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Vaginal ultrasound

A safe diagnostic procedure to diagnose a range of gynaecological conditions

Clinician holding a vaginal ultrasound probe
Ultrasound is a technique that uses high-frequency sound waves to create a detailed image of a part of the body.

An ultrasound can be performed abdominally, where the ultrasound probe is moved across your abdomen, or vaginally, where the probe is inserted into your vagina. This is known as a vaginal or transvaginal ultrasound. The probe creates sound waves that are transmitted to a computer and turned into images on a screen.

Sometimes you may have both an abdominal and a vaginal ultrasound. Your consultant can combine the scans together to get a clearer picture of what is happening inside your body.

Vaginal ultrasound can be used to detect changes in your cervix, uterus (womb), endometrium (womb lining), ovaries, fallopian tubes and surrounding structures. They can also be used to detect pregnancy in its early stages.

This page explains what a vaginal ultrasound is, why you may need one and what to expect during your procedure.

There are several reasons why your doctor may arrange for you to have a vaginal ultrasound including:

  • Unexplained vaginal bleeding
  • An abnormal pelvic or abdominal examination
  • Chronic pelvic pain
  • Bleeding after the menopause
  • Bladder or urinary problems
  • To check for abnormalities such as cysts, fibroids, polyps, and tumours
  • Painful, irregular or heavy periods
  • Not having periods
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Ectopic pregnancy (when the baby grows outside the womb)
  • To check your intrauterine device (IUD) is in the right place

Your consultant may also request an ultrasound during pregnancy to:

  • Confirm your pregnancy in the early stages
  • Check your cervix (the opening of the womb) for any abnormalities that could lead to miscarriage or early delivery
  • Check your baby’s heartbeat
  • Investigate any abnormal bleeding
  • Diagnose a suspected miscarriage
  • Check the placenta for any abnormalities

If you have a referral letter that says you need a vaginal ultrasound, call us directly and our dedicated advisors will help you to arrange one.

If you don't have a referral, you may need to have an initial consultation with a gynaecologist before we can get you booked in for a vaginal ultrasound. Again, it's best to call one of our advisors. They will let you know exactly what to do.

A vaginal ultrasound normally requires little to no preparation. You may need to empty your bladder before your scan, or your consultant may ask you to have a full bladder. It’s best to wait until they tell you either way.

Any instructions for what you need to do to prepare for your scan will be in your appointment letter. Call the hospital if you’re not sure about anything, or if you have any questions on how to prepare for your vaginal ultrasound.

Some things you can do to prepare for your vaginal ultrasound include:

  • Wear easy-to-remove clothing on your lower half
  • Leave any valuables and jewellery at home
  • Remove your tampon if you are on your period
  • Tell your technician if you are allergic to latex

Your vaginal ultrasound will be performed by your gynaecologist, a specialist nurse, or a sonographer (a technician trained to perform ultrasounds).

When you arrive for your vaginal ultrasound appointment, your technician will explain the procedure to you and answer any questions you have. Tell your technician if you feel particularly nervous before your vaginal ultrasound. They will do their best to make sure you are as relaxed and comfortable as possible during the procedure.

You will need to remove your clothes from the waist down and your technician will give you a sheet to cover your lower half. You will be asked to lie on the examination table with your knees bent and legs apart. If this position is difficult, you may be able to lie on your side with your legs drawn up under your chest.

The ultrasound probe is covered with a protective sheath (like a condom) and lubricated with gel. Your technician will gently insert the probe into your vagina. The probe is very slender (not much wider than a finger) and shouldn't hurt but may be slightly uncomfortable. If you prefer, you can insert the probe yourself.

The technician will gently move the probe around and look at the images on the screen.

A vaginal ultrasound normally takes between fifteen minutes and half an hour.

Vaginal ultrasound does not require any recovery time and you will be able to go home straight away after your procedure. You should be able to immediately resume normal activities such as driving and returning to work.

Vaginal ultrasound is a very safe procedure and there are no known risks associated with it. You may feel slight discomfort when the probe is inserted into your vagina and while your technician moves the probe around.

Tell your technician if you have a latex allergy, so they can use a latex-free sheath to cover the probe.

Tell your technician if you feel pain, or if anything doesn't feel right during your procedure.

Your technician may be able to give you some information on the day of your procedure. They will also prepare a report for your consultant. Talk to your consultant about when you can expect to get the results of your vaginal ultrasound. You should not expect a long delay.

We answer some of your most frequently asked questions about vaginal ultrasound.

Do vaginal ultrasounds hurt?

A vaginal ultrasound shouldn't hurt, but you may feel slight discomfort when the probe is inserted. Tell your technician if you experience any pain during your vaginal ultrasound.

Can a vaginal ultrasound detect cancer?

A vaginal ultrasound can detect a mass or tumour, but it can't tell if one is cancerous or benign (non-cancerous). If a mass is detected, you will need another procedure called a biopsy where cells are taken and sent to the laboratory for analysis.

Are vaginal ultrasounds safe?

Yes. Vaginal ultrasounds are very safe. Ultrasound scans do not use ionizing radiation like other types of scans such as X-rays or CT scans. There are no known risks associated with vaginal ultrasound scans.

Can I have sex before a vaginal ultrasound?

Yes. You can continue with all your normal activities before your vaginal ultrasound. Having sex before your procedure will not have any effect on your result.

Can a vaginal ultrasound cause miscarriage?

Vaginal ultrasound is a safe procedure that is often recommended during early pregnancy. There is no evidence that a vaginal ultrasound can cause miscarriage.

How long does a vaginal ultrasound take?

Vaginal ultrasound normally takes around fifteen to thirty minutes.

Can I have a vaginal ultrasound if I'm on my period?

Yes. Being on your period won't make any difference to the results of your vaginal ultrasound. If you would prefer to delay your appointment to a time when you don't have your period, call the hospital to reschedule.

At Circle Health Group we have the experience and expertise to ensure the best possible care and outcome for our patients. As a patient with Circle Health Group, you can expect the highest standards of care including:

  • Flexible appointment times and locations that are convenient for you
  • The freedom to choose which hospital and consultant suit your needs
  • Personalised, consultant-led treatment plans tailored to your individual needs
  • Comfortable and safe private facilities maintained by expert multidisciplinary teams
  • Private ensuite rooms as standard
  • A range of delicious healthy meals
  • Affordable, fixed-price packages with aftercare included
  • Flexible payment options to help you spread the cost of your care

If you would like to see a consultant or learn more about vaginal ultrasound, book your appointment online today or call a member of our team directly on 0141 300 5009.

Content reviewed by Circle in-house team in March 2023. Next review due March 2026.

  1. Ultrasound scan, NHS
  2. Transvaginal ultrasound scan, Cancer Research UK
  3. What is a Transvaginal Ultrasound?, Healthline
  4. Transvaginal Ultrasound, Cleveland Clinic

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