You can look up, “What is it like to get a pelvic ultrasound?’ and see a bunch of medical site articles talking about what to expect. But I don’t think they totally prepare you for what’s to come. They can’t account for little things that you or the ultrasound tech does – or things your ultrasound tech doesn’t do. This past year, I’ve had a few pelvic ultrasounds, so I thought I would share my experience with them along with some tips.
I Think They Recommend To Drink Too Much Water
The first couple of times I went for a pelvic ultrasound, I drank the recommended amount of water according to the instructions I had – almost 1 liter of water an hour before your test. That’s way too much, especially if you are already having problems with your bladder.
In February, I had a pelvic ultrasound and drank just over the recommended amount of water that was listed in my instructions. I was having a ton of problems with my bladder thanks to my ovarian cyst. I was in a ton of pain driving to my appointment, and then when I arrived, I thought I was going to pee myself. I’ve never felt pain like that in my pelvic region. Not even with my worst period cramps. I thought my bladder was going to burst. I didn’t think I was going to make it to the table. Of course, the appointment was late, which made it worse. I was just about to get up and go to the bathroom and call the whole thing off when the ultrasound technician came out and took me in. She did the first part as fast as she could and then let me go to the bathroom. She told me that most people don’t get that full, and in the future, I could probably get away with drinking half the recommended amount.
When you have an overly full bladder, anything that touches you in that area hurts. While the ultrasound gel and wand wouldn’t hurt on a normal day, a full bladder makes it extremely uncomfortable and a little painful.
I went for a pelvic ultrasound again today and changed things up. I was scared to only drink half because I didn’t want to get denied my appointment. So, I drank about 3/4 of a liter, and it was still a little bit painful. I could have drunk half.
Moreover, I had a student today and he informed me that he would be moving a bit slower. I was so grateful that I hadn’t overdone it because he DID move slow, it was painful, and I just made it to the bathroom again.
It Can Be Awkward
I’ve had all women do my pelvic ultrasounds, until today.
It can be awkward even with a woman because they need to access your pelvic region, which means your pants and underwear go a little down and your shirt goes up a little bit. Having someone rub gel around your pelvic area is weird.
Today, I didn’t wear pants. They made me change into a gown and leave on my underwear and bra. That hasn’t happened to me before.
Once I had my gown on, I heard a guy’s voice call my name. I was fully expecting a woman. The guy told me that he was a student and would be doing my pelvic ultrasound.
I just wanted to get it done at that point and I didn’t care who did it, but I have to admit it was a little awkward knowing a guy was doing my pelvic ultrasound.
And the actual exam got really awkward.
During the outer pelvic ultrasound, where they put gel on your lower stomach and move their instrument through it, he kept lifting up my underwear to get the imaging.
Most of the time you push your underwear down and they tuck a paper towel-like thing into your underwear to keep the goo from getting on your pants and underwear, but I had forgotten that until he was pulling my underwear up to get under. At that point, it was too late.
When he was done, my underwear snapped down on my pelvic region. It was soaking wet from the gel they use to do the pelvic ultrasound. It wasn’t pleasant and I should have told him that next time just ask the patient to push down their underwear a bit. But I didn’t. I had to go to the bathroom so that’s what I did.
In any case, he was kind and professional. He was a student. He was trying. He had spent most of his schooling online thanks to the pandemic and didn’t have a lot of in-person experience. And, since he started training in the clinic, he probably had a lot of women refuse to allow him, a man, to do their pelvic ultrasounds.
I was fine with letting him do the pelvic ultrasound on me. He just should have had better training.
The Transvaginal Part Of The Ultrasound Can Be Really Awkward
If you don’t know, there is a transvaginal aspect to a pelvic ultrasound, if you allow it. One technician told me it allows them to get better images.
They put a wedge down on the bed and you are supposed to get your butt up on that wedge so that your pelvis is tilted upwards.
Normally they tell you to take your pants and underwear off and get up on the bed/wedge and cover yourself up. Then they leave the room so you can do those things.
That didn’t happen this time. A woman came in to be there with him (because he’s a male student who probably doesn’t get to do a lot of transvaginal ultrasounds) and he told me to take my underwear off and get on the table. I waited for both of them to leave, but they just stayed in the room!
Here’s where I went wrong.
I awkwardly tried to take my underwear off without exposing myself and then attempted to get on the table. I should have told them to leave until I was ready.
I’m not sure what he saw, but he had to put the cover over me, and my gown wasn’t hooked at the bottom.
I should have spoken up. I should have asked them to step out. I should have told them that I would get myself on the table and cover myself up. But, at the time, I figured this was common in their practice and I just did what I was told.
I won’t do that again.
