Richmond Practice - What is a transvaginal scan and how is it different from an abdominal scan?

What is a transvaginal scan and how is it different from an abdominal scan?

By Dr Elisabeth Peregrine, Consultant Obstetrician

A transvaginal scan is an ultrasound scan that is done by gently inserting a narrow probe into your vagina. The probe is disinfected before use, is covered with a new and sterile condom and is lubricated with gel to make insertion into the vagina easy. You may experience minor discomfort but it is not a painful procedure and there is no risk associated with the procedure.

How is it different from an abdominal scan?
You may be more familiar with the transabdominal scan approach. This requires a full bladder and a probe is pressed on the abdomen.  For a transvaginal scan you are asked to empty your bladder. For a transvaginal scan as the probe is close to the pelvic organs, a better view is obtained of the womb, cervix and ovaries, the pictures are much clearer and there is a greater detail. It is therefore used when you need to look at the organs lower down in the pelvis, while a transabdominal scan will give a clearer picture of the organs higher up in the abdomen.

Why do I need a transvaginal scan?
This scan will be done in pregnancy for:
  • vaginal bleeding or pain in early pregnancy
  • see the heartbeat of the fetus in early pregnancy
  • diagnose a miscarriage
  • diagnose an ectopic pregnancy
  • look at the cervix
  • examine the placenta for abnormalities
Or it may be done postnatally:
  • if there is abnormal bleeding or pain
  • to check for cysts or fibroids
  • to check the placement of a coil
  • an abnormal gynaecological examination

Why do I need a transabdominal scan?
This scan will be done in pregnancy or postpartum for:
  • Routine scans of the baby after 9-10 weeks
  • Any unexplained abdominal pain
  • To look at your liver or kidneys

Elsbeth's Doctors provides private gynaecology and pregnancy care services including transvaginal and transabdominal ultrasound by a multi-disciplinary team of specialists, tailored to your needs. Our consultant gynaecologists and obstetricians offer continuity of care and our patients are assisted in a comfortable and caring environment.

For an appointment please contact us on 030 0303 5009 or at For more information visit

Dr Elisabeth Peregrine was trained in London in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. She is a subspecialist in fetal and maternal medicine and a Consultant in Obstetrics and Fetal Medicine at Kingston Hospital.