A transvaginal scan is used to examine a woman's uterus on the inside, including the endometrium (the lining of the womb) and allowing good views of the cervix and the ovaries.
What is a transvaginal scan and why is it used for?
A transvaginal scan is performed with an ultrasound probe that is inserted through and across the vagina. The probe is able to capture and transmit images to a monitor by sending out sound waves that reflect back the reproductive organs' structures.
With a transvaginal scan the doctor can observe the changes occurring in your ovaries during your cycle, such as the development of the sacs or follicles that hold your eggs. Counting the number and measuring the size of follicles during your cycle is a very important assessment for fertility treatments, especially after ovarian stimulation during an In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) cycle.
Generally, a transvaginal scan is a useful examination for checking the physiology (normal structure), functioning and common disorders of the uterus, the endometrium, the cervix, the ovaries and the fallopian tubes. Some examples of conditions that can be detected with a transvaginal scan include:
- Submucosal fibroids (non-cancerous growths in the muscular wall of the uterus; they can cause pain and heavy periods).
- Endometrial polyps or endometrial thickness in relation to your cycle.
- Cervical fibroids or polyps.
- Advanced cervical cancer.
- Endometriosis (presence of tissue that behaves like the endometrium outside the womb).
- Hydrosalpinx (a condition characterized by blocked and filed-with-fluid fallopian tubes).
- Ectopic pregnancy.
The transvaginal scan has become the method of choice, as it produces very clear images and does not require you to have a full bladder compared to a conventional lower abdomen ultrasound. Additionally, this test is safe to be performed at any time of the cycle, including menstruation and any stage of pregnancy.
Who may need a transvaginal scan?
Women, who undergoing fertility investigations, have frequent transvaginal scans, as they are a very informative examination for the stage of follicular development and maturation. During ovarian stimulation in IVF, transvaginal scans help us to monitor the number and growth of all the stimulated follicles, as well as the maturation of the multiple eggs. It is also used in conjunction with a needle device for the egg collection stage during IVF.
In addition, transvaginal scans are performed to give answers in cases that you experience heavy, painful or infrequent periods, discomfort during intercourse and irregular bleeding.
Furthermore, if you have any of the above described conditions, transvaginal scans are used for monitoring your progress after receiving a treatment or having surgical hysteroscopy or laparoscopy.
How is a transvaginal scan performed?
The examination is performed by one of our doctors in our day AAFC clinic. It is done without the use of any anesthetic.
The transvaginal probe is disinfected, covered in a protective sheath and lubricated with a small amount of ultrasound gel. The probe is about 2 cm in diameter and with the gel can be easily inserted – without any friction – into the vagina. By moving the probe towards all directions, the reproductive organs' structures are displayed back on the screen allowing the doctor to perform the examination.
The scan lasts about 5 to 10 minutes and you may experience a very slight discomfort, but generally a transvaginal scan is considered to be a pain-free procedure. You may return to your daily activities as normally.