Most people, aside from women when they hear ultrasound, they associate it with pregnancy and how it is used in monitoring the development of a baby in the womb. However, ultrasound can be used to diagnose and help in the treatment of many health issues related to women. Gynecologists have used ultrasound technology for decades to analyze women’s reproductive system so as to find and treat various medical issues.
So next time you go to your gynecologist, do not be surprised when they say they need to carry on an ultrasound exam on you, yet you are not pregnant. When you feel you have a gynecological issue, finding a qualified gynecologist is crucial. At All Women’s Care, we have experienced gynecologists. These specialists are familiar with all the gynecological needs of women and their treatment.
The extensive use of ultrasound technology is because of its ability to produce images of body organs without using radiation or technology that uses radiation, such as X-rays.
The technology of ultrasound uses sonography, also referred to as sound wave technology. The sounds travel through the skin of a patient without harming them until they come across a mass. Once the sound waves hit a mass, they send an echo back.
The continuous communication, where sound waves are emitted, and echoes returned to come together and provide an accurate image of the pelvic region's organs.
Ultrasounds work excellently with providing images of soft tissue. These are used to study a woman’s ovaries, endometrium, uterus, vagina, cervix, bladder, and fallopian tubes. Once the echoes from the organs in your pelvic area are communicated back, a gynecologist can detect any abnormalities and decide if there is a need for further investigation.
There are many conditions where ultrasound is used as a tool for diagnostics. With its noninvasive nature, a doctor is able to detect on the following among others:
- Presence of ovarian cysts
- Diagnose endometriosis
- Check for uterine fibroids
- Check for irregularities in the uterus
- Detect any blockages in the fallopian tubes
- Detect the presence of pelvic inflammatory disease
- Check for any tumors
Ultrasound can also be used in infertility issues. The images of your reproductive system through the ultrasound can confirm if there are problems or rule them out. If there are any problems, the issues will be treated, and your probability of becoming pregnant improved.
Aside from helping to detect reproductive issues, ultrasounds are useful in establishing if your IUD has any problems because they do, at times, move from one place to another when you bleed heavily.
Regardless of your gynecological concerns, the first opportunity to look at what could be going on is through an ultrasound. From there, the gynecologist will know the next course of action. Later in this article, we shall discuss how the ultrasound is used in detecting the various issues with a woman’s reproductive system.
The Process of Conducting an Ultrasound
Various types of ultrasounds require different preparation or are carried out differently. These types are:
- Transvaginal ultrasound
- Transabdominal ultrasound and
- Transrectal ultrasound.
This kind of ultrasound is used in diagnosing some gynecological issues. This procedure can be used interchangeably with saline ultrasound. If your gynecologist decides to use a saline type of ultrasound, he or she will get your uterus filled with a saline solution that enables them to see the uterine cavity clearly.
In carrying out a transvaginal ultrasound, a long thin transducer is inserted into a woman’s vagina to get images. The feet of the patient are put up and apart. A special gel covers the transducer or a latex or plastic covering is used. Just as you insert a tampon, the doctor inserts the transducer in your vagina.
A significant benefit of using ultrasound to detect problems is its ability to deliver information in real-time. This enables your doctor to take action as soon as a problem is detected. An ultrasound does not require the information to be sent elsewhere for analysis. This is advantageous because the best treatment plan can be started as soon as the problem is detected.
This type of ultrasound is done through the abdomen with the patient lying on their back. The doctor will put gel on your stomach and the transducer. The gel is necessary for helping with the movements the transducer or sensor does on your abdomen. It is also essential in preventing air from getting trapped between the patient’s skin and the device.
The transducer is usually attached to a computer that displays the image of the pelvic organs being monitored. Your doctor can see the pictures that help him detect any irregularities or abnormalities in the organs.
This is an ultrasound used in men and is done through the rectum. The patient lies on their side, facing the other side. This is used in detecting any abnormalities in the male reproductive system or checking on the prostate gland.
Aside from these, a Doppler ultrasound is one that is used to check the direction and speed of blood. A doctor checking if there is a blockage in the blood vessels that run through the abdomen, this is the type of ultrasound used.
The Risks of Ultrasound
There are no risks in taking an ultrasound test as compared to other tests such as X-rays. This is because, as earlier mentioned, an ultrasound uses sound waves that are harmless compared to the harmful radiation used in X-rays.
Both transrectal and transvaginal ultrasounds can be uncomfortable when inserting the transducer, but they are not painful. The transabdominal ultrasound, on the other hand, does not hurt nor does a patient experience any discomfort.
Preparing for an Ultrasound
If you are undergoing a transabdominal ultrasound, you will be required to fill your bladder. Your doctor will ask you to take a lot of water, about 32 ounces, at least an hour before the test. When your bladder is full, the images of your organs become clearer. When you feel the need to use the bathroom, you will not be allowed until the procedure is over.
If a transvaginal ultrasound is being administered on a patient, their bladder must be empty. One must go to the bathroom prior to the test.
After the Test, What Happens?
