At the end of the first trimester, most pregnant women undergo a transabdominal ultrasound to check the health of their unborn baby. This procedure generally gives doctors the information they need, but some situations mean that a physician may need to check the fetus earlier in the pregnancy. During the early stages of your pregnancy, your doctor may recommend that you undergo a transvaginal ultrasound. Learn more about the reasons why you may need this type of diagnostic.
To confirm the date of your pregnancy
Following a positive pregnancy test, most women can estimate their baby's due date (or estimated date of confinement). Most pregnant women simply count from the first day of their last period, which normally falls around two weeks before conception. From here, you can then estimate the date you should expect your baby to arrive.
In some cases, it's harder to make these estimates. For example, if you aren't certain when your last menstrual period took place, it's difficult to accurately estimate your due date. This lack of information could prove problematic for your healthcare provider later in the pregnancy, especially if your baby experiences developmental problems.
A transvaginal ultrasound in the first trimester can often give your doctor a more accurate estimate of the due date. Ideally, you will have the test as early in the pregnancy as possible, as this increases the accuracy of the result.
To diagnose an ectopic pregnancy
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fetus forms outside the uterus. Unfortunately, ectopic pregnancies are increasingly common in the United States, particularly in women aged 35 to 44. What's more, over 40 women die from this serious condition every year, so early detection is vital.
Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy can include vaginal bleeding, nausea and abdominal pain. It's not always easy to diagnose this dangerous condition, so your doctor may recommend a transvaginal ultrasound if he or she suspects an ectopic pregnancy. This type of scan is a more accurate way to diagnose the problem than an abdominal ultrasound. Don't worry. A transvaginal ultrasound cannot harm you or your baby if the pregnancy is normal, either.
To detect early risk of miscarriage
Experts estimate that around a quarter of all pregnancies in the United States end in miscarriage. There are many causes of miscarriage, including hormone problems, infections, obesity and issues with the immune system, but the outcome is always devastating for the parents. During the early stages of pregnancy, your healthcare provider will want to detect and act upon any symptom that indicates a higher risk of miscarriage.
If you have previously suffered a miscarriage, or if you have certain underlying health conditions, your doctor may recommend a transvaginal ultrasound. These scans offer better, clearer images of your pelvic organs during pregnancy, which can help a doctor detect potential miscarriage risks more easily. For example, the technician may see that the pregnancy sac is small or irregular. An abdominal ultrasound may not detect this symptom.
To detect twins or triplets
Twins and triplets are more likely to experience problems during pregnancy. The gestation period for a single baby is 39 weeks, but this figure drops to 36 weeks for twins and 32 weeks for triplets. Unfortunately, a shorter gestation period increases the risk of preterm delivery, which puts your baby at higher risk of complications.
As such, your healthcare provider will want to confirm a multiple pregnancy as early as possible. Factors that increase the possibility of multiple births include:
- A family history of multiple births
- IVF-assisted reproduction
- Symptoms like severe morning sickness
A transvaginal ultrasound can often more accurately detect a multiple birth in the first trimester. This information can then help your obstetrician plan special care measures during the early stages of your pregnancy. For example, you may need more scans and tests to look for the signs of any developmental issues.
A transvaginal ultrasound is a harmless, effective way to get more accurate information about an unborn fetus during the first trimester. Talk to someone from a place like EVDI Medical Imaging, for more information and advice.