Pelvic Ultrasound for Women: About This Test

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Pelvic ultrasound

What is it?

A pelvic ultrasound is a test that uses sound waves to make a picture of the inside of the lower belly (pelvis). It allows your doctor to see your bladder, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. The sound waves create a picture on a video monitor.

The test can be done in two ways:

Transabdominal.

A small handheld device (transducer) is passed back and forth over your lower belly.

Transvaginal.

A thin, lubricated transducer is placed in your vagina.

Why is this test done?

A pelvic ultrasound test is done to:

  • Find the cause of urinary problems.
  • Find out what's causing pelvic pain.
  • Look for causes of vaginal bleeding and menstrual problems.
  • Check for growths or masses like ovarian cysts or uterine fibroids.
  • See if a fertilized egg is growing outside the uterus. This is called a tubal pregnancy.
  • Confirm the stage of a pregnancy and check the baby's heartbeat.
  • Look for the correct placement of an intrauterine device (IUD).

How can you prepare for the test?

In general, there's nothing you have to do before this test, unless your doctor tells you to.

How is the test done?

For a transabdominal ultrasound:

  • You lie down on your back on an exam table.
  • A warm gel will be spread on your lower belly. This improves the transmission of the sound waves. The handheld transducer is pressed against your belly and gently moved back and forth. A picture of the organs can be seen on a video monitor.

For a transvaginal ultrasound:

  • You lie down on your back on an exam table with your knees bent and feet and legs supported by footrests.
  • The tip of a thin, lubricated transducer probe is gently placed into your vagina. The transducer may be moved around to get a complete view. The images from the test are shown on a video monitor.

How long does the test take?

A pelvic ultrasound can take 15 to 30 minutes.

What happens after the test?

  • You will probably be able to go home right away. It depends on the reason for the test.
  • You can go back to your usual activities right away.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to keep a list of the medicines you take. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your test results.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.