Tell me: “Is Vaginal Ultrasound Painful?”
Pain! Undoubtedly, a subjective concept, varying from one person to another! One age group to another! One situation to another!
Pain is a multifold idea and experience at the same time!
So, when we enquire whether a vaginal ultrasound is painful or not, the answer shall differ from one to another.
Some may say it is very painful!
Some may say it is not at all painful!
Some may say that the painful sensation was mild!
Therefore, it is up to you to learn and understand whether the vaginal ultrasound process shall be painful for you or not and what exactly shall bring down the pain to your body.
In this article, we are going to detail the entire vaginal ultrasound procedure, from preparation to post-ultrasound necessities, and leave it to you to decide whether this diagnostic method suits you or not!
Now, let us waste no more time and quickly dive into the details!
What is an Ultrasound?
Did you know before that development of medical science & technologies brought into the picture an efficient diagnostic approach where medical professionals can see the inside of your body through the use of sound waves?
Such an imaging test is popular these days and cheap too, using only three pieces of equipment, namely, – A wand-like instrument or probe called a transducer, a computer console, & a video monitor.
This imagining test is nothing but an ultrasound!
As the name itself suggests, in the process of ultrasound, medical experts use the transducer to create high-frequency sound waves within your body.
Of course, you cannot hear them, you cannot feel them, but when the sound waves come across any functional or structural defect, they shall make a faint echo. As a result, an image shall pop up on the computer screen, making the internal defects visible.
An ultrasound imaging test is sometimes also referred to as sonography or diagnostic medical sonography, and this diagnostic technique holds variations in terms of its application. In other words, ultrasound is a test where the process varies depending on the location of the examination.
It is because ultrasound can detect a wide range of medical conditions by scanning the different organs or body parts. Also sometimes, the traditional ultrasound approach may not trace the exact problem.
That is where new and more effective approaches take the stage! Some of them are – Doppler Ultrasound, Color Doppler Ultrasound, Duplex Ultrasound, Triplex Ultrasound, Endoscopic Ultrasound, Saline Infusion Sonography, and so forth!
While the variation of location lay concerned, each ultrasound procedure involves a specifically designed transducer or probe in order to screen the definite body part. It is precisely why medical science refers to this imaging test as a versatile one where the health of an unborn baby can even lay diagnosed!
Now that you know what an ultrasound is, it will not be difficult for you to grasp what a vaginal ultrasound is! How about exploring it in depth?
What is a Vaginal Ultrasound?
I suppose, by now, you can already understand that a vaginal ultrasound is meant only for women! In this diagnostic test, the medical professionals shall apply a lubricant or gel over the transducer and cover it with a plastic thing, thereby inserting it into your abdomen through the vaginal opening.
When reaching inside your pelvic area, the transducer shall start its action, sending sound waves to detect the abnormalities. In turn, the ultrasound waves bounce off the organs and return to the transducer! Herein, the transducer moves forward to process the reflected waves as electric signals and send them directly to your computer screen.
That is how ultrasound imaging emerges!
The vaginal ultrasound shall offer a clear picture of your pelvic organs, i.e., the fetus, cervix, placenta, fallopian tube, uterus, ovaries, ureter, & vagina. Therefore, whenever any abdominal condition arises in these organs, they stand traceable via vaginal ultrasound.
This process, also known as transvaginal ultrasound, is quite cheap in our country, India, starting from Rs.500 and ranging up to Rs. 800 depending on the center and location you avail of! Sometimes, this Ultrasound method is not just used as a diagnostic test but also as a treatment technique.
At that time, the rate or cost may go high as Rs. 2000! Yet again, it is mostly within the budget of your pocket. On this note, a vaginal ultrasound serves as a requisite treatment method, commonly to remove cysts from your pelvic organs.
Quite a straightforward method they are!
The one where –
1) The amplitude (or loudness) of the sound waves,
2) The pitch (or frequency) of the sound waves,
3) Their speed and
4) The time they take to reflect back to the transducer – determine the type of tissue or body structure they are coming across!
