What is a transvaginal scan?

Dr Elisabeth Peregrine consultant obstetrician at Richmond Practice explains the difference between a transvaginal and transabdominal scan

A transvaginal scan is an ultrasound scan that is done by gently inserting a narrow probe into the vagina. The probe is disinfected before use, is covered with a new and sterile condom and is lubricated with gel to make insertion into the vagina easy. You may experience minor discomfort but it is not painful and there are no risks associated with it.
You may be more familiar with the transabdominal scan approach. This requires a full bladder and a probe is pressed on the abdomen. For a transvaginal scan you are asked to empty your bladder. As the probe is close to the pelvic organs, a better view is obtained of the womb, cervix and ovaries, the pictures are much clearer and there is greater detail. A transvaginal scan is therefore used when you need to look at the organs lower down in the pelvis, while a transabdominal scan will give a clearer picture of the organs higher up in the abdomen.

Why would you need a transvaginal scan?
This scan will be done in pregnancy for the following reasons:
• Vaginal bleeding or pain in early pregnancy.
• To see the heartbeat of the foetus in early pregnancy.
• To diagnose a miscarriage.
• To diagnose an ectopic pregnancy.
• To look at the cervix.
• To examine the placenta for abnormalities.

Or it may be done postnatally:
• If there is abnormal bleeding or pain.
• To check for cysts or fibroids.
• To check the placement of a coil.
• For an abnormal gynaecological examination.

Why would you need a transabdominal scan?
This type of scan will be done in pregnancy or postpartum for:
• Routine scans of the baby after 9-10 weeks.
• Any unexplained abdominal pain.
• To look at your liver or kidneys.