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Does an HSG Hurt?

What You May Feel, How to Cope


Updated July 15, 2014

Gynecologist Talking To Pregnant Woman and her husband
Miodrag Gajic/E+/Getty Images

Many women wonder if the hysterosalpingogram (HSG) test will cause pain. An HSG involves transferring an iodine dye via the cervix into the uterus and fallopian tubes and then taking x-ray pictures. These pictures will help your doctor evaluate your fallopian tubes and uterine shape.

Does an HSG hurt?

You may or may not experience cramping during an HSG.

Some women report mild-to-moderate cramping. Some don't feel much of anything, and very few report severe cramping. (Personally, I didn't experience more than mild cramps, and it wasn't nearly as bad as I imagined it would be.)

The insertion of the device used to inject the dye in to the cervix may remind you of how a pap smear feels. If you tend to feel pain during regular pelvic exams, you may be more likely to experience cramps.

When the dye is injected, you may feel a strange warming sensation.

If one of the fallopian tubes is blocked, you may feel pain from the pressure of the dye against the blockage.

Taking ibuprofen an hour before the test can help.

When cramping does occur, it usually lasts a short five minutes, but some women have mild-to-moderate cramping for several hours after the procedure. Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter pain medication for post-HSG cramping.

Anxiety and fear about the test can increase your perception of pain. The test can be very awkward, with this big x-ray machine hovering over you while you're lying on your back, legs apart, with the speculum inside. They may ask you to roll over to your side for an x-ray or two, and you have to do it with the speculum still between your legs.

It's normal to feel nervous, and relaxed breathing through the procedure can help. A nurse offered to hold my hand, and I took her up on the offer.

When Pain Is Not Normal

While mild cramps are normal, if the pain seems to be increasing after the test or you develop a fever, be sure to contact your doctor.

There is a rare risk of infection following an HSG, and increasing pain may hint to a brewing infection.

More about the HSG test:

More on fertility testing:

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Hysterosalpingogram (HSG): Patient Fact Sheet. American Society of Reproductive Medicine. Accessed November 13, 2008. http://asrm.org/uploadedFiles/ASRM_Content/Resources/Patient_Resources/Fact_Sheets_and_Info_Booklets/hsg.pdf

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