An ultrasound test, also medically known as a sonogram, is perhaps one of the most common procedures done on a woman. An expectant mother should have at least one ultrasound test for a healthy pregnancy or detect potential problems early on.
You’re likely lined up for a women’s ultrasound if your obstetrician-gynecologist wants to know more about your reproductive health or pregnancy status. If it’s your first time, don’t worry. Read on for details on how to prepare for the test and what to expect.
In This Article
Why Do You Need An Ultrasound?
While commonly associated with pregnancy, a sonogram can be used for other purposes: to detect abnormalities in the pelvic and abdominal areas. A women’s ultrasound can help identify infertility and other reproductive health issues.
How Does It Work?
A women’s ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the pelvis and abdomen. It provides physicians with a better understanding of your reproductive system and fetal development if you’re pregnant.
Sound waves penetrate through the skin and don’t harm the patient or the child. Besides being safe, an ultrasound works well in providing images of women’s reproductive organs, including the cervix, uterus, ovaries, bladder, endometrium, and fallopian tubes. Once abnormal growth and obstructions in your reproductive soft tissues are detected, your obstetrician-gynecologist will likely order further confirmatory tests.
Different Types Of Women’s Ultrasound
There are a few types of sonogram procedures depending on a woman’s specific needs. Besides the general pelvic and abdominal ultrasounds performed for both sexes, most specialized ultrasound procedures help ensure a healthy pregnancy.
- Transvaginal Ultrasound: This procedure is recommended when your doctor wants to get clear images of your cervix and other reproductive organs.
- Doppler Ultrasound: Blood flow during pregnancy must be monitored to ensure proper fetal development. A doppler sonogram works best for this purpose.
- 3D and 4D Ultrasounds: These procedures require a piece of specialized equipment and offer a better view of your pelvic area. It’s most often used in getting detailed images of a fetus, though.
- Fetal Echocardiography: This exam aims to determine whether your baby suffers from congenital heart issues. It takes an image of the fetus’ heart, structure, and shape.
- Nuchal Translucency Ultrasound: A specialized procedure, this sonogram test is performed to detect abnormalities in the chromosomes.
How To Prepare For An Ultrasound
A women’s ultrasound procedure doesn’t require too much preparation. To ensure that the machine is capable of capturing a clearer image of your reproductive organs and fetus, perform the following easy steps:
- Drink up to 32 ounces of water at least one hour before your scheduled general ultrasound procedure. It’s better to wait until after the test before going to the bathroom.
- Conversely, you must empty your bladder if undergoing a transvaginal sonogram. A trip to the toilet is best before your test. Also, inform your physician if you have latex allergies, as a condom is used alongside lubricating gel before being inserted.
- Eat normally. You don’t need an empty stomach to have a successful test.
- As much as possible, refrain from taking medications on the day of the procedure.
- Wear loose-fitting clothes for easy access to your tummy. In most cases, you won’t have to change into a hospital gown for the procedure.
What To Expect During An Ultrasound Exam
Don’t be worried about what could happen, as the procedure is fast and painless. These typically occur in a traditional sonogram procedure either for the detection of fertility problems or for monitoring fetal development:
- A patient lies down on an examination table.
- A sonogram technician or your gynecologist will apply a gel on the test area to help sound waves travel seamlessly through your skin.
- The technician places the wand on your abdomen and moves it along the test area.
- In most cases, you’ll be able to view the images on the screen. The operator may ask you to hold your breath while capturing images on the screen.
- The technician takes screenshots to print out later.
- You’ll be able to hear your baby’s heartbeat.
- Your doctor will measure the fetus and other structures. If you’ve been pregnant for more than four months, the gynecologist will also check the placenta and amniotic fluid.
- The entire procedure may take 30 minutes to one hour.
- The wand is inserted inside the vagina for a transvaginal sonogram and may cause discomfort but not pain.
- You’ll be entirely conscious the whole time and could talk to your doctor or look at the images on the screen.
The Bottom Line
An ultrasound procedure offers a safe and convenient diagnostic tool whether your doctor wants to look at gynecological concerns or ensure a healthy pregnancy. Besides being safe, a sonogram captures images of your fetus and reproductive system without pain.
Depending on the type of test you’re supposed to have, you may be required to fill or empty your bladder for best results. In case of doubts or concerns, always ask your healthcare provider.