The existence of a pregnancy can be determined by a simple urine or blood test. For further confirmation of the pregnancy, doctors suggest an ultrasound. Unlike earlier, ultrasound is considered safe during pregnancy and is performed for specific purposes, as advised. Normally, abdominal ultrasound and transvaginal or vaginal ultrasound is performed during pregnancy. Know about vaginal ultrasound in pregnancy in this article.
Vaginal Ultrasound in Pregnancy
An ultrasound is a procedure performed where the uterus is scanned and imaged. It helps to identify the existence of a uterine gestational sac. In addition to the gestational sac, ultrasound helps to determine the viability of the pregnancy; also whether it is single or more. Over a period of time, ultrasound tests provide information such as the growth of the embryo, the gestational age of the fetus as well as the placement of the embryo and placenta in the sac.
Vaginal ultrasound in pregnancy is advised by physicians at specific times for a specific purpose, depending on the health of the pregnant woman and the growing fetus.
Purpose of Vaginal Ultrasound in Pregnancy
Vaginal ultrasound in pregnancy is majorly helpful in determination of the proper growth of the fetus as well as identification of any physical abnormalities. An early ultrasound aids the confirmation of the viability of the pregnancy. The ultrasound can be performed as early as 4th or 5th week of the pregnancy which shows the existence of an embryo with heartbeat and a gestational sac. If the ultrasound does not show signs of a beating heart, the pregnancy is declared to be non-viable. The gestational sac is ideally expected to be inside the uterus. If the gestational sac happens to be outside the uterus, it is a case of ectopic pregnancy which is a non-viable type of pregnancy.
The main purpose of vaginal ultrasound in pregnancy in early stages is to determine the viability of the embryo and at later stages the periodical growth of the fetus.
Accuracy of Vaginal Ultrasound in Pregnancy
With the technological growth of medical sciences, the accuracy of vaginal ultrasound in pregnancy, with high-end equipment can be said to be exceptional. Vaginal ultrasound assesses the situation and viability of pregnancy in the most accurate manner providing a clear image of the uterus and the embryo or fetus growing inside it.
Certain factors are taken into consideration while performing an ultrasound that fetches accurate data about the placement of the embryo, the heartbeats, size of gestational sac, presence of ectopic pregnancy, adequate amount of amniotic fluid in the sac, placement of the placenta, any malformations apart from the embryo and even the number of embryos in the sac. Apart from these, the gestational age and the rate of growth of the embryo can also be accurately determined through a vaginal ultrasound procedure. The accuracy that a vaginal ultrasound provides is the most reliable way to calculate the due date of the pregnancy.
Procedure of Vaginal Ultrasound in Pregnancy
The procedure for a vaginal ultrasound in pregnancy, involves insertion of an imaging probe into the vagina. The probe is pressed against the outer wall of vagina to scan and record images of the uterus. The tip of the probe is covered with a protective cover for hygienic reasons and lubricated with a small amount of gel to facilitate smooth movement. Once inserted into the vagina, the probe sends in high frequency sound waves which are inaudible to the human ears, to capture the images of the uterus and ovaries through the cervix.
Abdominal ultrasound gives better visualization when the bladder is partially full, which many women find it difficult during pregnancy. However, such a requisite is not necessary for vaginal ultrasound in pregnancy, which is one of its major benefits. A vaginal ultrasound can be successfully performed only after the 4th week of pregnancy as the before the 4th week, the uterus shows no signs of live embryo.
Once it is determined that a viable pregnancy exists in the uterus, doctors may suggest vaginal ultrasounds or abdominal ultrasounds at regular intervals or any time during the pregnancy to track the growth of the fetus. The frequency of the ultrasound can also depend on the symptoms in the pregnant women. If any abnormal symptom is experienced, an ultrasound is suggested to check the heartbeat of the fetus and other aspects like bleeding, water retention or malformations in the uterus. Timely and regular ultrasound helps to make sure the fetus is growing properly and the pregnancy is safe.
Benefits and Risks of Vaginal Ultrasound in Pregnancy
The benefits of a vaginal ultrasound can be listed as follows:
- The major benefit of a vaginal ultrasound in pregnancy is the accuracy it provides.
- The woman undergoing vaginal ultrasound need not consume water before the procedure so as to provide a clear image. The probe inserted into the vagina for the ultrasound is capable of capturing accurate image irrespective of the bladder being full or empty.
- Though a mild discomfort is involved, this type of ultrasound is easy and safe as no radiations are used.
- The ultrasound provides a complete image of the uterus and ovaries so that any malformations, abnormalities can be identified. Apart from these, the ultrasound gives a clear picture of the growth of the embryo or fetus.
The only risk factor in a vaginal ultrasound in pregnancy is the risk of infections which can be avoided by maintaining proper hygiene with the ultrasound devices.
Vaginal ultrasound in pregnancy has become popular in recent years due to the accuracy of imaging in the procedure. There is no risk of damage to the mother or the fetus and thus the procedure is considered safe, when performed correctly by experts. It is an ideal way to keep track of the fetal growth and health. It also helps assess other aspects like placement of the placenta, amount of amniotic fluid, position of the fetus and the gestational age. Hence, it is advisable to perform vaginal ultrasound in pregnancy, as advised by the physician and stay aware of the pregnancy status.