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What is a Transvaginal Ultrasound?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Feb 06, 2024
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Sometimes an abdominal or regular pelvic ultrasound is insufficient to visualize the reproductive organs or to gather details about a pregnancy. If this is the case, especially in the very early parts of pregnancy, doctors may order a transvaginal ultrasound instead. Simply put, this is an ultrasound where the Doppler or transducer is placed inside the vagina for a more thorough examination and a closer look at reproductive structures or a pregnancy.

Unless acutely sensitive, most women will not find the transvaginal ultrasound to be an uncomfortable procedure. It’s similar to a pelvic exam, usually lasting somewhat longer. Most women can expect to lie on their backs, and they or the technician, may place the well-lubricated and sheathed transducer into the vagina. The ultrasound technician or technologist, to examine the pelvis, ovaries, uterus, and cervix, gently manipulates the part of the transducer that extends from the vagina. These views are then read on a screen, and the tech can magnify both specific areas or sound to hear things like a baby’s heartbeat or to view things like multiple pregnancies, cysts, or any anomalies that are of concern.

One thing that is different between the transvaginal ultrasound and abdominal types is that the examination does not occur when women have a full bladder. This is typically a requirement if the ultrasound Doppler must move over the stomach because it helps to better visualize the structures beneath. Vaginal ultrasounds would not be advisable with a full bladder, given their location, and they moreover aren’t necessary due to greater proximity to the pelvic area. The suggestion of a transvaginal ultrasound may be greatly relieving to women who have difficulty holding urine for long periods of time, as is common in pregnancy.

During pregnancy, some women experience a transvaginal ultrasound at very early stages when the fetus is tiny, often under 12 weeks. The procedure could be ordered for other reasons. It could be suggested as means of screening for a variety of complaints with reproductive organs. Such things as fibroids, tumors, cysts, infection or endometriosis might be found transvaginally, though some of these can also be found in regular abdominal ultrasounds. Suspected problems with a pregnancy or a need to look for potential defects could also suggest the transvaginal approach, though it should be noted that this approach isn’t always indicative of suspected health problems.

In fact, in many circumstances women will have several ultrasounds during pregnancy. Part of these tests could be conducted vaginally, even as pregnancy progresses. Sometimes a closer look or listen, as to a fetal heartbeat, is more desirable, but doesn’t necessarily mean that the person performing a test thinks there is a problem.

Unless a woman’s doctor performs the ultrasound of any type, women can expect to wait a few days for results. Techs and even on-staff radiologists are usually not allowed to discuss findings directly with patients. Should there be any issues, the patient’s doctor is typically informed fairly immediately and is likely to be in touch with the patient soon to discuss results.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By ellafarris — On Apr 29, 2011

I had transvaginal ultrasounds performed during both of my pregnancies. I didn't find them to be discomforting at all and they're far less invasive than the routine pap exam. Spotting after a transvaginal ultrasound is common. It's usually nothing more than old blood released from the cervix.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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