Obstetrics and Gynecologic Ultrasounds

Quick look at OB-GYN ultrasounds

OB-GYN ultrasounds are an imaging method that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce an internal image of a woman’s bladder, uterus, fallopian tubes, cervix and ovaries.

The purpose of OB-GYN ultrasounds is twofold: In obstetric medicine to confirm and monitor pregnancy, and in gynecologic care to evaluate conditions such as ovarian cysts, abnormal uterine bleeding and uterine fibroids.

Benefits of ultrasound imaging include low cost, no pain and instantaneous imaging that the doctor and patient can review together in real time. Our on-site, certified sonographers make it possible for all of a woman’s OB-GYN needs to be met at our facility.

What is an OB-GYN ultrasound?

An obstetrics and gynecologic (OB-GYN) ultrasound is an imaging method that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce an internal image of a woman’s bladder, uterus, fallopian tubes, cervix and ovaries, presented on a computer screen for physician and patient viewing.

Most women are familiar with the obstetric application of ultrasound to confirm and evaluate a pregnancy. Ultrasound images are often the first time a family gets a glimpse of their baby, and they are often treasured. Ultrasound images can be used in gynecologic care to diagnose and help treat many diseases and conditions in the pelvic region.

Ultrasound probes come in many different shapes and sizes. Some transducers are used on the skin of a woman’s abdomen, while others are placed inside the vagina. A vaginal ultrasound is usually called a transvaginal ultrasound. Getting the transducer close to the cervix, uterus and ovaries allows for more detailed images to be created.

During an OB-GYN ultrasound, the certified sonographer either moves a transducer along the skin or gently inserts a transvaginal transducer into the woman’s vagina. These transducers, or “probes,” emit sound waves beyond the range of human hearing. These harmless waves echo off internal organs, and a computer translates these waves into a visible image on a monitor.

Ultrasound for obstetrics and pregnancy

Obstetric ultrasounds are used during many stages of pregnancy.

  • First, they are often used to confirm the pregnancy itself.
  • As time goes on, these ultrasounds are used to determine due dates, identify the possible presence of twins or multiples, and to learn the sex, size and position of the baby. Ultrasounds can also be used to screen for birth defects.
  • At the end of a pregnancy, doctors also use ultrasound to assess whether or not the baby is facing head-down.

Ultrasound for gynecologic diagnostics and evaluation

Another common use for ultrasounds is as a tool in gynecologic medicine to diagnose conditions in women and girls, particularly of the reproductive tract. Abnormal uterine bleeding, cysts, tumors, fibroids and pelvic pain are all conditions that can be diagnosed and evaluated through pelvic ultrasound imaging.

While gynecologic ultrasounds are very helpful in diagnosing certain conditions, they do have some limitations. Sound waves do not travel well through bone or parts of the body that contain air, including the intestines and bladder. Sometimes these circumstances lead to a visual blockage, making it difficult to clearly see the targeted organ.

How we perform OB-GYN ultrasounds

Patients may be advised to drink several glasses of water prior to the ultrasound test, depending on the type of ultrasound being performed.

During the ultrasound, the sonographer will apply gel to the skin. This water-based gel helps the sound waves from the transducer transmit through the skin, yielding better images. The gel also makes it easier and more comfortable for the transducer to glide across the skin.

An OB-GYN ultrasound can take between 10 minutes and an hour, depending on what the sonographer is looking for during the test. In most cases, the sonographer will talk the patient through what he/she sees during the procedure and will even share the images. The nurse practitioner or doctor will then review the images from the ultrasound and discuss the findings with the patient.