For instance, the speed of the sound waves is faster through the bone tissues and slower through the air.
Well, your doctor is somewhat aware of the abnormal condition you are having, and she only wants to confirm that her expertise stands solid. The vaginal ultrasound shall give her this confirmation. Now, are you wondering what is the abnormality that your doctor is predicting? Then, you have to sit back & explore!
When do doctors recommend a Vaginal Ultrasound?
Perhaps, there are myriads of possibilities underlying! Your doctor shall recommend a vaginal ultrasound to be sure about the exact condition it is. It may be –
- A Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) that you are suffering from,
- Abnormalities in the shape or size of the uterus,
- Pelvic Inflammatory Diseases or pelvic organ prolapse,
- Uterine Fibroids,
- Endometrial thickening or further endometriosis,
- Polyps, Cysts, or Tumors in the Pelvic organs,
- Uterine Cancer,
- Overactive bladder or an inconsistent one,
- Urethral Diverticulum, or in other words, the formation of pocket-like structure along your urethra,
- Fistulas, typically rectovaginal, vesicovaginal, ureterovaginal, & ureterovaginal, where a tunnel develops between your vagina and another pelvic organ, leading to the passage of stool through your vagina,
- Ulcers in your pelvic organs,
- Urinary tract infections,
- Fecal incontinence or bowel control problem,
- Vaginal Blockage,
- Pelvic congestion syndrome,
- Irritable bowel syndrome,
- Bladder syndrome also called interstitial cystitis,
- Sexually Transmitted diseases,
- Pelvic floor dysfunction, or in simple words, the inability of your pelvic floor muscles to relax & coordinate,
- Ovarian torsion,
And myriad more!
In fact, your doctor may also recommend this imaging test as a part of routine pregnancy check-ups so that she may be sure –
- You do not have a miscarriage,
- Whether you have an early pregnancy,
- Whether or not it is an ectopic pregnancy, i.e., the pregnancy occurring within the fallopian tube,
- What is the source of your abnormal vaginal bleeding,
- How proper is the heartbeat of the fetus,
- Whether you can have complications like premature delivery,
- How properly the embryo is growing,
- If there exist any abnormalities in the placenta,
- Whether an abortion was successful,
- What phase of pregnancy are you at, and so forth?
On the same note, your doctor also recommends a vaginal or transvaginal ultrasound to verify whether the intrauterine device (IUD) stands placed appropriately!
No doubt, if you are the one who did not pursue an ultrasound even for once in your lifetime, you must be keen to know when exactly your doctor recommends it. I mean, what are the symptoms that your doctor, on hearing, shall straightaway prescribe a vaginal ultrasound.
Relax! Here lay a brief!
- Are you suffering from abnormal vaginal bleeding amidst two menstrual cycles?
- Did you miss your periods?
- Are you having a prolonged or heavy period?
- Do you have a problem urinating?
- Can you feel a burning sensation when you pee?
- Do you have a problem passing the stools?
- Are you urinating frequently?
- Do you have persistent pelvic pain or backaches?
- Is your pelvic pain accompanied by fever and chills?
- Do you have pain during sexual intercourse?
- Are you unable to have an orgasm?
- Did you encounter an unusual vaginal discharge alongside an unpleasant odor?
- Do you always feel exhausted, particularly when you lift something heavy?
- Is there a tenderness in your lower abdominal area?
- Do you feel like vomiting every now & then?
- Does your urine leak while coughing, sneezing, or laughing?
- Did your tampon dislodge & fall out in the past few days?
- Can you see a distinct bulge in your vaginal opening?
- Do you not have any sensations in your vagina?
- Can you feel a heaviness-like sensation in your vagina?
- Did you gain weight excessively in the last few days?
- Can you witness excessive hair growth in your chest, stomach, or back?
- Are you unable to conceive for long?
Which one among these are you witnessing? Whichever it is, your doctor shall recommend a vaginal ultrasound at the most!
