What is a pelvic exam?
A pelvic exam is a physical examination of a woman’s reproductive organs. These exams are a normal part of gynecologic care and should be included as part of your well woman visit (when you turn 21). If you are under the age of 21 and are experiencing a medical problem, a pelvic exam may be scheduled. In general, the exam only take a few minutes and it does not hurt.
What can I expect during the exam?
During a pelvic exam, the vulva and internal reproductive organs (vagina, cervix, uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes) are examined. If you think you have an STD, a yeast infection, or any other issue with your reproductive health, let your doctor or nurse at the beginning of your appointment. This will help them decide if any additional tests are needed.
First, you’ll change into a gown and lie down on the exam table, putting your legs up on the footrests. You’ll spread your knees out wide and try to relax your butt, vaginal and stomach muscles as much as you can. This will help to make you feel more comfortable. There are usually 3-4 parts to the exam:
- External exam – the vulva and opening of the vagina will be examined. Your doctor will check for signs of cysts, genital warts, abnormal discharge, irritation, and other issues.
- Speculum exam – a metal or plastic speculum will be gently inserted into the vagina to separate the walls. If you feel any discomfort at this point, let your doctor know so that the speculum can be adjusted. Next, a tiny brush or spatula will be used to wipe a small sample of cells from the cervix. This sample will be sent to a lab for resting, as part of a Pap test to check for cervical cancer or pre-cancer. If you are also being tested for STDs (i.e., gonorrhea, chlamydia), a cotton swab will be used to take a sample of the discharge from your cervix. This sample will also go to a lab for testing.
- Bimanual exam – at this stage, your doctor will put 1 or 2 gloved and lubricated fingers into the vagina, while gently pressing on the lower abdomen with their hand. This helps to check for: the shape, size, and position of your uterus, enlarged ovaries or fallopian tubes, ovarian cysts, tumors, and any tenderness or pain (which might indicate an infection or other condition).
- Rectovaginal exam – your doctor may also check the muscles between the vagina and anus by inserting a gloved finger into the rectum. This also checks for tumors behind the uterus, on the lower wall of the vagina, or in the rectum.
How often will I need to get a pelvic exam?
This answer varies from patient to patient. After you first pelvic exam, your doctor will let you know when you need to schedule your next appointment. The number of exams you will need also depends on your medical history and whether you have any health issues. Frequent pelvic exams may be necessary if you have a:
- History of abnormal Pap test results
- Family history of certain kinds of cancer
- Sexually transmitted disease (STD)
- Recurrent case of vaginitis (an irritation of your vagina or vulva)
- History of sexual health problems
Request a pelvic exam in the San Fernando Valley
If you live in the San Fernando Valley or the surrounding area, schedule your pelvic exam at Premier Women’s Health Associates. These exams are extremely important for maintaining your gynecologic health, and our friendly, compassionate aims to improve the overall wellness of our patients. To get started, request an appointment online or give us a call at (818) 346-5000.