To do the transvaginal ultrasound, they put a ton of gel on a thin wand and get you to reach down and insert it.
The camera is at the end of the long wand, so their hand is far away from your vagina and isn’t underneath the privacy cloth (it’s more like a really big paper towel) that you cover yourself with (or in my case, they covered me with). It’s really not that bad. It has so much gel on it that it goes in easily. I’ve only felt a little twinge of pain when they poke on the side of my cyst. It’s not pain, necessarily. Just uncomfortable.
Today I threw my armpit/chest area out while trying to reach down to insert it, so I only got it in a little bit. The ultrasound tech had to insert it the rest of the way.
That was awkward.
Then, I had my arm closest to the technician resting on the table by my side, or so I thought. About halfway through, I felt the ‘table’ and realized it might just be the guy’s leg. I asked him if it was his leg, and he said, “Yes, it is.” I quickly took my arm off and threw it behind my head.
That was really awkward. I had my arm on his leg while he was poking around inside of me.
Then once it is done, they normally take the wedge out from under you and then leave the room so that you can get dressed. This time they left the wedge under me, but, thankfully, they did leave the room so I could change.
Go In With The Desire To Get It Done And Speak Up For Yourself
There are no two ways about it, a pelvic ultrasound can be uncomfortable if you are full of water, and awkward if you put your arm on the ultrasound technician’s leg while they have a wand up your vagina.
But it’s a test that can help you understand what is going on in your pelvic religion, and it doesn’t use radiation, which is nice.
I’m sure the technicians have seen it all, and you will likely not get a male student at your pelvic ultrasound, but if you do, just know that he is doing his best to get the images you need.
That said, my best tips for getting through a pelvic ultrasound are:
- If you are having bladder problems, you may want to drink a little less than recommended. I’ve seen many women desperate to get into their pelvic ultrasounds because they are too full of water, me included. For me, I go to the bathroom quite a bit if I drink a lot, so I know that my bladder can’t handle a lot.
- Wear loose pants! Wear sweats. Wear pajama bottoms. Don’t worry about what people will think. The less pressure on your bladder, the better.
- If you end up getting there with too full a bladder, let the receptionist know. They may move things along faster. Do not sit there in pain like I did last time because they have no idea that you are extremely uncomfortable unless you tell them. All you need is the outer pelvic ultrasound done with a full bladder, which a good technician should be able to do quite quickly. Then you can go to the bathroom before you get the transvaginal ultrasound done.
- If your bladder is too full, phone and ask if you can relieve yourself if you keep drinking water. I saw these instructions here for a pelvic ultrasound, and it made sense to me. Why can’t you go to the bathroom if you keep drinking water and keep your bladder full?
- Go in with a deep desire to get the pelvic ultrasound done. When you really want it, you will appreciate it more than worry about it, and it will help you give a reason to why you’ve drunk so much water.
- Speak up! If they tell you to take off your panties and get on the table, but don’t leave the room, tell them you would like them to leave the room and get on the table yourself. I should have spoken up because reflecting on the experience with my husband, I now realize how inappropriate it was. If my mom had been in that situation, for instance, I would have spoken up and been extremely upset. I wish I would have done it for myself. I don’t necessarily blame the student (although, it is common sense). I blame the ultrasound technician who was teaching him. She should have excused both of them from the room. Moreover, she should have taken the wedge out from under me so that I didn’t have to roll off the table awkwardly with my butt in the air.
- Make sure you keep your arms to yourself. They move you to the side of the bed so that you are close to them. When you are uncomfortable, you don’t think straight, so you may end up putting your hand on something you don’t want to. I would say to put your hands behind your head or cross them on your chest.
- Have your phone close by. They are not supposed to tell you what they see. Some girls in an ovarian cyst group I’m in have been told right away by their technician, but for the most part, you will leave without any information. Once, though, an ultrasound tech left the imaging on her computer when she left the room so I could get dressed after my transvaginal ultrasound, and I could have gotten a picture to see what all the information meant. Honestly, I think she did it so I could see it was just a small cyst without telling me, but I didn’t understand what I was looking at. It may not happen for you, but in retrospect, I wish I had snapped a quick picture so that I didn’t have to wait weeks for my doctor to tell me it was an ovarian cyst.
If you have any questions about my experience with pelvic ultrasounds, ask below. And please share if you have your own experiences and tips for a pelvic ultrasound.
Thanks for sharing your experience, Kari. I would add that I was rather constipated & gassy one day, when I had my pelvic scan. The tech couldn’t find my ovaries, because there was so much “interference.” No one had warned me that this was even a possibility! Next time, I’ll be sure to assure empty bowels beforehand.