At some point all women will need to receive routine pelvic exams in order to check their vaginal and reproductive health. This exam allows your gynecologist to be able to examine the vagina, cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus to look for early warning signs of infection or other problems.
Unless otherwise recommended by a physician, most women will undergo their first pelvic exam at the age of 21. After which, this simple exam should become a regular part of your well-woman care.
Getting a Pelvic Exam
We know that any kind of new exam or procedure can make anyone a little nervous. That’s why we want you to know what to expect before coming into the office for your first pelvic exam. Here’s what to expect:
We will provide you with a dressing gown, which you will change into in private. From there, you will lie down on the exam table and place your feet into elevated footrests. You will move your body towards the end of the table and our gynecologist will instruct you on what to do to make sure they can perform the exam. Relaxing as much as possible during the exam is important as it will make the process more comfortable for you.
There are usually three different parts involved in a pelvic exam:
- The external exam: This allows us to look at the external tissue of the vulva to detect any irritation, abnormal discharge or warning signs of other problems like genital warts or cysts.
- The internal exam: A special instrument known as a speculum will be carefully inserted into the vagina to open up the walls so that your gynecologist can examine the uterus and cervix. Sometimes a small brush is inserted into the vagina to collect cells from the cervix for testing. This is known as a Pap smear and it allows your doctor to check for precancerous and cancerous cervical cells.
- The bimanual exam: The speculum is removed and your gynecologist will then place one or two gloved fingers into the vagina and press on the abdomen to check the size and shape of the uterus and to feel for any enlargements, tenderness, or pain.
While the first pelvic exam may feel a bit awkward and weird it should never feel painful or uncomfortable. If you are experiencing any discomfort please let us know. We will talk you through the entire process so you know what’s going to happen before it does. If you have any questions or concerns for us this is also the time to let us know.
How often should I get a pelvic exam?
This will depend on several factors. Based on your current health, medical history and any past medical test results we will determine whether you will only need to come in once a year or whether you could benefit from visiting us more often.