It’s important to use all of the tools available to monitor the condition of you and your child.
What You Should Know
A pelvic ultrasound is an examination performed by a doctor or technician to take a close look at the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, cervix, vagina, and other organs and structures in the female pelvis. They are most often performed during pregnancy, but are also used to diagnose and treat problems with the female reproductive tract and during fertility treatments.
Getting an ultrasound during pregnancy is a standard medical procedure. Because of how much information they can accurately provide, the non-invasive nature of the test, the relative low risk, and the cost, pelvic ultrasounds are good tools for pregnancies of all kinds, especially high-risk situations.
The expert ultrasound sonographers and maternal-fetal medicine specialists at Valley Perinatal Services know what to look for when it comes to making sure a pregnancy goes smoothly, no matter what challenges you face.
Below is what to expect from a pelvic ultrasound test.
What Is a Pelvic Ultrasound Test?
Ultrasounds provide doctors with images similar to X-rays, but without the radiation. No matter what the doctor is looking for or how the test is performed, the way the equipment works is the same: a transducer sends out ultrasound waves, which pass through fluids and bounce off organs and bones.
These sound waves return to the transducer and are interpreted by a computer into images of organs and tissues. Depending on what the doctor is looking for, the images can be rendered in 2D, 3D, or 4D. Pelvic ultrasound tests typically take between 30 and 60 minutes.
How Are the Tests Performed?
Pelvic ultrasound tests are performed one of two ways, either transabdominally and transvaginally.
Transabdominal ultrasounds provide an overview of the pelvis and lower abdomen rather than detailed images, and are helpful for examining larger masses. In these tests, a gel will be applied to the skin of the lower abdomen, which allows the transducer to move freely across the abdomen. The probe scans through this gel to create images of the pelvis and baby.
Transvaginal ultrasounds involve scanning with a thin probe covered in a protective sheath and inserted into the vagina. Because the probe is closer to the organs, a transvaginal ultrasound can produce clearer images of those structures.
Transvaginal scans may also be used very early in pregnancy to check on organs or developing babies. While transvaginal ultrasounds can be uncomfortable, both tests are comparatively low-risk for you and your child.
How to Prepare for a Pelvic Ultrasound
Preparation may vary, depending on what point in pregnancy the ultrasound is performed and what the medical team is looking for. For instance, some tests require a full bladder, where others do not. Instructions will be provided by the medical team, depending on what information they are looking for.
What do Ultrasound Results Look Like?
If a pelvic ultrasound procedure is performed by a sonogram technician, the images can be saved, analyzed by a radiologist, and then sent on to a doctor. However, a doctor may perform an ultrasound as well. Depending on who performs the test and what the results look like, it’s possible the ultrasound test results may be ready right away. In cases where the images are not clear, a repeat of the test may be necessary.
In normal pelvic ultrasound results in a pregnant woman, the baby is developing normally and all of the pelvic organs will appear normal as well. While there might be variations, the placenta, amniotic fluid, and all surrounding structures will appear normal in terms of the gestational age. Abnormal results could reveal congenital disabilities, certain types of cancer, infection, or disease, or other problems in mother or child.
Keep in mind that medicine can be an inexact science, and even though ultrasound tests are reliable they can’t see every possible problem. Some problems, like holes in the heart, are difficult or impossible to find on an ultrasound.
This is why high-risk pregnancies can benefit from working with a team of MFM experts who have decades of experience helping high-risk mothers deliver healthy babies.
Why are Pelvic Ultrasounds Performed?
Pelvic ultrasounds are performed even during normal pregnancies to determine how far along the pregnancy is, measure growth, and screen for potential problems like ectopic pregnancies and risk factors for miscarriages.
Other reasons a pelvic ultrasound might be performed include:
- Guide a biopsy needle via computer images so fluid can be collected during amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling.
- Determine the size of the baby or babies and confirm that they’re on schedule in early pregnancy.
- Check on the placenta, amniotic fluid, fetal anatomy, and confirm growth in the middle of pregnancy.
- Evaluate the placenta and fetal size, position, and growth toward the end of pregnancy.
- Confirm the cervical length if you are at risk for early labor.
In a high-risk pregnancy, more frequent pelvic ultrasounds might be medically necessary. Conditions such as preeclampsia, restriction of growth, and placenta previa need to be caught early to protect both mother and child. If you have a medical condition like diabetes or cardiac abnormalities, you can benefit from thorough scans to catch symptoms early.
Other conditions where frequent ultrasounds might be necessary include when the amniotic fluid level is low, the baby is breech-presenting, the placenta is abnormally located, or if a doctor needs a better evaluation of the baby’s anatomy.
High-risk pregnancies benefit from early identification of abnormalities and accurate dating of the pregnancy. It is important to have a medical team that knows not only what to look for in pelvic ultrasound images, but how to react and appropriately treat their findings.
Valley Perinatal Services MFM Specialists
When you’re expecting, it’s important to know whether your child is developing properly. This is especially true for high-risk pregnancies, where early treatment can have life-long implications for the child. No pregnancy is without risk, but the more information you and your medical team have, the better an outcome you can expect.
For mothers and Ob/Gyns in the Phoenix area, we offer seven Valley Perinatal Services locations to provide pelvic ultrasounds and care during your high-risk pregnancy. Our team is ranked in the top 1 percent of the nation’s perinatologists, and can tailor treatment plans to fit your unique situation. For more information, get in touch at 480.756.6000 or contact us online.