So, before going for the test, it is advisable to know how exactly is a traditional vaginal or transvaginal ultrasound different from the other latest methods.
For that, you have to read below!
Vaginal Ultrasound vs Other Ultrasound Practices: Differences?
A traditional vaginal ultrasound, when lying in comparison with a doppler or color doppler ultrasound, may lag behind. This is precisely why the method stands modified today.
A traditional vaginal ultrasound may fail to assess the blood flow to your pelvic organs, and that is when a similar minimally-invasive doppler or color doppler ultrasound appears in the picture, working to detect the problem in your pelvic arteries and veins.
During this test, ultrasound waves, when bouncing off the Red Blood Cells or RBCs, create images on the monitor screen! Only in the case of a color doppler, the imaging shall be colorful, offering better visibility of the bloodstream.
Furthermore, when a traditional vaginal ultrasound lay compared with a duplex or triplex ultrasound method, it cannot offer what the latter ones can!
A Duplex Ultrasound can aid with two-dimensional images of your pelvic tissues, which is crucial for scanning conditions like pelvic organ prolapse or vaginal blockages.
On the other hand, a triplex ultrasound shall provide a three-dimensional image, making the viability of your pelvic organs much clear than before. This specialized interpretation serves mostly in the vaginal ultrasound therapies revealing blockages and treating them with accuracy.
In the triplex one, the direction of blood flow gets more profoundly visible to the medical experts.
Next in line lay the differences between a traditional vaginal ultrasound and an endoscopic vaginal ultrasound. Herein, the latter involves a combination of endoscopy and ultrasound techniques. Alongside the transducer, there comes a small, thin, & flexible tube-like instrument with light & camera attached to it.
This instrument is called the endoscope and stands used mostly for vaginal ultrasound therapies. However, this particular method may not be completely free from side effects as you lay exposed to ionizing radiation during the diagnosis.
Last but not the least, the difference between a traditional vaginal ultrasound and a saline infusion sonogram is vast. While in the former, you do not need anything else other than the transducer, but for the latter, a small amount of salt water stands requisite. This solution helps scan the pelvic organ with greater accuracy & dexterity, and it is commonly practiced to confirm medical conditions like endometriosis.
That is not all! All this time, in this segment, we were talking about the differences between a traditional vaginal ultrasound technique to the latest ones and have seen how the traditional methods fall short of in front of the latest one.
But, before moving to the beneficiary features of vaginal ultrasound, it is crucial for you to know the difference between this particular ultrasound with that of an abdominal one.
An abdominal ultrasound is more popular a method than a vaginal ultrasound! While a vaginal ultrasound involves invasion, the abdominal one does not! It is a completely external process, where you have no scope to feel pain or discomfort. In this process, the medical professionals move the transducer over your abdomen, and the lubricant applied on it previously keeps air away from the area between your skin and the transducer.
On another note, there is a variation on grounds of preparation. While for a vaginal ultrasound, you need to keep your bladder empty, for an abdominal ultrasound, you need to keep it full. Perhaps, an abdominal ultrasound is a versatile technique where your doctor can confirm even your pelvic problems, but, in the case of vaginal ultrasound, all abdominal organs cannot be diagnosed!
Facets of Vaginal Ultrasound: Note Please!
Here we come to the segment that you were eagerly waiting for! The facets or features of a vaginal ultrasound! And they are as follows.
- A vaginal ultrasound is a minimally-invasive procedure where you shall most commonly not face any pain or discomfort.
- A vaginal ultrasound, unlike a CT Scan or X-ray, does not incorporate ionizing radiation and therefore does not make you vulnerable to any dangerous conditions, like cancer. It is safe to the core!
- A vaginal ultrasound is a fast process, and involves 15 to 30 minutes at most, depending on the result’s accuracy.
- A vaginal ultrasound does not require an overnight stay in the hospital, clinic, or diagnostic center. It usually takes place on an outpatient basis.
- A vaginal ultrasound works both as a diagnostic method and a treatment therapy. Thus, we can say that it is a twin-fold medical approach to women’s pelvic health!
