Doctors have been using ultrasound technology to take a peek inside our bodies. During pregnancy, an ultrasound scan helps give doctors a more precise picture inside the womb, the baby’s development, and any possible issues -- and manage and prevent these issues from endangering you or your baby.
In the early weeks, doctors usually use a transvaginal ultrasound scan to confirm a pregnancy. A transvaginal scan involves inserting a specially-designed transducer (or probe), a device that transmits high-frequency waves to produce a black and white two-dimensional image, in the vagina to generate images.
A transvaginal ultrasound also helps doctors check your uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix, or the general pelvic area, so it’s not just for pregnancy. It can also diagnose uterine fibroids, endometriosis, or an ectopic pregnancy. But it’s highly likely that it’s your first time going through a transvaginal ultrasound after getting a positive pregnancy test or after your first prenatal checkup. Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.
Why doctors prescribe transvaginal ultrasound during pregnancy
Early in the pregnancy, on or before Week 10 of the pregnancy, the developing fetus is so tiny, and doctors will be able to see it better via a transvaginal ultrasound. “Better images are the result of the scans being much closer in proximity to the uterus; thus, presenting a clearer picture,” Dr. Sheila Jane Labrador-Illescas, M.D., obstetrician-gynecologist and certified sonologist, tells Smartparenting.com.ph.
Some doctors just wait a few more weeks to perform a transabdominal ultrasound, where the transducer is placed on the abdomen. It’s typically performed starting the second trimester, or between Week 18 to Week 22, for the routine congenital anomaly scan (CAS).
What happens when you get a transvaginal ultrasound?
When you go for a transvaginal ultrasound, you will need to take off your pants and underwear or change into a hospital gown and lie down on a bed. If there’s no hospital gown, a blanket should be available to cover the lower half of your body, so you’re not too exposed. When you’re ready, the sonographer or sonologist will ask you to put your knees up or your legs up on a stirrup.
She will apply lubricant or gel on the ultrasound probe, usually dressed with a condom, before inserting it into your vagina. The probe or wand is just a few centimeters wide, with the tip being slightly wider than the rest, and about 12 inches long. Not all of it will go inside your vagina, but just a few inches! The sonologist will then maneuver it inside your vagina to see, measure, and analyze your womb and the fetus.
There usually isn’t any small talk while the transvaginal ultrasound is in progress, except maybe the sonographer giving you a heads up if she’s about to maneuver the wand in a way that may make you feel uncomfortable. If the sonographer is also your obstetrician-gynecologist or perinatologist, an ob-gyn specializing in high-risk pregnancies, she may discuss with you what’s on the screen.
After the scan, you can dress up as the sonologist prints the image and results of the ultrasound. Take these to your ob-gyn, so she can correctly interpret the results.
Does having a transvaginal ultrasound scan hurt?
It depends. Many women say it can be uncomfortable having a probe inside your vagina, but other women say it hurts. A transvaginal ultrasound scan should not cause immense pain, but if it does, you need to speak up immediately.
“Except for isolated cases of hypersensitivity to latex material from the condom used during a transvaginal scan and mild allergic rash for mothers with sensitive skin on the application of ultrasonic gel, there are hardly any risks involved,” said obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Maria Lalaine Cartago-Garcia, M.D.
A transvaginal ultrasound scan can last for a few minutes up to an hour, depending on why you’re having it done. It’s generally safe. Just make sure you go to a board-certified sonologist, perinatologists, or ob-gyn sonologists.
Click here to see what a positive pregnancy test looks like!