24 June 2010, by Tan Yi Lin

The Day I Got A Grammy

A Grammy: that was how I thought of it before I made the effort to remember the longer version.

Make that a 7-syllable longer version: Hys-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-gram.

Despite the information pamphlets and over-the-counter explanations given by the nurses at the hospital, it was only a few days before I was due to go undergo the test that I finally locked down the word in my brain: hysterosalpingogram.

Yups, today’s episode of MaybeBaby is brought to you by Really Long Words. Dannie just blogged about Teratozoospermia (a word that somehow reminds me of terrapins and Ninja Turtles… and thus, green sperm. Okay, nevermind.) It’s a case of 6 syllables versus 7 syllables… I win! 🙂

So there I was, on an afternoon sometime back in March, waiting (somewhat anxiously) at KKH for my number and name to get called. I looked around the waiting room and what struck me was the constant stream of ladies, mostly of them dressed in office attire, click-clacking into the room in their shiny work shoes.

All of them walked up to the counter and very matter-of-factly informed the nurse that they had an appointment for hysterosalpingography (yes, the 7-syllable tongue twister can actually get longer when used in a different form.) It was almost as if they were visiting their hairdresser or nail spa. In fact, there was one patient whose conversation I overhead (okay, eavesdropped on), who told the nurse that she had to be back in the office at 5pm for a meeting. I didn’t know whether to be in awe or be worried that she was treating a major fertility test like any other work appointment and was expecting to get it done quickly, wipe up (it is a rather messy affair) and get on with her work day. When informed by the nurse that she wouldn’t be able to make it back to the office in time for her meeting, she promptly canceled the test, whipped out her PDA and keyed in the next available date for the test – which, with KKH being the popular choice of thousands of women, would only be a few weeks later.

The truth is, I found the scene pretty disturbing. Firstly, the line of women (me included) queuing for their turn showed that there was quite a demand for hysterosalpingography. Which in turn meant that instead of storks knocking on our doors, the threat of infertility was fast taking the place of friendly birds with baby in beak. Not good.

Secondly, the women coming for the test all touted the corporate look: shirt, jacket, pencil skirt, high heels and handbag in tow. Which could mean that long hours in the office and stress due to work is a key factor in the inability to conceive.

Thirdly, the patients all looked like they were around my age (30-going-on-31) or older. So, as we all already know, women are having children at an older age. If at all.

Yes, it was a pretty glum scene in the waiting room that day. But what made it a scary glum scene was the flippant attitude of the busy woman who decided that she couldn’t – or wouldn’t – make the time to conduct a fertility check because being late for a work-related appointment was not acceptable – whereas being late for a chance at motherhood was okay.

The sound of the nurse calling my name woke me up from my thoughts.

I entered the examination room, laid on the bed (which felt more like a table) and (with much trepidation), did what I was instructed: spread my legs…

Now, before we venture deeper (no pun intended) with the details: hysterosalpingography is a process whereby coloured dye is injected into the cervix and allowed to run up through the fallopian tubes and (hopefully), back out into the womb. The purpose of this test is to assess whether the tubes are blocked. For the benefit of readers who need a GPS to orientate around a woman’s reproductive system: when an egg is released from a ripened follicle in the ovary every month, the egg will travel down the fallopian tube before being released into the womb, where it sits and waits patiently (cue Disney song “someday my prince will come…”) for the sperm to sniff it out and hone in on the target. So basically, if there is a roadblock along the path, the sperm and egg cannot meet. Conception thus cannot happen.

Now back to the gory details: the doctor inserted a catheter (don’t worry, the word sounds more painful than the actual process) and pushed it through my cervix. The situation was more awkward than it was painful. Awkward cos at least 3 to 4 people were gawking at the action scene between my legs. Even more awkward was having to watch a guy at close range – who is not my husband – focus intently on sticking a tubular device up my pu**y (think “cat”. Meow.)

