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Are vaginal ultrasounds painful: Things to know?

  • An ultrasound is a way of looking at the pelvic area by using sound waves to see the organs. These sound waves are harmless and safe.
    • We do ultrasounds of the pelvic area to look at the uterus, ovaries and other areas nearby. An ultrasound can check an early pregnancy, or for cysts or tumours of the ovary or for things in the uterus like a thicker lining, polyps of the lining, cancer and fibroids. It is also used to help monitor changes during fertility treatments or to see if your tubes are open so that you can get pregnant.
    • There are 2 ways to look at this area: either by inserting a thin “probe”, like a thin candle, into the vagina or looking through the lower tummy skin. The vaginal way is very helpful and accurate to look at this area and is the better and preferred way unless it cannot be used.


  • Is it painful at the start? There can be discomfort and even surprise at the very beginning when first inserted. Then as it is slowly inserted further, there can also be discomfort or an unfamiliar sensation that can be startling.
    • If you are more sensitive, or if there is also a tender or painful area at the entrance such as Vestibulodynia or vaginismus (pain at the entrance of the vagina or painful muscles spasm inside) or from a smaller or narrow entrance especially if you are in menopause, this can obviously cause the ultrasound to be more uncomfortable or painful, even if inserted very carefully and slowly.


  • Is it painful once inside? Once inside and the exam starts, there can be pressure, side to side movement to see the ovaries and back and forth movement (small in and out like movements) to see the uterus and bladder. There can also be deep pressure when looking for the ovaries. These movements are normal and necessary to see everything with the small sensor at the tip of the probe.
    • Most find these movements okay and not worrying but it is not uncommon, especially if you are more sensitive, or depending on when you period or ovulation occurs, or if in menopause when the vaginal lining is thin, or if you have endometriosis or larger fibroids or sensitive ovaries due to cysts or endometriosis, that you may feel more pressure, discomfort or even pain when the probe is moved.
    • This discomfort or occasionally pain, can even linger for a while. This is common, normal and does not mean that something is wrong or that the ultrasound was done incorrectly or harshly. We can do the ultrasound the same way every time, even on the same patient and she may feel increased discomfort or pain sometimes only and not at other times.
    • Discomfort and pain during an ultrasound is well known and reported often in medical journals. Once again, it does not mean something is wrong or went wrong during the ultrasound.
  • How long does it take? We do ultrasounds as part of the consultation, before , during or after procedures. The vaginal ultrasound only takes a few minutes because we are focused on certain areas we are treating.
  • Making it easier: At Meridia, we have a full illustrated consent process so that you know everything and allow us to do the ultrasound beforehand. We use state of the art chairs that are super comfortable during the ultrasound. A nurse is there all the time to help you and check-in on you. And we warm the gel! You are in control all the time and can tell us if you want us to pause for a while or stop at any time.


  • How do we do? Our ultrasound results: we did an anonymous survey of 1748 patients, which was managed by data experts at arm’s length from clinic staff to ensure accuracy. 1183 had ultrasounds.
    • 99.6% said adequate information was given about the ultrasound examination.
    • 99.1% said the ultrasound was the same or better compared to what they had elsewhere.
    • 100% said they understood the ultrasound would be inserted into the vagina.
    • 99.1% said they would have another ultrasound here.
    • 97.3% said that it was explained that ultrasounds can be uncomfortable or painful at times.
    • 99.8% said it was tolerable, uncomfortable or somewhat painful.

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