Health Scoop

A simple test may help with getting pregnant

WHAT IF A simple X-ray improved your chances of getting pregnant? Believe it or not this is exactly what one study found.

A hysterosalpingography is an imaging test done when a woman has difficulty getting pregnant. It looks for abnormalities and blockages in the uterus and ovarian tubes. It’s basically akin to a fancy Pap smear, except unlike a Pap smear, a catheter is first inserted making way for the camera that will provide info. Before the camera is inserted contrast is shot up the uterus and tubes to clear the way. The contrast material that travels through the Fallopian tubes and can sometimes open up blockages made by biological debris. It turns out that contrast material can be more than just a pipe cleaner. It can actually promote pregnancy.

According to this study, infertile women who had this test done had a much higher chance of becoming pregnant within the next 6 months when the study used an oil based contrast instead of a water based one to view the pelvic structures.  So bottom line is that just looking for structural abnormalities may actually get rid of a problem.

Another benefit of an oil based contrast is that it may have an effect on macrophage activity. Macrophages are immune cells that act like little Pak-men that eat up debris in our body. They can promote endometrial receptivity which means the uterus becomes a more favorable environment for implantation of an incoming embryo. In early pregnancy, these little guys secrete factors that stimulate blood vessel remodeling for creating sufficient circulation between the uterus and the placenta.

So if you and your hubby are family planning with no results, and your gyn offers this study, ask about the difference between the contrast used for the Xray, and see if an oil based contrast media is an option. Although the media injected through the catheter may cause some cramping and some minor discomfort during the procedure (full discretion!), bear the cramping with bravado. It may be totally worth it.


Dryer et al. Oil-Based or Water-Based Contrast for Hysterosalpingography in Infertile Women. NEJM. 2017.

Lee et al. Role of endometrial immune cells in implantation. Clin Exp Reprod Med. 2011

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