If your doctor was not the one administering the ultrasound, the radiologist will print the ultrasound images and share them with your doctor after analyzing them. With the report, if there are any problems detected, they will be outlined.
On receiving the report, your doctor will analyze the report by the radiologist and explain the results. If there is a treatment required, the doctor will discuss this and the various options available. In case there is a need for more tests, your doctor will recommend them as well.
Benefits of Undergoing an Ultrasound Test
There are many advantages to doing an ultrasound procedure to other procedures. These include:
- The process is without pain and needs no injections, incisions or needles
- The use of sound waves poses no health risk to the patients compared to other procedures that use radiation, such as CT scans or X-rays. No health complications have ever been reported for those that use ultrasound.
- Soft tissues are easily captured through ultrasound while they cannot be seen with the use of an X-ray
- Ultrasound procedures are standard and are not as costly as other procedures.
Your Expectations During an Ultrasound Exam
Some of the expectations depend on the type of ultrasound you want to undergo. Your doctor may ask you not to eat anything a few hours before the exam or even drink. Or your doctor can ask you to take a lot of water just before the exam and avoid going to the bathroom to keep your bladder full.
When going for an ultrasound, be sure to wear loose-fitting clothes. Sometimes you will be required to remove your clothes partially, and you need to be comfortable. Other times, you may be required to undress and change to a gown completely. All the same, the person administering the ultrasound may be able to access the area without the need for you to remove your clothes.
As earlier said, a transducer is used on your abdomen, or a thin one is inserted through your vagina. A gel is applied to the area or on the transducer to help with the procedure.
A standard ultrasound does not take long. Typically, within thirty minutes to an hour, the procedure is completed. There is no anesthesia used because the process is painless with minimal discomfort, if any, during the transvaginal ultrasound. Throughout the procedure, you will remain alert and can talk with the doctor or the technician as he or she is carrying out the exam.
Gynecological Medical Conditions that are Detected by Ultrasounds
As earlier stated, an ultrasound exam can be used to detect various gynecological conditions in women. Here, we will discuss the different conditions, their symptoms, and how an ultrasound exam will help.
Ultrasound for Detecting and Treating Uterine Fibroids
Fibroids are growths or tumors found in the womb but are not cancerous. They come in various sizes, with some being very small while others can grow very big. They are known to prevail in women in their productive years due to the high levels of estrogen their bodies produce. As a woman, you may experience specific symptoms that will make you see your gynecologist. These symptoms include:
- Experiencing heavy bleeding during your periods accompanied by excruciating pain
- Suffering from anemia due to the heavy bleeding during your menses
- Experiencing leg pains or lower back pains
- Having regular constipation
- Experiencing discomfort in your lower abdomen
- Needing to urinate frequently
- Experiencing pain when engaging in sexual intercourse
These are some of the symptoms of fibroids. However, upon visiting your gynecologist, he or she may order you to get tested or examined to determine the cause of your symptoms. One of the ordinary and effective examinations is ultrasound.
Your doctor may order you to undergo a transabdominal or transvaginal ultrasound tests. Sometimes, both exams may be done to detect the presence of fibroids, their size, and where they are.
When the ultrasound test confirms that you have fibroids, treatment will depend on their size and exact location and even your plans to have children in the future. Your doctor will discuss the treatment methods available.
Aside from the medications, there are available surgical procedures. An ultrasound procedure can also be used in treating the fibroids. This treatment is MRI guided and is centered on ultrasound surgery. When the MRI locates fibroids in the uterus, powerful ultrasound waves high in energy are sent to them, causing them to shrink.
Detecting Ovarian Cysts through Ultrasound
Ovarian cysts take the shape of sacs filled with fluid growing on the surface of an ovary or both ovaries or inside them. When the follicle does not release an egg during ovulation, it may keep getting filled with fluid while in the ovary. This forms a cyst known as follicular cysts. A follicle can release an egg, but the sac still swells with blood or fluid instead of it dissolving. This forms another type of cyst called the corpus luteum cyst.
Although there are various types of cysts, when you experience the following symptoms, you need to see your gynecologist. These are:
- Feeling full all the time
- Experiencing painful menses or when having sexual intercourse
- Feeling nauseated and vomiting often
- Experiencing unusual bleeding
- Sudden and unexplained weight gain
- Being unable to empty your bladder completely
- Feeling a tenderness and pain in your breasts
- Experiencing aches on your lower back, thighs and the pelvic area
Sometimes, you may experience sudden and severe abdominal pain. This may signify a ruptured cyst. If you start fainting, feeling dizzy and weak as well as experiencing rapid breathing, you must get to a doctor quickly.
When you have these symptoms, your doctor may suspect ovarian cysts. However, before treatment, he or she must carry out tests to determine the exact cause of your symptoms.
Your doctor will carry out a pelvic test. This pelvic ultrasound will allow the doctor to view the cyst by the use of sound waves. The ultrasound will also show if the cyst is filled with solid tissue, fluid, or both. A doctor in carrying out an ultrasound will use the transvaginal ultrasound. This test, as earlier discussed, will involve inserting a transducer through your vagina to have a better look.
