Understanding your ovulation cycle and being able to track it meticulously can be the first step towards conceiving naturally. Cycle monitoring can be both an investigation as well as a treatment. A Transvaginal ultrasound will be performed to assess uterus, ovaries and evaluation in detail will be done to note any abnormalities which could help to explain why a woman may be have difficulty conceiving.
An ovarian follicle is a sac full of fluid found in a woman’s ovaries. Each follicle contains an immature egg called an oocyte. At the beginning of a woman’s cycle, several follicles begin to develop, but by the time the woman reaches the middle of her menstrual cycle, only one follicle will have matured enough and is known as the 'dominant follicle'.
This dominant follicle will release an egg during ovulation. Follicular study or follicular monitoring is the process through which a doctor watches a follicle develop from early in the menstrual cycle, till the time it is ready to release the egg. The monitoring is done with the help of ultrasound scans.
The scans done to monitor the development of your follicles will also look at the consistency and thickness of the uterine lining.
A follicular study 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 most accurate way to perform a follicular study is through a transvaginal ultrasound. In this process, you will have to lie on your back with your legs raised and bent. The ultrasonologist will insert a probe into the vagina. The ultrasound will pick up images of the ovaries and follicles.
You will have to empty your bladder before the ultrasound scan as a full bladder can interfere with the results.
“Is the follicular study scan painful ?”
“The ultrasound does not hurt but it may feel uncomfortable to have the probe inside you.”
Follicular scans are usually recommended to :
- study the number of follicles
- observe the changes in the uterine lining
- determine the ovulation period so that intercourse/IUI/IVF procedure can be timed accordingly
- understand whether the dosage of any fertility drugs given is appropriate or needs to be changed
The process can also help identify any problems with the growth of follicles or other ovulation problems.
Women with PCOS who have irregular cycles and those above 35 years who’ve been trying to conceive for six months are also advised follicular scans.