What Is a Transvaginal Ultrasound?

What to Expect When Having a Transvaginal Ultrasound

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A transvaginal ultrasound, also called endovaginal ultrasound, is a scan of the vagina, uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and bladder. This test can be used to examine reproductive abnormalities. A transducer (a wand-like instrument) is gently inserted into a woman's vagina, and sends sounds waves to create images, called a sonogram.

Transvaginal ultrasounds are performed to look for structural problems and to detect medical conditions like fibroids or ovarian cysts.

Doctor meets with woman in a medical office

Keith Brofsky / Getty Images

Purpose of the Test

There are many reasons a person may need a transvaginal ultrasound. Women who are having pelvic pain or abnormal bleeding may seek a referral from their obstetrician or gynecologist to see a radiologist (a doctor who specializes in imaging techniques) who can perform the scan.

The ultrasound can be used to help diagnose or further evaluate the following conditions:

  • Ectopic pregnancy: Occurs outside of the uterus, usually in the fallopian tubes
  • Endometrioma: Endometrial-like tissue that grows outside of the uterus, which can cause pain and lead to infertility
  • Fibroids: Noncancerous growths in the uterus
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): Infection of a woman’s reproductive tract that can affect the uterus, fallopian tubes, and the ovaries
  • Pregnancy: To monitor the development of the fetus
  • Infertility: To check if the ovaries appear healthy and haven't developed cysts
  • In vitro fertilization: To see if the process to create a pregnancy was a success
  • Ovarian cancer: Growth of cancerous cells that form in the ovaries
  • Ovarian cysts: Noncancerous growths that can cause pain
  • Postmenopausal bleeding: Bleeding that occurs after a person has gone through menopause and has stopped having menstrual periods for 12 months

Women may also have a transvaginal ultrasound to detect abnormalities in the uterine structure, measure the length and thickness of the cervix during pregnancy, determine the bladder shape, or look at the blood flow to uterine organs.

This imaging scan may accompany others tests like a pregnancy test, a CT (computed tomography) scan of the uterus, or a CA-125 blood test, which is used to detect ovarian cancer.

Risks and Contraindications

This a low-risk to no-risk scan. No radiation is used. Instead, sound waves are used to create an image. It should be quick and relatively painless.

It is not risky to get this imaging done during pregnancy.

For People With Latex Allergies

The wand used during a transvaginal ultrasound is called a transducer. Latex covers are used to prevent germs from spreading. People who are allergic to latex should inform the ultrasound technician before the test.

Before the Test

This type of procedure is easy and straightforward. There is very little preparation needed.

Depending on the reason for having the test, the person may be asked to drink lots of water to help fill the bladder so that the ultrasound technician can get a clear image of the organ in question.

There may be a few forms to fill out regarding insurance before the test is conducted.

Timing

The test itself can be very brief, usually lasting only a few minutes.

After the sonogram photos are complete, the ultrasound technician will bring in a healthcare provider to discuss the images and the results of the scan. If the sonogram is of a baby, the technician may print out a copy for the parents.

Location

The ultrasound can be completed in one of many locations:

  • A hospital with a radiology department
  • A private radiology practice
  • An emergency department of a hospital, if needed
  • A private OB-GYN's office

Unlike with X-rays, in which the technician is in a separate area of the room, the ultrasound technician completes the scan with the patient and the images display on a computer screen located next to the patient's table.

What to Wear

Wear comfortable clothes that are easy to change out of.

Patients will be asked to undress from the waist down and may be given a hospital gown to wear with nothing on underneath, or be given a drape to cover themselves. Patients will change into a gown in a private area.

Wear warm socks because shoes will also need to be removed.

Food and Drink

Typically, the person getting the test will not have restrictions on eating, drinking, or taking their regular medication. But they may be asked to drink a lot of water before arriving to take the test. No eating or drinking during the test will be allowed.

Cost and Health Insurance

Most insurance companies cover this test, but as with any test, it's best to check with your insurance provider to make sure. Depending on the insurance plan, there may be a co-pay that is due before the procedure. Some insurance companies may cover part of the bill and then bill the patient for the rest at a later date.

Other Considerations

Whether the test is for a joyous occasion, such as an intended pregnancy, or for a more serious reason related to a medical illness or concern, it's helpful to bring a trusted partner along for the scan.

The partner may or may not be allowed in during the scan itself (depending on COVID-19 restrictions), but it can be helpful to have a person there to support you, if possible.

During the Test

As with most healthcare provider visits, upon entering the office, a person at the front desk will be there to greet the patient, go over any paperwork, and possibly request a copy of an insurance card. Then the person may be directed to the waiting room.

The patient may be called back to a private dressing area to get into a hospital gown, after which they will be led to the private exam room.

Throughout the Test

In the exam room, the patient will be asked to lie on their back on the exam room table and to place their feet in stirrups.

The technician will explain what the test is for and how it will be conducted. The technician will put lubrication on the wand and gently insert it into the person's vagina.

At some practices, patients are asked if they want to insert the wand themselves, similar to inserting a tampon. This should be painless. Patients who have discomfort in any way should speak up.

Once the wand is inserted, the technician will gently move it around to get the clearest image. The technician may explain what they are doing during the process and explain what they see on the screen, but a healthcare provider will fully explain the results of the test once it is complete.

After the Test

After the test, the technician will bring the patient back to the changing room and possibly the bathroom to clean up after the ultrasound.

There may be instructions on the next steps, depending on the reason for the test.

There are no lingering effects of the scan, and the patient will be able to drive themselves home and return to normal activities.

Interpreting Results

While the scan results are immediate, they may take some time to be interpreted by a healthcare provider. After they are assessed, the patient will be provided next steps from the healthcare provider who ordered the test. For example, if disease is found or suspected, the next step may be to see a specialist for that disease to determine a diagnostic and/or treatment plan.

Follow-Up

If this scan was conducted to monitor an ongoing issue (for example, if fibroids were showing signs of shrinkage), there may be additional scans scheduled in the future.

Another example of follow-up might be in the case of a pregnancy that has complications. Healthcare providers may want to order additional scans to see how the baby is growing.

Summary

A transvaginal ultrasound is a scan of the vagina, uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and bladder. It is performed to examine reproductive abnormalities, detect medical conditions, or to monitor a pregnancy.

A Word From Verywell

Whether it is to check on the progress of an early pregnancy or to get a diagnosis of a serious illness, a transvaginal ultrasound can be a stressful experience. The medical team involved in the procedure is available to explain the process and answer any questions you have. Come prepared with your questions and concerns so that you have all the information you need to make future decisions about your health and well-being.

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3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Cancer Institute. Transvaginal ultrasound.

  2. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Pelvic ultrasound.

  3. Cedars Sinai. Transvaginal ultrasound.