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A transvaginal ultrasound is an ultrasound to look at a woman's reproductive organs — it is very much like the transabdominal ultrasounds most pregnant women undergo routinely, with the key difference that the transducer is placed into the vagina. This gives your doctor a much closer look at your reproductive system. 

A transvaginal ultrasound will give your healthcare provider a good look at your cervix, uterus, the lining of your uterus (endometrium) your fallopian tubes and ovaries. They will also be able to view your bladder and kidneys. 

Why Are Transvaginal Ultrasounds Performed?

Women who are less than 12 weeks pregnant and need an ultrasound — because they are experiencing vaginal bleeding or heavy cramping, for instance — are routinely offered transvaginal ultrasounds. This is because the baby is so small, at this point, that a traditional transabdominal ultrasound will not give your healthcare provider the visuals they need to diagnose what is going on. 

Women who have been diagnosed with, or are suspected of having, reproductive health conditions such as endometriosis, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, tumors, or cysts may also be advised to have a transvaginal ultrasound. Undiagnosed pelvic pain, suspected ectopic pregnancy, and some kinds of infertility, are other reasons for your healthcare provider to suggest a transvaginal ultrasound. 

What Happens During A Transvaginal Ultrasound?

You will need to undress from the waist down and empty your bladder prior to undergoing the ultrasound procedure. You will then be asked to place your feet in stirrups or to spread your legs wide. The ultrasound transducer, which is not very much bigger than a tampon, will be placed into your vagina protected by a cover for hygienic reasons, and covered with a gel.

Your provider will move the transducer around slightly as they take a look at your reproductive organs, which will be visible on a monitor.

The exam does not take very long. It will generally be over in a maximum of 30 minutes, though the exam may also last as short as five minutes. 

Will I Get The Results Right Away?

Ultrasounds are generally performed by sonographers, also often referred to as "ultrasound techs". Whether or not they will share the information they receive from the scan with you depends on the circumstances. Sometimes, they will share what they see with you right away, particularly if everything looks good. Generally, however, the results will be reviewed by your treating doctor before you are provided with more information. 

Does It Hurt? Is It Safe?

Transvaginal ultrasounds have no known risks whatsoever. This is a very safe procedure. If, for some reason, you strongly prefer a transabdominal ultrasound, however, you can always ask whether that would be an option for you. You can also ask for a female tech if you prefer. 

Transvaginal ultrasounds do not generally hurt, unless you have a medical condition such as vaginismus, which makes inserting a tampon painful too. In that case, ask for a transabdominal ultrasound. Lubrication is provided in order to insert the transducer quickly and painlessly, and though you may feel a slight pressure as the transducer is moved around, there should be no pain. 

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