A doctor’s checkup can be a lengthy process full of tests and observations. Your doctor wants to confirm you and your baby are healthy and safe. That is why your health provider might make you undergo medical exams to ensure a smooth pregnancy.
One of the many tests your doctors will make you take is an ultrasound. An ultrasound, also known as a sonogram, is a safe procedure that allows your doctor to see what is happening inside your body. There are a couple of types of ultrasound, each having its advantages.
Many women have experienced pelvic ultrasounds before. But is an internal ultrasound still a safe idea during pregnancy?
Table of Contents
- What is an Ultrasound?
- What are the Types of Ultrasounds and Their Differences?
- Why Should I Have a Prenatal Ultrasound?
- When Do They Stop Doing Internal Ultrasounds?
- Preparation for an Ultrasound
What is an Ultrasound?
An ultrasound is a medical procedure where doctors use a device that emits high-frequency sound waves. The ultrasound probe uses these waves to project images onto a monitor. What you see in the monitor are real-time looks into the inside of your body.
An ultrasound is handy for many situations. For pregnant mothers, an ultrasound allows you and the doctor to see your baby inside the womb. Other doctors use an ultrasound to detect abnormalities and create a diagnosis. For some surgeries, an ultrasound helps guide doctors throughout the procedure.
What are the Types of Ultrasounds and Their Differences?
There are a couple types of ultrasound procedures, each having their use and advantages.
First is the external ultrasound, a non-invasive ultrasound. Your doctor uses a probe on top of your skin and moves it across your body to examine your internal organs. A cold gel makes the device move smoothly on your skin.
An external ultrasound is widely used to observe an unborn baby inside their mother’s womb. But an external ultrasound is also used to examine organs near the stomach and pelvis areas, such as the kidney and liver. Your muscles and joints are also through this kind of ultrasound.
On the other hand, an internal ultrasound is an ultrasound that can examine the womb, ovaries, and prostate gland. Your doctor gently pushes a sterile probe inside to allow them to see your internal organs better on the monitor.
Finally, there is the endoscopic ultrasound scan, wherein a tiny device is inserted through the mouth and can explore the digestive system. This procedure can make the patient sick, so doctors will give sedatives and a local anesthetic spray. Like the previous ultrasound types, this procedure uses sound waves that project an image onto a monitor.
Why Should I Have a Prenatal Ultrasound?
Thanks to modern medical technology, it is easier for parents and doctors to see a baby inside the womb without doing invasive procedures. A prenatal ultrasound can determine if your baby is healthy and developing correctly inside the womb.
A prenatal ultrasound helps spot abnormalities in your pregnancy and if there are complications during labor. A prenatal ultrasound can also let you see how old your baby is, what their gender will be, and when your due date is coming. Besides your baby, your doctor can also check on other pelvic organs to see if they are healthy and functioning correctly.
Most mothers only need one to two ultrasounds throughout their pregnancy. However, when your pregnancy is at high-risk, your doctor might require multiple ultrasounds to check your baby’s health condition.
When Do They Stop Doing Internal Ultrasounds?
Unlike an external ultrasound, an internal ultrasound allows doctors to have a close-up view of your internal organs. An internal ultrasound allows your doctor to check your fetus’ heartbeat, observe your placenta, see if your pregnancy is ectopic, and closely monitor your pregnancy if it is high-risk.
An internal ultrasound is not painful, and there are no known side effects when getting one. Your doctor will ensure the ultrasound probe is sterile and lubricated before insertion. Preparation is minimal.
Most mothers have an internal ultrasound at 11-12 weeks of pregnancy. Afterward, your doctor will more likely do an external ultrasound. However, your doctor may suggest an internal ultrasound in some cases throughout your pregnancy. Getting an internal ultrasound is safe until your water breaks.
Many moms are worried that an internal ultrasound can harm their baby and lead to a miscarriage. But there is no reason to panic because there is no evidence that an internal ultrasound has caused any complications in pregnancy.
Any bleeding caused by an internal ultrasound is just blood build-up from earlier that has been dislodged. This is not a sign of a failed pregnancy.
Preparation for an Ultrasound
Getting an internal and external ultrasound requires a tiny bit of preparation.
For an internal ultrasound, your doctor will need you to empty your bladder before the scan. If you are menstruating, your doctor will still carry out the procedure. (They will only require you to remove your tampon before the ultrasound.) You are allowed to eat and drink before and after the procedure.
For an external ultrasound, your doctor may advise you to fill your bladder before the scan and avoid going to the bathroom until after the procedure. A full bladder will allow for a more accurate reading.
People who will get an ultrasound of their digestive system should refrain from eating and drinking for a few hours. This can help your doctor look at your digestive organs, such as your liver and gallbladder.
Depending on the ultrasound, you may have to remove some clothing or wear a hospital gown. After an ultrasound, you may leave the hospital and clinic and continue the day as usual.
What are the differences between an ultrasound and an X-ray?
An ultrasound does not use radiation, unlike an X-ray. An ultrasound has little to no side effects on the patient.
Is it painful to get an internal ultrasound?
An internal ultrasound will cause discomfort and pressure but will not be painful. Patients do not need to be sedated or given an anesthetic to perform an internal ultrasound.
Can an internal ultrasound cause miscarriage?
There is no evidence that an internal ultrasound can cause pregnancy loss. Any bleeding caused by the ultrasound is normal and not something to be worried about.