Polycystic ovarian syndrome, uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, pelvic inflammatory disease, pelvic organ prolapse — all of these conditions have one thing in common. They’re diagnosed using pelvic ultrasound technology.
Developed by a team of Scottish researchers over 50 years ago in the aftermath of World War II, this technology has come a long way since then and is, quite literally, saving lives the world over.
Learn more about what to expect from a Wellwoman scan and why ultrasound technology is so important for women’s health.
Pelvic Ultrasound: A Closer Look
Also referred to as sonography, ultrasounds are both popular and beneficial because of how efficient and accurate they are. They’re also non-invasive, which means that there’s no downtime associated with this test.
Ultrasound technology uses very high frequency sound waves to capture detailed images of the internal structure of the body. The end result is a sonograph. It appears as white pixels against a black background, detailing internal organs or areas of soft tissue.
In the case of a pelvic ultrasound, this includes organs such as the bladder, ovaries, fallopian tubes, the lining of the uterus, vagina, and rectum. A pelvic ultrasound may also encompass areas of the lower abdomen.
Ultrasound scanning is the best way for a doctor to see and assess what’s happening inside the body, without having to cut you open.
How is an ultrasound different from an x-ray, you might wonder?
While the overall premise is the same, an ultrasound can provide more detailed imagery in some cases, and does not expose you to radiation.
A pelvic ultrasound is somewhat of an umbrella term that encompasses several different types of sonography. Let’s take a look at the different types of ultrasound beneficial to women:
An Abdominal Ultrasound
The purpose of this test is to analyse organs inside the belly, specifically, the lower part of the belly.
During the ultrasound, a sonographer applies warm gel to the lower abdomen area. They then use a tool known as a transducer, pressing it onto the skin to see the organs and soft tissue underneath.
The gel helps the transducer move easily over your skin during the scan. While you could have an x-ray of your abdomen, it does not offer as much detail as ultrasound, especially if you have renal stones or gallstones.
If you have abdominal pain, have experienced trauma to the abdomen, or even have unexplained uterine pain, an abdominal scan is useful.
A Transvaginal Ultrasound
This type of scan is incredibly beneficial in women because it examines several different reproductive organs at once, from inside the vagina.
For example, a sonographer can examine the vagina, uterine lining, fallopian tubes, pelvic cavity, bladder, and ovaries in just one scan.
During this ultrasound, a sonographer inserts a transducer into the vagina. The transducer is covered with a warm gel to assist with lubrication. They then move the transducer around gently to obtain imagery of different reproductive organs.
When Is a Pelvic Ultrasound Necessary?
So, when is it a good idea to visit your doctor and when might they recommend any of these pelvic ultrasounds?
Some of the most common troublesome symptoms include:
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Infertility — issues trying to fall pregnant
- Painful urination, i.e. a burning sensation when urinating
- Unexplained pelvic or abdominal pain
- Unexplained or sudden swelling in your abdomen
- Trauma to the abdomen or pelvic area
- Irregular or exceptionally painful menstruation and PMS symptoms
- Menstruation after menopause
Thanks to the innovative technology of ultrasound, it can diagnose a myriad of different conditions. From hernias to kidney stones, ovarian cysts, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), ectopic pregnancy, and more.
Not only is ultrasound helpful in diagnosing these conditions, but it’s also used for important procedures such as biopsies and IUD placement in the uterus.
Preparing for an Ultrasound: What To Expect
Different types of pelvic ultrasounds require different levels of preparation. For some, you don’t need to prepare much at all.
When it comes to pelvic ultrasounds of the reproductive organs, you’ll need to arrive for your scan with a full bladder. Begin drinking about one litre of water an hour before your scan so that it’s nice and full when you arrive.
For an ultrasound of the abdomen, you might need to fast for a few hours before your scan. This means cutting out food or drinks (except water) for at least 6 hours before the test.
Bear in mind that the doctor who refers you for an ultrasound will brief you on how to prepare before the scan. You might also receive instructions via email or telephone a few days before.
Is It Painful?
Ultrasound scans are completely harmless and do not cause any pain. This is just one of the reasons they’re so widely used today. For the most part, they’re performed over the skin.
The most discomfort you might feel is a feeling of pressure against a full bladder.
Transvaginal or rectal scans are a little different. While they’re by no means painful, they are uncomfortable for some women. The important thing is to relax and breathe, and trust that your sonographer knows exactly what they’re doing.
Looking For Private Ultrasound Scanning?
If you need a pelvic ultrasound and prefer the idea of a private clinic, then our team at Bothwell Medical Rooms & Core Clinic are your Glasgow and Lanarkshire go-to for a Wellwoman scan.
We offer private clinics in both Bothwell and Hamilton for all your diagnostic needs. Get in touch with our team for efficient service that fits in with your schedule.