Female Infertility and Imaging: 3 Facts to Know
If you want to have a baby, it’s natural to have concerns about anything that could affect your chances of getting pregnant. Fortunately, that doesn’t include routine diagnostic imaging scans, such as X-ray and CT scans, that use low-dose radiation. These scans have not been shown to cause reproductive problems or female infertility, and it’s safe to undergo them if you want to get pregnant one day. Imaging scans don’t affect fertility, but they can play an important role in diagnosing infertility. Learn more about female infertility and imaging with these three facts.
1. The radiation in routine scans is too low to cause female infertility.
You likely know that too much radiation can be harmful to your health, and that includes your reproductive health. High doses of radiation can cause female and male infertility by destroying eggs and sperm. However, CT scans and X-rays use low doses—too low to damage eggs and sperm, even if the reproductive organs are directly exposed. In addition, there’s no evidence that low-dose radiation increases the risk of a miscarriage or birth defect.
Wondering if it’s safe to have an MRI, which doesn’t use radiation? No need to be concerned—this type of imaging hasn’t been shown to cause fertility problems.
2. Problems with ovulation are the most common cause of female infertility.
Routine diagnostic imaging exams won’t make you infertile. However, many other factors can cause or increase your risk for female infertility, including ovulation problems. If your menstrual periods are irregular, it could be a sign of an ovulation issue. In many cases, ovulation problems are due to a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome. This is a hormone imbalance that interferes with the ovaries’ ability to produce and release eggs.
Other factors that can contribute to or raise the risk of female infertility include:
- Age. Fertility usually starts declining at age 30 and continues to fall as you get older.
- Excess weight. Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of infertility.
- Lifestyle factors. If you smoke, follow an unhealthy diet, experience excessive stress or drink too much alcohol, your infertility risk is higher.
- Problems with the fallopian tubes. Certain conditions, such as endometriosis, can block the fallopian tubes.
- Problems with the uterus. These include uterine fibroids, which are noncancerous growths in the uterine muscle.
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs). STIs can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which is an infection of the reproductive organs. This infection can damage the organs, potentially leading to female infertility.
3. Ultrasounds can be an important tool for diagnosing infertility.
If your doctor suspects female infertility, he or she will look to gather information using a variety of methods to confirm the diagnosis. You may need to track your ovulation at home for a few months or undergo blood tests.
In addition, your doctor may order an ultrasound of the ovaries to look for conditions or structural changes that can cause fertility problems.
Has your doctor ordered an MRI, CT or ultrasound scan? Find an American Health Imaging location near you and request an appointment.