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When you hear about ultrasounds, you probably imagine a healthcare professional rubbing a machine over a pregnant belly while black and white images appear on a screen. Ultrasounds are immediately paired with pregnancy, and they are vital for people who are expecting, but there are actually multiple kinds of ultrasounds and numerous reasons why you might need each type.

Even though ultrasounds are most commonly thought of with women’s health, men may also require ultrasounds. While the Women’s Health location is primarily focused on health for women, men also receive ultrasounds at this location.

How They Work

Ultrasounds are an amazing kind of technology that uses sound waves to send information about what’s happening inside your body. A machine processes this information and creates images of your body in real-time. This allows medical professionals to assess the health of a baby or examine areas of your body for potential concerns with accuracy to understand what is happening in each area of your body.

Reasons to Get an Ultrasound

During Pregnancy

Ultrasounds provide valuable information about the sex, health, and due date of a fetus. Most women receive an ultrasound during their second trimester, between 18-22 weeks. However, some individuals may receive an additional ultrasound earlier in the pregnancy, especially if they have health concerns.


There are many valuable uses for ultrasounds, and medical professionals often rely on them for diagnosing a variety of conditions.

Your doctor may recommend an ultrasound if you’re at risk for any of the following (among others):

Did You Know: Physical therapists also may use ultrasounds to promote tissue healing and to treat issues of chronic pain like carpal tunnel, tendonitis, and joint problems.

couple smiles and holds ultrasound photo

Types of Ultrasounds

Abdominal Ultrasound

The most commonly imagined ultrasound is the abdominal ultrasound. While this is the most popular way to view the growth and development of a fetus in the womb, there are other uses for abdominal ultrasounds, including to check for: kidney or gallstones, liver issues, tumors, appendicitis, blood clots, and more.

How it Works

Because your organs show up better in the imaging when your bladder is full, you may be asked to drink water an hour before your exam. During the appointment, the medical professional will apply gel to the transducer and rub it across your abdomen to get the images.

Transvaginal Ultrasound

Transvaginal ultrasounds are valuable for detecting problems with the uterus, bladder, pelvis, to check for endometriosis, search for tumors, find an ectopic pregnancy (a fertilized egg outside of the uterus), and more.

How it Works

While abdominal ultrasounds are best completed when your bladder is full, transvaginal ultrasounds require an empty bladder. You’ll be asked to use the bathroom before the procedure.

After using the restroom, you’ll lie down on a table and may be asked to place your feet in a set of stirrups. When ready, a transducer will be used inside your body to give accurate readings on the area that your healthcare provider has ordered a scan of.

Transrectal Ultrasound

Transrectal ultrasounds are used to diagnose prostate cancer and pelvic and bladder concerns, among other things.

How it Works

Before a transrectal ultrasound, the patient may be asked to complete an enema to clear out the rectum before a lubricated probe is inserted to inspect the prostate tissue. While TV and films like to exaggerate this process, these exams often come with little-to-no pain and minimal discomfort.


Do ultrasounds harm the baby?

No. There is no evidence that suggests that ultrasounds are harmful to the baby or mother.

What are the side effects of an ultrasound?

Some people experience side effects, such as bleeding or cramping after a transvaginal or transrectal ultrasound. Minimal side effects are not concerning, but if anything persists, let your doctor know.

Where can I get an ultrasound?

While our ultrasound equipment is located in the Women’s Health office, people of all genders may receive an ultrasound from Heart City Health.

Do I have to get an ultrasound?

Ultrasounds are advised by a doctor to a non-pregnant patient if they are at risk of a serious illness. These screenings provide valuable testing that saves lives. In the case of pregnant mothers, some are anxious about ultrasounds. However, ultrasounds indicate to your medical team whether you may need to give birth in a special environment or whether the baby is breached in the womb.

Ultimately, the choice to get an ultrasound is yours, but it provides critical and occasionally life-saving information.