Maybe It’s Not Like You Think; What to Expect at Your First Ultrasound.

So the nurse has booked you a free ultrasound at the Pregnancy Help Center and now you’re starting to panic. You might be worried about radiation or about the baby getting poked, and you’re thinking twice about going to the appointment. First of all, BREATHE. Ultrasound machines do not use radiation; they use sound. Your baby cannot get poked. There are no confirmed harmful effects associated with the medical use of ultrasound. It has been routinely used for decades. Knowing what to expect at your appointment can help ease your anxiety. Read on for our friendly ultrasound guide.

Transabdominal pregnancy ultrasound

Types of Ultrasound Scans

There are two types of pregnancy-related ultrasound scans – transabdominal and transvaginal. A transabdominal ultrasound is what you typically see on TV; the sonographer will glide the transducer (a small scanning device) over your belly to produce the ultrasound image. In a transvaginal ultrasound, a wand-shaped transducer is placed in the vagina to produce the image. Don’t be afraid, this procedure may be a little embarrassing, but it is painless.

At the Pregnancy Help Center, we start off with a transabdominal ultrasound then after that we may do a transvaginal ultrasound. The transvaginal ultrasound is used to get a clear, detailed look at your baby in early pregnancy when your baby is very small.

How to Prepare

Come with a Full Bladder

Here’s an interesting fact: how full your bladder is affects the procedure. For the transabdominal ultrasound, please come in with a full bladder. A full bladder shifts your uterus and intestines for easier scanning. Remember that it takes an hour for your body to process fluids, so be sure to drink any liquids at least an hour before your appointment.

For the transvaginal ultrasound, you won’t need a full bladder. In fact, we’ll ask you to empty your bladder for your comfort.

Wear a Loose, Two-Piece Outfit

During the transabdominal ultrasound, we’ll need you to be able to lift your top slightly so we can scan your belly. For the transvaginal ultrasound, you will be asked to undress from the waist down, and you will be covered with a drape. For these reasons, wearing a loose fitting, two-piece outfit would be best.

Ask a Support Person to Come Along

We allow you to bring a support person to the appointment with you. We understand that you might feel more comfortable if someone you know is with you. They will be seated next to you, in a position where they won’t be able to see below your drape for your privacy. 

What to Expect During the Procedure

Pain Level

We know that this is probably your greatest concern, and we assure you that both types of ultrasound scans are painless. The vaginal wand transducer may look intimidating, but in truth it is narrow and only a small fraction of its length will be inserted. You may feel a little pressure during the procedure, but it shouldn’t cause you any pain. Let us know immediately if you experience any discomfort, and we will address it.


During the transvaginal ultrasound, you will have your legs raised in stirrups while undressed from the waist down. However you will be completely covered with a drape for your privacy. The sonographer will only require a quick peek under the drape to position the transducer. If you are uncomfortable with this, please let us know and the sonographer can have you position the transducer on your own.

Risks and Safety

Ultrasound imaging uses soundwaves to echo off organs and tissue to create images. It doesn’t use radiation and is harmless to you and your baby.

Duration of Time

The entire procedure should only last 30 minutes to an hour.

Keeping You Informed

If you want, we can turn on a monitor for you to see the ultrasound images during the scan. If all you see is a bunch of gray, don’t worry, we will explain to you what you’re looking at.

We know that your first ultrasound can be a scary experience. Our staff cares about you and will make sure you are completely comfortable before the procedure. Feel free to voice any concerns you have when you arrive for your appointment, and we’ll be sure to address them. If you’re still unsure about whether you really need an ultrasound, read about why it’s important for your and your baby’s safety here.

Get a Free Ultrasound Exam

Having an ultrasound scan is an important step to take before making any decisions about your pregnancy. We offer free limited obstetric ultrasound exams at our clinic, as well as free pregnancy testing and other resources. Our client advocates will provide you a judgment free space to talk about your unique situation and your options.

Our ultrasound services are available to qualified clients who have taken a pregnancy test at the Center. If the test is positive, we will schedule you for an ultrasound exam on the next available date, which may or may not be on the same day as your pregnancy test. Request an appointment today.

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TL;DR: Ultrasound scans are safe and painless. Watch our ultrasound video to learn more.