Do I need an Ultrasound?

If you have received a positive pregnancy test: Yes

If you have taken a home pregnancy test and gotten a positive result, or received medical verification of a postive pregnancy test, it is a good idea have an ultrasound.

Following a positive pregnancy test, it may be recommended to confirm the status of your pregnancy through ultrasound.

An ultrasound is important because it can tell you many significant things such as confirmation of a viable pregnancy as well as accurately determine how many weeks you are into your pregnancy.

Your safety is important, and you deserve the best possible information as you decide how to manage the pregnancy, even if you are considering termination or an abortion.  If you are considering abortion, you’ll need the vital information that an ultrasound provides.

An ultrasound will provide you with three important pieces of information you will need when making your decision.

The Right Place. The imaging will show if the pregnancy is in your uterus (the right place in your body). When a pregnancy occurs outside of the uterus in the fallopian tube, it is called an Ectopic Pregnancy. If this is not detected early, it can endanger your health and may require emergency treatment.

How Many Weeks. The exam will also be able to determine how far along you are in the pregnancy. The number of weeks is very important when making your decision.

Is the pregnancy viable. An ultrasound will tell you if your pregnancy is viable, meaning that the pregnancy is progressing normally. This is important to you because up to 1 in 5 pregnancies end naturally in a miscarriage. If your pregnancy is no longer viable, ultrasound can help you avoid an unnecessary abortion.

What’s an ultrasound?

An ultrasound exam is a medical procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to capture live images from the inside of your body. It’s also known as sonography. Unlike other imaging techniques, ultrasound uses no radiation. For this reason, it’s the preferred method for viewing a developing fetus during pregnancy.

Ultrasounds are safe, do no contribute any known or lasting side effects, and are generally painless. 

Ultrasounds should only be performed by a trained medical professional. 

There are two (2) types of ultrasounds. You can learn more about them below:

Abdominal Ultrasound

The abdominal ultrasound is performed by a trained medical professional.

Here is what having an abdominal ultrasound is like.

1) The healthcare provider applies gel to your abdomen. This gel may feel cold, but it won’t hurt you or damage your clothes.
2) Your provider gently moves the handheld ultrasound wand over your skin, on top of the gel. They will move the wand back and forth until they clearly see the areas in question.
3) The provider performing this test may ask you to turn to one side or hold your breath for a few seconds. This helps with the ability to capture the best possible image or view.
4) When the ultrasound session is complete, they will wipe off any remaining gel on your skin.

Preparation: Your healthcare provider will give you complete instructions before your ultrasound. Follow their guidelines to ensure the most accurate test results.

Your provider may ask you to stop eating or drinking some hours before your test. In some cases, you may need to drink a specific amount of water right before your test. Or you may not need to prepare at all.

Fasting: Depending on your situation, you might need to fast before your abdominal ultrasound. Having a full (or empty) bladder or stomach can sometimes lead to blurry images. Ask your provider if you should fast before your appointment. Most pregnancy related ultrasounds do not require fasting.

Time investment: On average, an abdominal ultrasound usually takes 30 minutes to complete. But it could take more or less time depending on your situation.

Transvaginal Ultrasound

The transvaginal ultrasound is performed by a trained medical professional. In some instances, your provider may order an abdominal ultrasound before your transvaginal ultrasound (see above). Both imaging procedures together provide a more comprehensive view of your pelvic organs that may be needed, depending on your symptoms.

A transvaginal ultrasound is an internal ultrasound.  To do an internal ultrasound the patient will lay on an examination table similar to having a pelvic exam.  The ultrasound technician will place a condom and a warm lubricating gel on the transducer and gently insert it inside the vagina. The transducer releases sound waves that record pictures of your pelvic organs. There is no feeling associated with the sound waves. The images it produces will be visible on the screen.  During the process, the technician performing the ultrasound may ask that you lie still or shift your body so that the transducer can record your pelvic cavity from different angles. This allows for the best visibility of the area being viewed.

Once enough images are taken for a thorough analysis, the technician will remove the transducer.

Time investment: A transvaginal ultrasound can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour.

Preparation: Transvaginal ultrasounds don’t require much preparation. The procedure is quick and relatively painless, with little to no risk of side effects. You shouldn’t have to plan for someone to drive you home. You can resume normal activities afterward.

Wear comfortable clothes that you can slip out of easily. Remove your tampon before the procedure if you’re on your period.

Fasting: Follow your provider’s instructions about when to drink fluids and go to the bathroom. Having a full bladder affects the way your organs appear on an ultrasound. You may need to arrive at your appointment with a bladder that’s empty, full or partially full.

Shaving or grooming: Having pubic hair won’t prevent you from having an ultrasound. Groom to your comfort before the procedure.

At Hope Pregnancy Center, a licensed and trained medical professional may preform a limited OB ultrasound following a positive pregnancy test for the following 3 purposes:

  • That the baby is in the uterus
  • That the baby has a heartbeat
  • To take the measurements of the baby

We do not assess for gender or other prenatal purposes as that is outside the scope of our free services. You can also find a list of OBGYN on Google.

How much does an ultrasound cost?

Ultrasounds are free at our clinic following a positive pregnancy test. Schedule an appointment for a free pregnancy test and possible ultrasound with one of our medical professionals. The cost for an ultrasound at other clinics can be in the hundreds of dollars depending on what type of insurance you have, if any.  We do not require insurance or proof of income for our services.  All are seen regardless of financial position. Our services are free to the community.

Cleveland Clinic: Abdominal Ultrasound: What It Is, Purpose, Procedure & Results
Cleveland Clinic: Transvaginal Ultrasound: Purpose, Procedure & What To Expect

The content on this page has been reviewed and approved by our Medical Director.