Need to talk? Call 1800 882 436.
It's a free call with a maternal child health nurse. *call charges may apply from your mobile

Is it an emergency? Dial 000
If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately.

beginning of content

Vaginal ultrasound

6-minute read

Key facts

  • A vaginal ultrasound is an ultrasound scan taken using a transducer (probe) that is inserted into your vagina.
  • During early pregnancy, a vaginal ultrasound can confirm you are pregnant and show if you are pregnant with one baby or more (such as twins or triplets).
  • A vaginal ultrasound can also be used during early pregnancy to diagnose problems or potential problems.
  • A vaginal ultrasound may be recommended midway through your pregnancy to assess your risk of premature birth.
  • The main benefit of vaginal ultrasounds is that they can give very clear and detailed images.

What is a vaginal ultrasound?

A vaginal ultrasound is an ultrasound scan taken using a transducer (probe) that is inserted into your vagina. Vaginal ultrasounds are also called ‘internal ultrasounds’ or ‘transvaginal ultrasounds’.

A vaginal ultrasound can be done on its own or with a standard abdominal or pelvic ultrasound. An abdominal or pelvic ultrasound is where the transducer is put on your tummy to look at the organs from the outside.

A vaginal ultrasound can give clearer images of the pelvic organs than a standard abdominal ultrasound.

When may a vaginal ultrasound be recommended during pregnancy?

During early pregnancy, a vaginal ultrasound can:

  • confirm you are pregnant, as it can detect the baby’s heartbeat very early in your pregnancy
  • show the location and size of the fetus
  • show if you are pregnant with one baby or more (such as twins or triplets)

A vaginal ultrasound can be used during early pregnancy to diagnose problems or potential problems, such as:

  • to detect an ectopic pregnancy (when a fertilised egg implants outside the womb, usually in one of the fallopian tubes)
  • work out the reason for any bleeding, and if bleeding may be caused by a miscarriage

A vaginal ultrasound may be recommended midway through your pregnancy to measure the length of your cervix. That’s because having a shorter cervix is associated with an increased risk of premature birth. If you are found to be at increased risk, your doctor may recommend treatment to reduce your risk of early labour.

A vaginal ultrasound can also give detailed images of your placenta, cervix, fallopian tubes. uterus (womb) and ovaries.

How is a vaginal ultrasound done?

A vaginal ultrasound can be done in a hospital, clinic or consulting room.

Your dignity and privacy should be protected before, during and after the test. You have the right to stop the test at any point if you feel uncomfortable or want to stop.

Before the test

The test should be explained to you beforehand. You will be asked to give your consent before the test is started. You may be asked to sign a written consent form.

If you are not comfortable having a male perform the test, you can ask for a female sonographer. You can also ask for a female health worker to accompany you for support. Or you can have a friend or family member with you.

You’ll be asked to empty your bladder (pee) before having a vaginal ultrasound. If you’re using a tampon, you’ll need to take it out.

You’ll be asked to take off your clothes from the waist down. You may be given a special gown to wear. The doctor or sonographer should give you privacy to change and provide a sheet to place over your lower body.

You will be asked to lie on an examination table with your knees bent. There might be stirrups, or your hips might be slightly raised.

During the test

The test involves having a transducer (probe) gently inserted into your vagina. The transducer is a special smooth, hand-held device. It’s slightly larger than a tampon. It will be covered by a sheath and warm lubricating gel.

You should be given the choice of inserting the transducer yourself, which is similar to inserting a tampon. Otherwise it can be inserted by the person doing the test. This may be a doctor or specialist sonographer.

The probe will be moved slightly to get clear images. It usually doesn’t hurt, but you will feel pressure and it can be uncomfortable. The test usually takes about 15 to 30 minutes.

What are the benefits of vaginal ultrasounds?

The main benefit of vaginal ultrasounds is that they can give very clear and detailed images. The images are often more detailed than ultrasounds where the probe is used only on your tummy.

Compared with an abdominal ultrasound, a vaginal ultrasound can allow for:

  • a more accurate diagnosis
  • earlier detection of pregnancy

Are there any risks involved with vaginal ultrasounds?

Vaginal ultrasounds are generally safe for you and your baby.

Vaginal ultrasounds should not be done if:

If you are allergic to latex, let the sonographer know so they can use a latex-free sheath on the probe.

There are no after-effects of the procedure. So, you can get back to your normal activities straight away, including driving yourself home if you wish.

When will I get the results?

Often, you can see the ultrasound images on a monitor while you have your scan. If your specialist is there, they might discuss the results with you straight away.

If a specialist isn’t there, the sonographer is usually not allowed to discuss what they see with you. Your doctor or midwife will see the images after they have been processed. It usually takes a day or 2 to get the results.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: October 2022


Back To Top

Need more information?

Ultrasound scans during pregnancy

Ultrasound scans help monitor your baby's health throughout your pregnancy. Find out when and why you might have ultrasound scans during pregnancy.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Ultrasounds during pregnancy | Health and wellbeing | Queensland Government

Ultrasounds use sound waves to create an image (picture) of your baby. They are used to look at your developing baby.

Read more on Queensland Health website

18-20 Week Screening Pregnancy Ultrasound - Consumers - InsideRadiology

An 18–20 week pregnancy screening ultrasound is part of the routine care during pregnancy. Screening is carried out at this stage in the pregnancy because the foetus

Read more on InsideRadiology website

Pregnancy tests - ultrasound - Better Health Channel

Ultrasound is used during pregnancy to check the baby's development and to help pick up any abnormalities.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Dating scan

If you are pregnant you can have a dating scan. During a dating ultrasound, a sonographer measures your baby to work out your estimated due date.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Morphology scan

You will be offered a morphology scan at week 18 to 22 of pregnancy. Learn what a morphology scan can tell you and how this ultrasound test is done.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Pregnancy: blood tests, ultrasound & more | Raising Children Network

In pregnancy, you’ll be offered blood tests, ultrasound scans, urine tests and the GBS test. Pregnancy tests identify health concerns for you and your baby.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Chorionic Villous Sampling - InsideRadiology

InsideRadiology provides free and easily accessible, accurate, up to date and credible information about medical imaging tests and procedures.

Read more on InsideRadiology website

Abortion By Telehealth | Teleabortion - MSI Australia

Our teleabortion service provides a safe and private way to have a medical abortion, in the privacy of your own home with support over the phone.

Read more on MSI Australia website

Pregnant with twins? About twin pregnancy | Raising Children Network

Pregnant with twins? Twin pregnancy can have more complications, so you’ll need more check-ups. Here’s what to expect in your pregnancy and antenatal care.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, this publication or any part of it may not be reproduced, altered, adapted, stored and/or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Healthdirect Australia.