Pelvic scan for pregnancy in focus. Intermittent medical check-ups for any individual yield huge benefits, especially when the individual is a pregnant woman,

considering that the growth of a child in the womb is in fact a complicated phenomenon, the care for both mother and child during the entire period of pregnancy is paramount. During the prenatal period, expecting women undergo pelvic scans regularly for different reasons.

A pelvic scan during pregnancy will usually be done using ultrasound; a test that uses sound waves to make pictures of the organs inside the pelvis. The doctor or sonographer taking the test runs this scan to diagnose a condition or to check the health of your baby while still in the womb. During the first and third trimesters, scans are done to confirm the due date, check the fetus, and ascertain the normalcy of its anatomy. Depending on the level of complication during the pregnancy or the number of children in the womb, a number of scans can be run. There are two main pelvic scans during pregnancy:


  1. Nuchal translucency scan – offered between the 12th –14th week, which gives the due date for delivery, provides information on the number of babies in the womb and looks for abnormalities in the baby.
  2. Anatomy scan – offered in the second trimester, around the 18th –21st week, it is also referred to as the morphology scan and gives details of the baby’s development and position in the placenta. The sex of the baby can also be revealed during this scan.

The process of a pelvic scan

A pelvic scan involves a specially trained clinician called a sonographer viewing and examining the pelvis and the organs within it to determine the health of the woman, and the health of the baby if the woman in question is found to be pregnant. This perfect scan views the cervix, ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes, vagina, bladder, and even the rectum.


The pelvic scan for pregnant women is either a transabdominal or transvaginal.

  • Transabdominal ultrasound scan is done through the abdomen where the sonographer applies a gel around the abdomen which helps the transducer move smoothly on the skin and prevent air particles from interfering with the ultrasound being transmitted to the screen.
  • Transvaginal ultrasound scan is done through the vagina. In this case, the transducer is covered in latex and has the gel applied to it, the patient lies on her back with her feet raised and a transducer is inserted into the vagina like a tampon.


The scan which runs from anywhere between 20 to 40 mins is supposed to be a painless process, although, on a few occasions, the sonographer has to hold a firm press on some regions to get a clearer picture of distant structures. During a transabdominal pelvic scan for pregnancy, the process includes:


  • Drinking a lot of water without emptying the bladder about an hour before meeting the sonographer in order to have a full bladder during the scan. The full bladder pushes the organs in the pelvis and makes them more visible on the screen.
  • The patient lies down and clears all clothing within the belly and abdominal regions till the top clothing is at the chest region and the lower clothing at the hip.
  • Ultrasound gel is then applied to the patient’s stomach and abdomen to allow good contact between the skin and the transducer.
  • Observing the screen, the sonographer will pass his/her probe over the skin to send and pick up ultrasound waves until a black-and-white picture of the baby and the uterus is obvious on the screen for reading.


In some cases where the womb is still too small yet a scan is necessary, an internal ultrasound called intervaginal ultrasound may be employed to get a better view of the organs within the pelvis. The process involved in a transvaginal pelvic scan are as follows:

  • The patient clears all clothing and changes into a robe or wears very loose, comfortable clothing during the procedure
  • The transvaginal scan is done on an empty bladder as the transducer will be inserted into the vagina and not rubbed over the abdomen.
  • The patient lies down on her back and has her legs raised by stirrups after which the transducer is inserted into the vagina and the details are read on the screen. Although this can be quite uncomfortable, it should not be a painful process.


Are pelvic scans necessary?

We know that no examination carried out by medical devices is a hundred percent perfect all the time and that in the cases where complications and anomalies are found, it is possible for anxiety to result from a pelvic scan during pregnancy.

However, the fact that about 96 to 98% of women have healthy babies, it is very necessary to take ultrasound scans as they are a reassuring, informative, and necessary process.

  • Pelvic scans are a necessary part of any pregnancy as they help determine the estimated due date for the pregnant woman to deliver.
  • They tell the well-being of the foetus and ensure the baby’s health condition which may be beneficial to the health of the mother.
  • Scans in pregnancy are the best way to take note of any developmental issue of the foetus.
  • A regular scan is scheduled at intervals to monitor the baby’s size, weight, and lying position
  • Pelvic scans give information as to if more than one baby is developing in the uterus. 


Are pelvic scans risky?

The process of carrying out pelvic scans which is ultrasounds has no risk attached to it, this is because ultrasound does not use radiation like X-rays or other scans. This means that the baby and the mother are generally safe and not exposed to any major risk when having the pelvic scan.


In the case of a transvaginal pelvic scan however, if particular care is not taken by the care provider,

  • There can be entry of bad bacteria into the cervix from the vagina during a scan even if the clinician used sterile tools and gloves.
  • Although in rare cases, the cervix could get stimulated which may induce labour, increasing the probability of a preterm baby being born.
  • Premature rupture of the membrane Prom can occur during the pelvic scan.
  • Anxiety can build up in a woman is a scan revealed a due date and labour has not occurred in the time given.


Although, pelvic scans can bring results which may cause anxiety, surrounding birth and the development of a child(ren) in the womb, it can be a medical necessity for better health and livelihood especially for expecting women. A patient is allowed to enquire the reason for the scan and should have sufficient explanation from her doctor about the scan to clear any fear or doubt regarding taking the scan. When a pelvic scan is carried out following the advice by a healthcare provider, the results will be used to better healthcare which is reassuring for patients, especially during pregnancy. In any case however, the patient has the right to decline the request of a scan or seek further advise from specialized healthcare providers.

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