I wasn’t going to post a long drawn out story about my hsg, because I thought it would just be boring, so I created the shorter list style post. Since then, I’ve realized several things. 1) I had a somewhat different experience form those in blog land as well as Fertility Friend land and 2) we owe it to each other to demystify this “scary” test. I warn you now this is a graphic post. I speak of blood and use the word vagina a lot. So here goes:

I’ll start at the very beginning; HSG stands for hysterosalpingogram and its purpose is to evaluate a woman’s uterus and tubes. Achieving pregnancy is compromised if there is blockage in the tubes. A gynecologist and radiologist are present during the procedure, which usually takes place in a hospital.

My test was scheduled for more than two months, and there was a chance I wouldn’t have to do it, had I gotten pregnant last time around. I was really nervous about the test because all I’ve ever heard is that it hurts like hell. In the days leading up to the test I did not think about it, for fear of obsessing and working myself up. The night before the test I had a nightmare that I could not find the hospital (a joke, because I am all too well acquainted with my hospital). My sleep was interrupted all night as my slumber thoughts were invaded by my fears.

My partner, A. took me to the appointment. Entering the hospital, I knew little about what would happen. Partly this was my own fault. I was so nervous about the procedure that I did not fully inform myself of what to expect. Once we made it past registration (no small feat at my hospital), we waited in the radiology waiting room. Not long after a very nice nurse came to get me and brought us to the exam room. Now if you’ve been following here, you know I spend a lot of time in stirrups, so naturally I was expecting to enter a similar exam room. The one word I would use to explain the room I entered: horror. This was a large room, with huge equipment – radiology equipment, dozens of aprons to shield bystanders during procedures (my wife was hot in her apron!), large gloves (not sure what for). The exam table was long with a thing-a-majig above it that slides and is used to transmit the image onto the screen that was hanging from the ceiling. The nice nurse who brought us in handed us off to caring nurse.

Caring nurse directed me to the bathroom and had me undress. I came back out and that was when I realized the table was hard and there were no stirrups. My wife had a rant about how this is misogynist, but I’ll leave that one up to her if she wants to post about it. I sat and wondered how the hell this was going to work. The gynocologeist entered and started prepping everything. I was taken aback by the formalities. The nurse called her “doctor” as she did the radiologist as well. I am not used to the medical establishment, as I call my midwife by her name. The formality was odd to me.

As the gyno started prepping I noticed a tray, wrapped in blue hospital paper. She opened it and I was horrified at the number of instruments. I told her so. She assured me she wouldn’t be using them all, that the tray comes pre-packed. I found that odd, but whatever. Then she takes a needle and goes on to tell me that it’s a really long needle but that’s just because it has to go deep into my vagina. Somehow this did not make me feel any better about the needle size. She told me the needle was used to inject novacaine (something I have since learned is not standard procedure, but I think helped). I’ll say it again, I was terrified, I wanted to tell her no needle, no novacaine, but my fear paralyzed me and I was not really in a place to argue the procedure.

The gyno had a great sense of humor and used it to try to put me at ease (but since the xanax I’d taken was barely taking the edge off, humor sure was not going to cure me). She said to me, “there are no stirrups on this table so the only way I’ve ever been able to do this in any respectable way, is to have you put your feet on my shoulders.” My feet. on. her shoulders. Am I not in a HOSPITAL?! I did as she said. And she began inserting object upon object into my vagina, but first she opened me with the largest speculum known to womankind and apologized about the size- it was a by-product of the pre-packed tray phenomenon. It hurt going in, but she was then able to get everything all set up, and it felt the same as an iui feels to me- a little crampy, but nothing too bad. My vagina, cervix, and uterus were prepped and ready, and she took the speculum out. And oh my god did it hurt. This was the only part that seemed cruel, I could no longer fight the tears, I just let them flow for a few seconds and it helped…I got a lot of the anxiety out and was ready for the next step. Through the whole thing A. held my hand, as I squeezed hers and she reminded me to breathe. The gyno said that would probably be the worst part for me and the caring nurse said it was the equivalent of me delivering an 8 lb. baby, I am not so sure about that, but she was trying to make me feel better (and it was in the context of her telling me that one of her kids was 8 lbs. at birth- and yes I did ask if she had children).

Caring nurse slid me up so I was under the contraption that would read the dye. I was feeling a lot better and now we were just waiting for the radiologist to come in. He entered and was a goofy older man, he never did introduce himself. It’s kind of weird, some dude is checking out my uterus and we never really met. Once the gyno and the radiologist were ready the gyno injected the dye. I felt the rush of the dye as it was released, and my eyes were glued to the t.v. screen. I had no idea what I was looking for, but I figured if I saw the dye move forward and fast, then I was in the clear, so to speak. It did and I felt no pain at all. From what I’ve been told if there is a block, the dye can be quite painful.

Once the test was over caring nurse pushed me back to the end of the table and the gyno began extracting the catheter and other things from my vagina (I really have no idea what she had in there). There was this one thing she was calling an “acorn” that she could not get out. Having no idea how big it was, I thought to myself, It’s okay, just let me go home, I’m sure it will fall out by itself. And then after trying with her hand and a tweezer thing (which pinched me)she told me to go into the bathroom and see if I could push it out. Excuse me?! Caring nurse helped me to slowly get off the table, for the first time I saw tons of blood and the extent of instruments that were used, and she ushers me to the bathroom. I get in there and have NO idea what I am supposed to be doing. I sit on the toilette and blood comes out. Not knowing what it is I am trying to push out, I am not sure if it fell into the toilette or not. But soon I realize there is nothing but water and blood in toilette. I am faced with two options. I could tell her I got it out and go home or I could open the bathroom door and tell her I have no idea what I am supposed to be doing, I did the latter.

She came in and verified that it did not fall into the toilette. Yes, a total stranger looked into a toilette that I had just bled into. She told me to squat and bear down, while she stuck her hand up my vagina to get it. This took a little maneuvering and she told me I was doing great. Good to know. It took her a few moments, but she got the “acorn” out and it I felt really dumb for thinking I wouldn’t have known if it had fallen into the toilette – it was the size of The Keeper. No lie. She left the bathroom, I cleaned myself up a bit and got dressed.

The whole thing felt very surreal. I have never been so vulnerable in front of a medical professional. I think I felt even more vulnerable because my experience with my midwife is far more holistic and I feel in control, where as the doctors, they take control. The gyno wrote me a prescription for an antibiotic and sent us on our way. From start to finish, we were in that horrible room for about thirty minutes, but it felt like forever.

In the end the test itself was not bad. But maybe I misunderstood what was so bad for others, maybe they too struggled with the set up more than the dye squirting. I was so terrified of experiencing pain when the dye was released and had no idea that all the prep work would cause so much discomfort. I wanted to share this, my experience, because I really could have benefited from knowing just what was going to happen. I was too scared to inform myself because I’ve read and heard so much about how horrible this test is. I know it’s cliche, but knowledge is power, and had I known the set up would be so difficult, I would have been better prepared for the experience. While this was the most invasive test I’ve ever had, it was over quickly and the doctors and nurse attending could not have been better or made me feel any more relaxed (well they could have put me out…). I really wish I knew caring nurse’s name because I would send her a card thanking her. She was really great.

Go ahead and ask questions if you’ve got them. I don’t want this test to be a scary mystery to anyone.