Every pregnant woman is familiar with prenatal ultrasound that gives a clear picture of the fetus, the amniotic sac, ovaries and placenta. Depending on your general health conditions and risk factors, an ultrasound may be conducted three or more times during a pregnancy.
Generally, two types of ultrasound are conducted during a pregnancy – internal ultrasound and external ultrasound. A lot of new moms hate the internal ultrasounds and wonder when they stop. We looked into it and this is what we found…
When Do They Stop Doing Internal Ultrasounds?
Internal ultrasound is done only during the first trimester, up to 12 weeks gestation when the baby’s heartbeat is clearly audible. After that the doctor will stop doing internal ultrasounds and switch to abdominal ultrasounds.
But sometimes it might be difficult for the doctor to determine how well the pregnancy has progressed or whether the pregnancy has progressed at all.
In such a case the doctor will ask you to undergo internal ultrasound again later on to check the progress of the pregnancy.
What Is An Internal Ultrasound?
A normal ultrasound is performed on the surface of the abdominal skin. However, in the case of an internal ultrasound, a probe is inserted through the vagina. The probe creates sound waves that provide a reflection of the body structure.
This provides a clear picture of the internal organs and any problem present there. Normally, an internal ultrasound is used to examine the vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries and bladder. This type of ultrasound is also called transvaginal ultrasound, endovaginal ultrasound or pelvic ultrasound.
Not much preparation is required for an internal ultrasound. But some doctors might ask you to come with a full bladder to get a clear picture of the fetus. In such a case, you should drink atleast 32 ounces of water to fill the bladder. Once the ultrasound is over, you will be allowed to use the bathroom.
How Is An Internal Ultrasound Done?
During an internal ultrasound, you will be asked to remove the bottom part of your dress and wear a gown. You should then lie on the examination table with the hips slightly raised just like a pelvic exam. This provides a clear picture of the internal organ.
The doctor will then cover the tip of the ultrasound wand using a condom and a lubricating gel and slowly insert it into the vagina for upto 5-8 cms. In case you have latex allergy, you should inform the doctor beforehand so that they can use latex free condom.
The whole procedure is not painful, but you will feel some pressure and discomfort when the wand is inserted. Once the wand is inside, sound waves create a clear picture of the uterus and the growing fetus on a monitor.
The doctor will move the wand slowly to get a clearer picture of the internal organ. The procedure will take 15-30 minutes.
Is There Any Risk Involved In Internal Ultrasound?
The good thing about an internal ultrasound is that it does not involve any radiation. It uses only sound waves to check the progress of the pregnancy. Thus, there is no associated risk either for the baby or the mother.
According to the miscarriageassociation.com, there is no evidence to prove that an internal ultrasound will cause the loss of the baby. You might feel a slight discomfort which is normal.
But if you feel any pain inside while undergoing the scan, you should inform your doctor immediately. After the scanning is over you will notice a slight vaginal discharge which is nothing but the lubrication gel coming out of the body.
If the doctor is present while the procedure is underway, they will discuss the result with you. Otherwise the sonographer will send the result to the doctor who will provide all details of your pregnancy. The result should normally be ready within a day.
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When Is An Internal Ultrasound Done In Pregnancy?
If your periods is not regular and you happen to get pregnant, the doctor may not be able to determine your gestational age. In such a case, an internal ultrasound will be done during the initial months to determine how far your pregnancy has progressed.
In addition to this, the doctor will prescribe an internal ultrasound in the below circumstances as well.
- To monitor the heartbeat of the baby if it cannot be picked up by a regular ultrasound.
- To examine any changes in the cervix that could lead to complications in pregnany like premature birth.
- To check the uterus for any cyst.
- To check the placenta for any abnormalities.
- To diagnose the chances for a possible miscarriage.
- To check for ectopic pregnancy.
- If you have abnormal bleeding during your pregnancy.
Through an internal ultrasound, the doctor can measure the fetus and also check if you have twins, or triplets.
What Does An Internal Ultrasound Normally Reveals?
An internal ultrasound reveals any of the following
- A successful pregnancy where the fetus grows normally as per the gestational age.
- A pregnancy with some problems like abnormal growth, or no heartbeat.
- A pregnancy with the location of the fetus not clear.
- A pregnancy that has resulted in a miscarriage.
- A pregnancy that my not progress normally, but has not resulted in a miscarriage.
- A pregnancy that grows in the fallopian tube.
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When Do Ultrasounds Switch To External?
An internal ultrasound is done during the initial months to confirm pregnancy and to check for abnormalities.
In most cases it will switch to external ultrasound once you are in the 12th week of pregnancy.
But if the external scan does not provide a clear picture of the fetus, the doctor may continue with internal ultrasound.
An internal ultrasound may be prescribed if the doctor cannot determine your gestational age. Similarly, if the doctor suspects any abnormality in the pregnancy, then also an internal ultrasound may be prescribed.
This is a painless procedure that causes only very little discomfort. If for any reason you feel tensed about the whole procedure, you can ask your partner or a close friend to be by your side when the scanning is underway.