Internal or transvaginal ultrasounds are considered a standard procedure during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. Your doctor may suggest transvaginal ultrasounds to make assessments about pregnancy in the early weeks.
While transvaginal ultrasounds are extremely effective, they are not comfortable for the new moms-to-be. Perhaps you’re wondering why are they such a big deal. During early pregnancy, fetal growth and other important medical assessments can be easily made through a transvaginal ultrasound.
“When do they stop doing internal ultrasounds?” This question must be haunting you if you are scheduled for an internal ultrasound soon enough. If you have been worried sick with questions and confusion related to an internal ultrasound, I have got you covered in this article.
How is an Internal Ultrasound Done?
Whether it is an internal ultrasound or another medical procedure, it is quite natural to feel curious about the whole process. An internal ultrasound is usually preceded by an abdominal ultrasound.
It is advised to drink at least 500ml of water so that the sonographer can easily complete the scan and clearly see the internal organs. The reason for having a full bladder during your ultrasound is that it helps to see the internal organs better.
Phase 1: Transabdominal ultrasound
After drinking water, your sonographer will take you to an ultrasound room. Then the ultrasound technician will apply a gel to your belly and start the scan. Your doctor will start by first conducting a transabdominal ultrasound. They place the transducer slightly above the pubic bone for the scan.
Phase 2: Transvaginal ultrasound
After the transabdominal ultrasound, you can empty your bladder. In the second phase, they begin the transvaginal ultrasound. The lab technician will again take you to the ultrasound room, where you will have to lay down on the examination table with your hips elevated.
If you are feeling anxious or nervous about this procedure, you should share that with your physician right away. It’s also essential to inform your doctor beforehand about any allergies, such as allergies to latex, or other medical conditions and complications to avoid unnecessary risks.
Once they have prepped you by lubricating the transvaginal ultrasound wand, the sonographer will insert the wand into your vagina. The probe will also be covered with a condom. If you do not feel comfortable about this or you start experiencing pain, you can always request to insert it yourself.
Once the probe is inserted in the vagina, the sonographer will gently move it back and forth to assess your pregnancy progression. The transducer will transmit a frequency that gives clear pictures of your baby and uterus.
Although you may feel quite a bit squeamish about the internal ultrasound, it’s pretty fast. The whole procedure will take barely ten minutes. A radiologist will observe your scan and send it to your doctor, and reports will be available to you after a few days.
Many women question the safety of transvaginal ultrasound, but there is no significant risk associated with the procedure. The tip of the ultrasound wand is only inserted about two to three inches and can’t do any harm to your developing baby.
The frequency used to create images of the developing fetus is also safe. The only adverse effect you may experience is the pressure that results from the insertion of the wand.
How Far Along Do You Have To Be For An Internal Ultrasound?
Pelvic ultrasound is performed in the first trimester to see whether the pregnancy is viable and how far along your pregnancy is. Four to five weeks after your period, there isn’t much that can be seen at the ultrasound. Medical professionals can only see the small accumulation of fluid inside your uterus.
Around four to five weeks, you can see the yolk sac that provides nourishment to the developing baby. At six weeks, you can see a tiny baby (fetus) and listen to a heartbeat. This is usually a very emotional moment for parents.
How Many Internal Ultrasounds Do You Have During Pregnancy?
There are at least two ultrasounds that are performed during every pregnancy. The first is internal, also known as transvaginal ultrasound, and the second is anatomical ultrasound, also known as prenatal ultrasound.
Usually, the internal ultrasound is performed only once or twice during the first trimester. However, your healthcare professional may choose to perform more internal ultrasounds, depending upon your condition and the baby’s health.
When Do Ultrasounds Switch From Vaginal to Abdominal?
Transvaginal ultrasounds are performed at the initial stages of your pregnancy, usually around five to six weeks after the last menstruation. It involves high-frequency sound waves to generate uterine images and helps your gynecologist gain important information during the gestation cycle.
At 20 weeks, the doctor will switch you from pelvic ultrasounds to abdominal ultrasounds and continue observing the baby’s development. By this time, your baby’s development will have progressed considerably. The doctor also counts the baby’s fingers and toes and closely examines their chest, heart, and kidneys. Your doctor will also monitor the position of the placenta, brain, neck, spine, and umbilical cord of the baby.
At 20 weeks of gestation, your doctor will be able to tell you the sex of the baby and any risk of abnormalities, such as Down’s syndrome and other genetic disorders. He or she will also tell you if you are expecting multiples.
Do They Do an Internal Ultrasound at 20 Weeks?
Usually, the internal ultrasound is performed only once or twice during the whole pregnancy. It primarily involves confirming the pregnancy at an early stage. However, in rare cases, your gynecologist may request a transvaginal ultrasound more than once or twice.
The doctor will also examine the placement of the placenta, check your cervix, evaluate the risk of preterm birth, and identify the causes of any pelvic pain and bleeding.
An anatomy ultrasound is performed at 20 weeks, when you can see the brain and face and listen to the baby’s heartbeat. Doctors will also determine the chances of miscarriages; however, after 13 weeks, the typical chance of miscarriage is only 3%, and most women give birth to healthy babies once they reach the halfway point of their pregnancy.
If some complications occur, then Nuchal translucency, amniocentesis, perinatologist ultrasound, and scans are performed to examine the problem.
Summary and Final Verdict
Internal ultrasounds during pregnancy are a way to get an early glimpse of your little one. Doctors will do an internal one during the first half of the pregnancy. When they stop doing internal ultrasounds, they will move towards the second phase, which is anatomical ultrasounds. Both internal and anatomical ultrasounds are safe and painless for babies and pregnant women.
During pregnancy, you should take care of your health and refrain from stress. Don’t take any medicine without professional medical advice. If you feel any pelvic pain, abdominal pain, or other problems during your pregnancy, consult with your doctor to avoid complications.
Also, following up on your routine check-ups and regular ultrasounds will enable the best chances of delivering a healthy baby without any problems.
1. Do you get an ultrasound at the end of the pregnancy?
Ultrasounds at the end of pregnancy are advised for patients who have medical problems, weight issues, or issues with fetal movement or organs, and those who are of advanced maternal age. The ultrasound technician will perform regular check-ups to help you to give birth to a healthy child.
2. How many internal ultrasounds are safe to do during pregnancy?
Two ultrasounds are typically performed during pregnancy, but if an unavoidable problem occurs, your doctor may perform other tests and scans. Ultrasounds in pregnancy are a completely safe and painless procedure. The sound waves or insertion of a wand will not affect the fetus.
3. Is four-weeks too early to get an ultrasound?
An ultrasound is usually performed at five weeks of pregnancy because, at four weeks, you will only see a pocket of fluid. At five to six weeks after your menstrual cycle ends, you can listen to a baby’s heartbeat well.
4. What can I expect after an internal ultrasound?
An internal ultrasound is a painless procedure which causes no problems at all. After this ultrasound, you can resume your daily routine. However, you may notice slight vaginal discharge after ultrasound, which is nothing but a lubricant gel coming out, which will stop within a few hours. It is a painless procedure and causes no harm to your baby, and there are no chances of miscarriage due to this ultrasound.
If you feel pain or cramping following an internal ultrasound, consult with your doctor as soon as possible.