- A vaginal ultrasound after an abdominal one can work to provide additional information specifically about the pelvic organs when gas or air in your abdominal area refrains you from securing precise data from the abdominal ultrasound.
- A vaginal ultrasound is a much old practice, starting from 1985 when this development brought a massive impact upon the medical processes of Obstetrics & Gynaecology. It is, therefore, a common practice too!
That’s more or less it! Now, it is up to you whether you find this ultrasound method suitable or not. If so, it is time we proceed with the preparation!
Time for Vaginal Ultrasound: How to Prepare?
Once you make up your mind to pursue a vaginal ultrasound on your doctor’s recommendation, you have to start preparing for it. Even though there is not much preparation involved, some things stand salient to note!
- The first and foremost thing about the preparation entails your dress-up. For a vaginal ultrasound, you have to opt for loose & comfortable clothes that you can easily remove to expose your vagina. Although most diagnostic centers, clinics, or hospitals provide gowns to wear before entering the test lab, it is better to prepare for a circumstance where they do not.
- Please make sure you leave all accessories at home, be it your watch, a piece of jewelry, or any metallic object you usually carry with you. It is because the ultrasound waves in the presence of metallic objects may fail to cultivate the accuracy of test results, and I suppose you do not want any disruption in the imaging.
- Even though this step is not mandatory, making a file that comprises all your medical reports, doctor’s prescriptions, medications you take, and all other necessary documents may serve if any of these are asked for in the reception while checking in.
- If you are on any medication, like that for asthma or diabetes, make sure you consult with your doctor about whether or not to continue them for a few days before the imaging test. Your doctor shall tell you – 1. How many doses to take, 2. When to stop, 3. When to continue, and 4. Whether you can go for an alternative. Follow as she suggests!
- Of course, exposing your vagina while having pubic hairs may sometimes be embarrassing. So, if you want to avoid such an embarrassment, you can certainly remove them before approaching the diagnostic center. It totally depends on what makes you feel comfortable!
- For a vaginal ultrasound, your doctor shall typically ask you to keep your bladder empty before going for the test. You have to follow her instructions word for word in this regard. Besides, your doctor will also tell you what to eat and how much! Even if you drink water before the test, the medical team shall ask you to release them before the test since a full bladder may tamper with the result’s accuracy.
- Also, it is better if you can come along with any of your family members, friend, or relative. Since the experience of discomfort and pain varies from person to person, you may need someone to drive you back home. Sometimes, after a vaginal ultrasound, you may feel dizzy and fatigued. So, having someone beside you can always serve. Even if none of this happens, bringing someone along shall be a major support to you while you are freaking out about what is bothering your health for so long.
- If you have vaginal bleeding at the phase, you have to remove the pad or tampons or whatever you are wearing before the test, and if not, you can simply avoid this step.
- Above all, when you reach the center, the medical staff shall give you a contract or bond of consent to sign before the test. You have to read them before signing so that you have the option to opt out if you find anything unsuitable.
Yes! That is all! Once you tick out all that’s here in the checklist, get ready to enter the test lab and go through the diagnosis.
The Procedure of Vaginal Ultrasound: A Step-by-step Guide!
Did you hear your name being called? It’s your turn to enter the test lab. A team of medical caregivers is waiting! There shall be a radiologist, an ultrasound technician, & a medical staff to help you with anything you need during the diagnosis.
When you are already inside the lab, can you see the various state-of-the-art equipment arranged systematically for your diagnosis? There must be an examination table at some point. It is where the medical caregivers will ask you to lie down and initiate the diagnostic process.
After your lie down for the pelvic examination, someone from the team shall ask you to bend your knees and position your feet in a stirrup state. You have to follow all of these instructions until the test is complete. The medical caregivers may, from time to time, ask you to stay still in a position without shaking. Here, you have no choice but to do so!
