A pelvic ultrasound assesses the female reproductive system, including the vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries and other pelvic structures. It can provide helpful information for those experiencing:

  • Heavy, irregular or infrequent periods in premenopausal women
  • Pelvic pain
  • Post menopausal bleeding
  • Infertility

and, for those who require assessment of

  • The ovaries
  • Early pregnancy
  • The cervix in later pregnancy

How is the examination performed?

Transvaginal ultrasound is performed using a special transducer which is slightly thicker than a tampon. It is covered with a disposable latex sheath and lubricating gel, then gently placed into the vagina. The probe sits in the vagina throughout the examination which usually takes between 10-15 minutes. Most patients find the examination much more tolerable when compared to a cervical PAP smear.

During the scan the sonographer may need to gently press on the abdomen to move bowel out of the way and bring the ovaries and other pelvic structures into view. This also enables any point of tenderness in the pelvis to be identified.

Transvaginal or transabdominal ultrasound: Is there a choice?

It is a Sydney Ultrasound For Women protocol to offer transvaginal assessment for all Gynaecological and early pregnancy scans. This is because the transducer is positioned close to the pelvic structures, producing superior image quality, hence, the most detailed and accurate diagnosis.

Though a SUFW protocol to offer an internal scan, patients may decline and instead be scanned transabdominally. It is always the patient’s decision whether or not to proceed with the transvaginal imaging.

In certain circumstances a transvaginal ultrasound examination is not possible or not advisable eg. if a patient has not had sexual intercourse before; if there is vaginal scarring and tenderness. A full bladder transabdominal ultrasound will then be performed.

What are the preparations I should take before the ultrasound examination?

The transvaginal examination is best performed with an empty bladder. Upon arrival at the clinic, those booked for gynaecological or early pregnancy scans will be asked to empty their bladder. It is important that a tampon be removed prior to the examination. If you are bleeding at the time of examination the scan can still be performed. Bleeding does not affect the ability to diagnose. A disposable plastic backed tissue sheet (‘bluey’) is placed beneath you. Patients are draped during the examination and are given privacy when dressing.

If an abdominal ultrasound is preferred, a moderately full bladder is necessary. To this effect, patients should drink 3 glasses of water one hour before the appointment time and not empty the bladder until after the scan.