The sensation, as the dye was pumped in through the catheter, was similar to that of having menstrual cramps – unpleasant, but bearable. The doctor (with one hand still between my thighs to hold the tube in place) drew my attention to the “live” action on the screen next to me. I watched as a shadowed stream trickled up from the womb and halfway through my tubes before making a sort of U-turn towards the ovaries. (In case you readers are directionally-challenged and getting confused, the test is done in the opposite direction of the actual path the egg takes from ovary to womb.)

I held my breath and prayed that the dark stream would continue merrily on its Journey to the Centre of Birth. I even silently cheered it on… (Go inky go! Please don’t dye on me now…)

Both the flow on each side slowed down as the ink neared the ovaries…

… the ink on one side started to pool… and halted…

… the ink on the other side inched on a little further… before trickling to a stop.

From the look of things on the display screen, this was turning out to be a sticky situation (in more ways than one)…

(To be continued)

Tags : ,

Posted on : June 24, 2010

Filed under : Life After Wedding, Planning For Baby


Jeanie Grace

September 26th, 2012 at 3:16 pm    

Hi Yi Lin

1st of all, I’m sorry to read about Twin B. I hope u and Dannie will be strong and pull through this difficult time.

In the end, I didn’t do the HSG last year but am scheduled for it 1st thing tmr morning! One year on… (w/o having conceived)

I really pray it will go ok like it did for Rach. I think sedation may help me, but I just hope I won’t be knocked out for too long.

Take care with your pregnancy now! I hope I will also have gd news to share soon – maybe starting with surviving the HSG 😉

Tan Yi Lin

Yi Lin

July 18th, 2012 at 6:59 am    

Hi rach,

The doc gave you sedation because you weren’t asleep?! That was totally unexpected! I thought it wasn’t necessary to be asleep for a HSG. In fact, it was quite exciting to be awake and tracking the progress on the screen next to me…

But yes, it’s a really fast procedure yah? And you made progress – that’s an achievement in itself. All the best with the follow up consultations. My tests went well today, so it’s on to Stage 2 – two jabs daily. (Oh yaaay. Oh joy. Ugh.) Will be blogging about that soon!


July 16th, 2012 at 6:00 am    

I went & passed the test! the nurse told me no sedation but in the end the funny doc gave me 2 doses! i was just lying & stoning on the table. then suddenly the doc ordered to give me another dose of sedation cos i wasnt asleep. & mins after the 2nd dose, the doc said i am done.
so there… i am seeing my gynae on 18 jul (same as u!) & see when we can try to grab the damn bird by its neck too.


July 9th, 2012 at 2:35 am    

I am just trying to “see open” and take 1 step at a time.

Tan Yi Lin

Yi Lin

July 5th, 2012 at 8:05 am    

Hi rach,

Thanks for leaving a note.

I think there is definitely value in taking the test. The results would help shed some light on your chances of conceiving, whether be it naturally or with medical assistance. Spending 30min (or less) doing the test is better than a lifetime of asking, “Why?” or “What if?” My view is that if medical technology and information is availble to you, take advantage of it!

I wasn’t given any sedation. If I remember correctly, sedation is not necessary for the procedure. At the point where the catheter (just a tube, actually) is inserted into the cervix, it’s no different from having a pap smear. You MAY feel some pain in the form of cramps when the dye is introduced into the womb through the catheter. It’s the body’s normal reaction to a foreign object entering it. To me, it felt no more painful than having regular menstrual cramps.

The remainder of the procedure is more messy than painful. There will be remnant liquid leaking out for a while! I think the hospital provided a pad, but you may want to bring one along just in case.

After the procedure, you will be required to sit in the waiting area under a nurse’s observation, just to make sure you are okay. I think I only sat in there for 15 min before I left on my own! It could be that the nurse/leaflet advised you to arrange for someone to pick you up, just so that if need be, your husband/family member will be readily available. Maybe you could just notify somebody to be on standby (but not necessary accompany you to the hospital for the procedure), just in case you would prefer to leave the hospital in good hands?

I suggest calling the hospital before your procedure next week, to check again whether sedation will be administered, so that you know what to expect.

All the best! Remember to RELAX during the procecure. It will definitely make things more comfortable!