Once your doctor confirms that you have ovarian cysts and their type, he or she will recommend the next cause of action that will treat your condition.
Endometriosis and how Ultrasound Exam Detects it
This is a painful disorder where tissue similar to that lining the uterine walls grows outside the uterus. This tissue often develops around the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and the pelvis. This tissue behaves like that found inside the uterine wall. It grows in thickness and bleeds, just like one would during her periods. As a result, cysts develop known as endometriomas.
When one suffers from this condition, the first common symptom is pain in their pelvic region. This pain is usually associated with menstrual pain, but it is described to be worse than the normal one. Some of the signs that may take you to see your gynecologist include:
- Experiencing intense periods known as dysmenorrhea. The cramping and pain in the pelvic region often start before and continue after your menstruation. During this period, you may also suffer from abdominal and lower back pain.
- Another symptom is experiencing pain during intercourse and after
- During your menses, you may experience excessive bleeding, or sometimes you may bleed between periods.
- Endometriosis also causes one to feel pain when urinating or in bowel movement. These symptoms are however felt more during your periods
- If you are struggling with fertility issues, the first thing the doctor will check is endometriosis. This condition is one of the causes of infertility in women
- A woman with endometriosis will also experience bloating, nausea, fatigue, or constipation.
When you are experiencing all these symptoms, it is advisable to see your doctor. Although the symptoms are often confused with those of ovarian cysts, your doctor will order an ultrasound exam. Either transabdominal or transvaginal ultrasound will be used to determine if you have endometriosis. Depending on how severe your symptoms are, the doctor can order for you to do both kinds of ultrasounds.
Once this is determined, your gynecologist will discuss the various treatment options available to you and which ones will work best in your case.
Ultrasound Scans to Test for Fertility and Treatment
Those that have had children without struggling may not understand the pain of infertility. When you have been trying to conceive without success, you will automatically turn to your doctor to check what could be the problem. Your doctor in the exams will order you to undertake fertility or infertility testing.
In infertility testing, an ultrasound scan will provide details on your ovaries, uterus, and endometrial lining. Ultrasound testing can also be used to see the ovarian reserves, the shape of the uterus in a detailed manner, and whether you have blocked fallopian tubes or not.
When testing for fertility, an ultrasound exam is used to check the development of the follicle and how thick the endometrial lining is. When retrieving an egg during IVF treatment, an ultrasound is used to guide the needle.
During fertility and infertility testing, your doctor may use both the transvaginal or transabdominal ultrasounds. This is essential in checking on some things in your reproductive system. When the doctor is using an ultrasound, he or she is checking to see:
The presence and position of reproductive organs. He or she would want to see if everything is in the correct position and is present. One cause of infertility in some women is the absence of a uterus or ovaries. There are women born without these, and it is vital to see if the reason you are not conceiving is that you lack some reproductive organs.
The use of an ultrasound exam also monitors the ovaries. Your doctor will be checking to see the shape and size of your ovaries. Your doctor will also be checking if you have cysts and if they are normal or not. You may have cysts that indicate you have a polycystic ovarian syndrome. You may also have a large cyst that is proving endometriosis, which is another cause of infertility.
The count of your Antral follicle – an ultrasound is carried out to check the reason for your infertility by checking on your antral follicle count. When the count is low, it would mean you have poor or weak ovarian reserves. If your count is overly high, it may be an indication of a polycystic ovarian syndrome, which is also a cause of infertility.
The use of an ultrasound exam also monitors the uterus. The size, position, and shape of the uterus are checked. Using a 3D ultrasound, your doctor will notice if there are abnormalities such as the septate or bicornuate uterus. The doctor will also check to see if your uterus has any masses like polyps, fibroids, or adenomyosis. If any of these are noticed, your doctor will discuss with you the available treatment options that will help you conceive.
The use of ultrasound also checks endometrium thickness. Depending on the day the exam is taken, the doctor will be able to know if your endometrium thickens as required to prepare for pregnancy. If it does not, the doctor will know the best treatment method for your case.
A blockage in the fallopian tubes is also detected using an ultrasound exam. Sometimes you may be having difficulties conceiving because your tubes are blocked. If this is detected, the doctor will also discuss with you the treatment options that will unblock your tubes.
After the doctor has determined what may be causing your infertility, he or she will also use ultrasound to monitor the treatment. By using the various treatment options available, he or she will monitor your ovaries, uterus, the growth of your follicle, whether the thickness of your endometrial is back to normal, among others.
Find a Gynecologist Near Me
When you are experiencing gynecological problems as a woman, you want to find a doctor that will understand you and has the experience to detect and treat your problems. At All Women’s Care, we have a team of experienced and compassionate gynecologists. These experts are experienced in using ultrasound exams, among others, to detect and treat your gynecological issues. Whatever gynecological issues you may be experiencing, feel free to reach us at 213-250-9461, and let us find a solution to your problems together.