An ultrasound works using a probe (transducer) to transmit sound waves into the body. The sound waves travel through the body, and when they hit a boundary between tissues (i.e., bone and soft tissue), the waves bounce back to the probe. Then, the information turns into an image on a screen.
What to Expect During an Ultrasound
There are two types of fetal ultrasound: transvaginal and transabdominal.
Transvaginal ultrasound works by inserting a wand-like probe into the vagina to get fetal images. This type of ultrasound is performed very early into pregnancy when a transabdominal ultrasound doesn’t provide enough information.
Transabdominal ultrasound works by covering a woman’s abdomen with gel and then sliding the transducer over the area. The gel improves the conduction of sound waves by eliminating the air between the transducer and your skin.
Do Ultrasounds Hurt?
Most women do not report any pain when having a transabdominal ultrasound, but it could be uncomfortable since your bladder is typically full for the exam. Laying on the exam table can also be uncomfortable. Existing tender spots on your abdomen or abdominal pain can cause discomfort when the probe slides over.
For a transvaginal ultrasound, you may have mild pain when the technician inserts the probe into the vagina.
Why Do I Need an Ultrasound?
Ultrasounds are a huge advancement in monitoring the health of women during pregnancy. With this imaging technology, we determine how far along you are, if the pregnancy is viable and progressing, and if there’s the existence of an ectopic pregnancy (which can be life-threatening).
Knowing these details will determine the options available to you and whether you need further medical attention.
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