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What to Expect When You’re Getting a Sonogram

A sonogram is to ultrasound technology what a photo is to a camera: It’s an image that a machine produces. If your doctor needs a sonogram image to see what’s going on inside your uterus, that means you need to undergo an examination with ultrasound.

At Columbia Fertility Associates, our expert OB/GYNs and infertility specialists may recommend ultrasound exams at various stages in your journey toward motherhood. We use sonograms to evaluate the health of your reproductive organs when you’re trying to conceive. We also recommend regular ultrasounds once you’re pregnant.

No matter why you’re getting an ultrasound test (aka sonography), the basic procedure is the same. However, if you’re having an abdominal ultrasound, you have to prepare beforehand by abstaining from food while drinking lots of water. Here’s what to expect.

Ultrasounds are noninvasive

Even though we look inside your uterus with ultrasound devices, the procedure itself is completely noninvasive. We don’t have to make any incisions or even a puncture.

You prepare for your ultrasound exam just as you would for any gynecologic exam. After our nurse takes your vital signs, including blood pressure and weight, you undress in the privacy of the exam room and change into a paper gown.

When you’re ready, your doctor or technician comes in to perform the ultrasound. We may need two views: one from inside the vagina, which is performed with a condom-protected wand, and one from on top of your tummy.

Prepare for an abdominal exam

If we tell you that we’re going to perform an abdominal ultrasound to evaluate your fertility or check on your developing fetus, don’t eat or drink anything except water for eight hours before your exam. You can still take any medications you need.

One hour before your exam, drink about 32 ounces of water. If you need to pee, you can do so, but then drink water to replenish the volume lost.

A cool gel conducts the sound waves

For both types of ultrasound exams — vaginal and abdominal — we use a cool gel that helps the transducers (the devices that transmit and interpret ultrasound) move smoothly and transmit sound waves. For vaginal ultrasound, we apply the gel to the device. For an abdominal ultrasound, we apply the gel to your abdomen.

The abdominal device is flat. We press it against the skin of your lower abdomen and pelvic area so we can view your reproductive organs or your developing baby.

After your abdominal ultrasound, you can pee. Then, if needed, we perform a transvaginal ultrasound.

We first cover the vaginal wand with a condom for cleanliness. The vaginal wand is cylindrical and fits easily into your vagina.

The gel, of course, makes insertion comfortable, though a bit cool. You may feel a little pressure as we move the wand to different angles to get a good view of your uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.

Sound waves are safe

Ultrasound is just high-energy sound waves, and it’s perfectly safe for both you and your baby. Ultrasound doesn’t use any ionizing radiation.

The transducer sends sound waves into your abdominal cavity and then picks up the echoes as the sound bounces off your organs. The transducer transmits the echoed signals to a computer that interprets them into moving black-and-white images.

You watch your ultrasound

Whether you’re getting an abdominal or vaginal ultrasound or both, you can watch the images on our computer monitor. If we’re evaluating your fertility, we may show you abnormalities, such as fibroids and cysts, that could be impairing your ability to become pregnant easily.

If you’re pregnant, you can watch your baby in the womb. If you wish, we print out the sonograms so that you can show them to your friends and family and keep them in your baby album.

Each type of ultrasound only takes a few minutes to perform and to create a sonogram image. Afterward, you clean off the gel, get dressed, and we discuss your results in our office.

To find out if you’d benefit from having an ultrasound to produce a sonogram, contact our team at Columbia Fertility Associates in Washington, DC; Bethesda, Maryland; or Arlington, Virginia, today