What is the difference between ultrasound and sonogram?
There is no difference. Both terms describe the same imaging procedure and we may use them interchangeably in the information in this website.
Are ultrasounds only for pregnant women to check their babies?
No. Even if you are not pregnant you can benefit from the technology behind sonography since it will allow your doctor to check for several things, for example, if you have any masses in your reproductive system, if your Intra Uterine Device is well-placed or congenital abnormalities in your internal organs. Furthermore, it can help you follow your ovulation cycle (egg production).
Can you tell me more about gynecological ultrasounds?
Of course! Generally there are two types of gynecological ultrasound:
PELVIC ABDOMINAL ULTRASOUND: It can be done at any time in your life, even before puberty starts (if there is a medical reason or if you haven't had your menstrual cycle at 13-14 years of age) and during or after the course of menopause. It’s the ideal type of ultrasound indicated if you have never had intercourse. As its name indicates, this ultrasound will be done abdominally with an instrument called a transducer. You will need to drink 1-2 bottles of water 30 minutes before the exam. Having your bladder full (without discomfort) will allow the ultrasound machine to capture a better image.
PELVIC TRANSVAGINAL ULTRASOUND OR TRANSVAGINAL SONOGRAM (TVS): This type of ultrasound is indicated as a compliment of the previous one, but is only done if you’ve ever been sexually active. This exam allows us to see a more detailed view of your internal pelvic anatomy. Organs such as the uterus and ovaries can be seen with more clarity since we are closer to them. For this type of ultrasound, you don’t need to have your bladder full but empty.
What is the difference between 2D, 3D, and 4D Ultrasounds?
Ultrasound technology has evolved from being able to create images with two dimensions (2D) that are black and white and not easily identifiable for the common eye (only trained professionals such as doctors or sonographers/ultrasound technicians can interpret those images) to being able to capture a third dimension: volume, which generates a more clear image of the baby inside the womb and views his/her anatomy with more precision. 3D technology not only provides better resolution and precision but is also less expensive than a MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). 3D ultrasounds serve as a great diagnostic tool for your doctor since now he/she can be aware of problems that were not visible with conventional ultrasound (2D). Moreover, technology is now capable of capturing the movement (4D) of the baby.
You don’t need to have your bladder full for 3D/4D ultrasounds.
How are these types of ultrasounds helpful for your
From the gynecological point of view, there are many conditions that can produce pelvic pain, such as endometriosis, ovarian cysts, ovarian tumors, uterine tumors, irregular menses, and moderate or severe pain during your menstrual period, to name some. With an ultrasound your doctor can combine his/her medical expertise with accurate visual information allowing him/her to make a more precise diagnosis and therefore a better course of treatment. For instance, utilizing an ultrasound, you can find out if your Intra Uterine Device is well positioned or if it might be the cause of discomfort and pain.
Ultrasounds are also recommended if you have a history of infertility (trying to conceive without success), if you feel pain during sexual intercourse, if you are having post-menopausal bleeding, or family history of ovarian cancer.
For the pregnant patient, ultrasounds are periodically indicated (at least every trimester) in order to follow up the normal development of the baby, identify some health conditions, such as malformations, estimate the size and weight of the baby which helps to choose the most convenient method of delivery (vaginal or C-section), determine how many babies you are expecting,and identify the baby’s gender, among others.
In summary, ultrasound is the modality of choice, and usually the only modality necessary for a suspected gynecological or obstetric abnormality.
Why do I need an ultrasound when I have missed my period or I have a home pregnancy test positive?
The main reason is to know if your pregnancy is located in the right place and it's not located outside of the uterus, which is known, in medical terms, as an ectopic pregnancy.
What happens if I have an ectopic pregnancy?
You need immediate medical attention. Fatality could result due to internal bleeding.
How many types of ultrasound are done when you are pregnant?
There are different types of ultrasounds and the best choice will depend on several aspects such as: your age, risks factors, medical conditions, previous pregnancies, family health history, and/or abnormal test results during your prenatal care.
It is important to do an early transvaginal ultrasound before 10 weeks of your last menstrual period in patients with history of vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain, history of previous miscarriages or losses, history of IUD (Intra Uterine Device) or patients with assisted fertility or In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). The main goal is to determine that you have a normal pregnancy, not an ectopic pregnancy, not a miscarriage. At this point it is also important to identify if is a single pregnancy or multiple pregnancy.
An ultrasound between 11-14 weeks of pregnancy is mandatory for women over 35 years old, or with a history of a baby with any cardiac or genetic abnormalities (Down syndrome, trisomy 18, etc). At this point, the main goal is to obtain measurements like the Nuchal Translucency (NT), presence of nasal bone, and other markers, visualizing the early anatomy of the baby and the existence of any abnormality. Even though you might have had a normal ultrasound before the 10 weeks of gestation, you still need this one.