So you're just chilling at a regular doctor checkup, and then the physician says that you're going to have a vaginal ultrasound. Um, OK? Does a vaginal ultrasound hurt, and what should you know about this procedure beforehand? Those two words put together definitely sound intimidating, to be honest.
Although it isn't the most fun activity in the world, getting a vaginal ultrasound is generally not painful. "I can say that it didn't hurt, but it's definitely uncomfortable," says Anne, a woman who experienced that type of ultrasound to check for fibroids in her uterus. She adds that the whole situation was a little weird and awkward, but that the actual wand does not hurt (and that the doctor will apply plenty of lubrication onto it before it is inserted). But in some cases, it's just one of those medical procedures you have to get through.
What exactly does a vaginal ultrasound do? A type of pelvic ultrasound, the transvaginal (or endovaginal) ultrasound can create an image of a women's reproductive organs by using high-frequency sound waves, as noted in Healthline. But to get a good picture, the ultrasound wand (AKA transducer) gets inserted a few inches into your vaginal canal, as further explained in Healthline. (Fun times, right?) Although it might involve a couple of uncomfortable minutes on your part, this type of ultrasound can provide doctors with information about everything from IUD placement to the confirmation of an early pregnancy. It's a tremendously helpful tool from a medical standpoint.
If you're about to have this procedure, then it's helpful to know exactly what's likely to happen. Fortunately, it's a pretty routine thing. Chances are you'll start with your feet up in stirrups like any visit to the gyno's office, and you'll probably be dressed in a medical gown. Then the quick procedure begins. To perform the transvaginal ultrasound, the transducer is coated with a generous amount of gel or a covering and inserted a few inches into your vagina, as explained in WebMD. And that's about it. Your physician will tell you anything else you need to do, but for the most part it's a lie-back-and-relax type of situation.
Oh, and it isn't like the physician is coming at you with some gigantic instrument. The transvaginal ultrasound probe is only about 2 cm in diameter, as noted in Advanced Women's Imaging. It's more or less the size of a tampon.
What does it feel like? Well, the procedure may cause some slight discomfort. Because the wand may be pressed against the walls of the vaginal canal in order to get a clear image, you may feel some discomfort from the pressure, as noted by Radiology Affiliates Imaging (RAI). Taking deep breaths and trying to relax your muscles may help make the whole experience a bit more comfortable. In general, the exam will take around 15 to 20 minutes, as further noted by RAI. But as soon as it's over, you're free to go about the rest of your day.
Despite the potential awkwardness of this particular examination, the usefulness of a transvaginal ultrasound is almost impossible to overstate. "It is now more than 30 years since the introduction of transvaginal ultrasound scanning into the daily practice of obstetrics/gynecology. It is used in the diagnostic process of all aspects of gynecology, including diagnosis of ovarian cancer and ectopic pregnancies," said Ilan E. Timor-Tritsch, M.D., in a 2017 issue of the Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal. With so many potential medical uses, this ultrasound is a common medical procedure.
Whether you're getting a fertility assessment, checking for fibroids, or looking for the cause of pelvic pain, these exams are indispensable. For most people, getting through a few minutes of discomfort is worth the wealth of medical information provided by a transvaginal ultrasound.