Then, the ultrasound sonographer, following the instructions given by the radiologist, shall take the transducer and cover it with a plastic sheet resembling a condom. Then, they shall apply a warm lubricating gel over the transducer and insert it into your vagina slowly for about 5 to 8 cm. The gel is meant to keep you away from painful sensations when the transducer intervenes in your body through the vagina.
Once the transducer lay inserted into your pelvic region, the scanning shall begin. It shall release sound waves in the pelvic area, which on hitting any tissues or organs or other internal structure, shall reflect the transducer, making echoes. That is when electric signals shall reach the computer screen present in the laboratory and show the ultrasound imaging therein.
Now, the radiologist and ultrasound technician can see your pelvic organs and tissues on the screen. If you are pregnant, they can also see your baby growing and even measure the heartbeat of your embryo. When one single image does not suffice, and the medical team wants to record images from multiple angles, they may ask you to shift to another position while lying down and stay on hold until asked to shift further.
After they are satisfied with the ultrasound imaging and can offer a thorough analysis of your pelvic organs to your doctor, the ultrasound technician shall remove the transducer from your vagina gently and slowly. During this time, you may feel a little discomfort, but that is momentary and likely to go away on its own. After this, the medical caregivers shall ask you to leave the test lab and go to the waiting room. Here, you can take a rest, remove the extra lubricant that you feel is still there in your vaginal opening, and dress up back to how you came.
Your Vaginal Ultrasound is over! You can go home or to your workplace and wait for the results to come!
Are there any side effects or risk factors?
Perhaps not! There are no side effects or risk factors that you may experience after a vaginal or transvaginal ultrasound. The insertion of the transducer can turn uncomfortable or painful for you, but that shall not hurt much or for too long.
But, you shall notice a vaginal discharge in the post-ultrasound period. It is the additional lubricant that is being flushed out, and this discharge may take place for only 24 hours or so!
Did your radiologist give you sedatives during the ultrasound test? If so, that may bring down some side effects, like, –
- Skin rashes, Redness in the area of intervention,
- Shallow breathing, etc.
Relax! These are only minor side effects of sedatives and may disappear within 2 to 3 days.
If you have any other condition like vaginal bleeding, fever, or pelvic pain, remember they are not the side effects of the vaginal ultrasound but the symptoms of your pelvic problem that continue to show up unless treated.
Tips on: What to do after a Vaginal Ultrasound?
Although there is nothing much to do after a vaginal ultrasound, following some basic health & hygiene instructions may help stop the medical symptoms you are having. You can follow them under your normal schedule, modifying some activities in your life.
- 30 minutes of exercise a day keeps the doctor away! So, make sure that you keep at least some time from your tight schedule for exercising. Walking, swimming, dancing, yoga, or Pilates shall also work in this regard!
- Keeping your diet free from sodium & potassium can make your stay on your toes! Eat more fruits & vegetables, and choose homemade snacks instead of junk food & processed ones.
- Avoiding alcohol & tobacco always works in favor of health & hygiene. Do so and see the change yourself!
- Remember that you need to keep your body & your brain hydrated all the time. For this reason, you have to drink plenty of water, somewhat, around 8 full glasses!
- Do not refrain from peeing for too long. Make sure that you eliminate the urine from your body at regular intervals, as not doing so may create pressure upon your pelvic floor muscles and lead to dysfunction.
- Avoid artificial supplements or short-cut hacks to gain or lose weight.
- Do not take any medication without asking your doctor! Do not stop any medication recommended by your doctor until the course stands complete or if your doctor asks you to stop it.
- Keep your vaginal opening clean and wash it every time you use the bathroom.
- When in periods, change your tampons or pads every two hours, as wearing the same one for a long may cause infections to thrive.
- If you are pregnant, do not lift any heavy objects or do something that exhausts you!
So what did you find? Did this vaginal ultrasound process appear painful to you while reading in detail? Do you think it is not suitable for you? Do you think this process can bring down discomfort to you? If so, you always have a choice to consult with your doctor and request an alternative like a transabdominal ultrasound and if not, get ready to land at the diagnostic center just like your doctor wants.
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