometry.
The female reproductive system has small tissues called ovarian follicles that contain and release eggs for fertilization during ovulation. Simply put, follicular tracking is a series of vaginal scans, so as to help your precisely know when you are ovulating. Generally, these scans will start around day 9th of your cycle and continue till day 20th. The doctor will observe the follicle development occurring in your ovaries. It is a vital process for getting pregnant through fertility treatments like IVF.
Performed via an ultrasound, a follicular study examines the ovarian follicles and takes pictures of the internal organs which are further analyzed. The scans are done by inserting a small plastic probe into the vagina, maintaining the highest levels of hygiene and cleanliness. The process is relatively painless, and you will be asked to lie in a stirrup position while the scan is carried out. You will be covered with a sheet from your waist down. A qualified sonographer or the doctor will be able to tell the exact time when the egg will be released, and thus a couple can plan an intercourse at that time to maximize the chances of conception. The probe clicks the pictures of the internal organs by releasing sound waves. The tissues containing eggs and the endometrial lining are studied to determine the period you are likely to ovulate. Your doctor would then ask you to have sex during this period to increase your chances of getting pregnant. It is especially vital for women who are trying to conceive through assisted reproductive techniques like IVF.
Though any woman trying to get pregnant can get a follicle scan done, it is more largely recommended as a first line of treatment for couples who have not been able to conceive even after trying for many months. Age of the woman may also play a significant role as good eggs cease in women who are in their late 30’s or in 40’s. The pregnancy rates can decline sharply after a woman crosses the age of 35. Furthermore, a follicular tracking may also be beneficial for women who:
A follicular scan helps in ascertaining the size of any active follicles in the ovaries that can contain an egg and effectively predict ovulation so that fertilization can take place naturally. After a follicular scan, a couple can try for pregnancy when ovulation is likely to happen. If pregnancy is to take place through a fertility treatment, the scan helps to determine the presence of follicles and the best time to extract an egg for fertilization.
The follicular tracking scan will generally take about 5 to 10 minutes, provided you are maintaining a good stirrup position and are cooperative with the doctor. A written report is generally handed over later.
Because the ovulation window is wide, in each cycle about 4-6 scans will be required. The base line scan will help the doctor know the initial stage of the follicle, and from there the development will be closely followed. The next scan will be scheduled accordingly. As the cycle progresses, the follicle growth and womb lining will be ascertained. The scan will give a very clear picture of the developments happening and the right time of ovulation will be arrived at.
Yes, as a fact, a follicular study will also detect some other issues that may impede a pregnancy. Some of them are:
All these parameters help the doctor and you to know what and when things are happening, and what is not happening. It makes it easier to identify the problems and thus impart treatment or corrective measures.
Though medically there are no side effects as such, it can however be taxing and stressful for a couple to get these scans done every few days. Some couples feel that such scans ruin their sexual compatibility and thus gives way to marital disharmony. Men tend to feel that the way to make a baby is having regular sex, while women want to have sex only when they are ovulating. Sex on demand can essentially bring havoc to a man’s desire, as he may feel he is being reduced to a mere sperm donor. Scheduling sex also takes away all the fun from it, and hence a lot of understanding and cohesiveness is required from both the partners. A woman may also feel specifically frustrated when she is asked to lie down and a probe is inserted into her vagina every few days.
However, repeated follicular studies should be avoided. To track ovulation, cervical discharge can be observed or calendars can be charted, but baby making should not be an obsession about eggs and ovulation.
All the best!