July 4th, 2012 at 6:19 am    

hi, i supposed to take the test next wk… actually i am still comtemplating whether to take the test. but anyway any tips on “how to survive a hys….gram”?

also will i be given sedation? the nurse/info leaftlet made it sound damn scary. it said that i am required to sit in the waiting area 4-6 hrs after the procedure & yet they need someone to pick me. makes me wonder jus how much sedation are they going to give?

Tan Yi Lin

Yi Lin

May 26th, 2011 at 3:55 am    

Hi Jeanie,

Yeah, it’s helpful to put yourself in the frame of mind to take one step at a time. Unfortunately the body’s timeline can’t be hurried and tests/procedures can only be done on certain days of the reproductive cycle. Think of it as clearing stages step by step rather than trying to reach the end goal of getting pregnant asap. What is within our control is to do what we can to move the procedure along e.g. don’t miss/delay/cancel doctors appointments, educate ourselves on what to expect, take care of ourselves physically and mentally, etc. In the meantime, just live as per normal and don’t miss out on the other aspects of life.

I just felt some abdominal cramping when the fluid was pumped in, which quite quickly subsided towards the end of the procedure. So by the time it was done, I was fine. The nurses will make you sit in the clinic for 15min thereafter while they watch you to make sure you’re okay to leave. I didn’t take any painkillers before that, but if the cramping continues, you could probably ask the nurses present to get the doctor to prescribe you some. Doctor didn’t mention having to take antibiotics either – I don’t think antibiotics would be necessary since there isn’t any issue of infection, but you could always just check with your doc anyway – always good to take the opportunity to learn something new!

Jeanie Grace

May 25th, 2011 at 2:12 pm    

Hi Yi Lin

Happy to get your reply – and thanks for it!

I’m taking it one step at a time for now. Dr gave progesterone to trigger menses but nothing has happened yet (it’s all the stress at work possibly!). If it doesn’t come in time, there may well be no HSG – or at least not immediately – after I’m back from vacation. Could be gd, could be bad hrmm.

Apart from the awkwardness, does the HSG hurt? From what I read of the procedure, it sounds similar to a Pap smear – not sure if the discomfort is more or less or what (I guess for one the cramps are additional). Did you take any antibiotics or painkillers like Ibuprofen beforehand? On the Net, it seems many women do though the dr I saw didn’t say anything, much less about antibiotics.

Tan Yi Lin

Yi Lin

May 23rd, 2011 at 8:42 am    

Hi Jeanie,

Thank you for leaving a note and for following our blogs. Yes, I do receive notifications of comments from readers, even on past posts 🙂

Yes, it’s definitely very disappointing to be told that you don’t have as good a shot at conceiving as everybody else, especially when you thought that everything was going alright and that you had time on your side.

On a more positive note, the HSG procedure is less scary than it sounds. In fact, the most disturbing part for me was hearing a male doctor tell me, “Ok, I’m going to start by cleaning you here…” – I didn’t expect to feel so squeamish about having a guy clean me DOWN THERE (it wasn’t my regular female gynae who conducted the HSG – you might want to find out who exactly is doing yours to avoid a similar surprise!)Of course, the eventual results were disappointing but as expected since I had already been informed of the suspected blockage by my previous doctor.

I hope that your HSG will be a smooth and painless one. Just keep relaxed during the procedure (try to!) and all the best in trying to conceive. Thank you for the well wishes on my pregnancy – it’s been very smooth so far. Let’s hope it stays this way all through to the delivery!

Jeanie Grace

May 20th, 2011 at 2:28 pm    

Hi Yi Lin

Not sure if you will still see this reply to such an old post. I followed your blog for awhile some time back and I just want to thank you & Dannie for sharing your journey with readers. The details of the various procedures – candidly shared and with the helpful dose of humour – have grounded these often-scary things in reality.

It looks like my journey is only just beginning. I plan to TTC later this year. Who is to know though, that my dr has recommended me to do HSG also and I’m q dismayed at the news. I have re-read your entry in preparation for the procedure. I really hope I will be able to ‘survive’ it… Whatever it is, I guess it’s gd to know that there are others who have gone before me. Will follow through your blog again step-by-step. Meantime congrats on your pregnancy, may it be smooth and all!

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