Pelvic exams play an important role in a woman’s fertility health – as well as her reproductive health in general. In addition to offering a time and space for women to get to know their doctor better, ask important questions and hear the latest research pertaining to a patient’s age and medical history, pelvic exams offer physicians a chance to make sure all is well with your pelvic organs – and to treat them if it’s not.
We should note that pelvic exams are separate from pap smears. While pelvic exams are recommended every year, the same way you see your general physician for an annual physical, pap smears are recommended every three years or so (again, depending on a person’s age and medical history). Read, Cervical Health: What You Need to Know, for more about that topic.
Pelvic Exam Basics: Here’s What You Need to Know
Here’s what will happen when you come in for your pelvic exam (after the general meet and greet, check-in and review of your medical history as well as any questions or concerns you might have):
You don’t need to prepare or do much
There is nothing you need to do to prepare for your exam (other than make a list of anything unusual you’ve noticed lately – skipped periods, discomfort of any kind, spotting, unusual discharge, itching, etc.).
That being said, schedule your appointment when you’re not on your period if you can, and you may be more comfortable if you have gone pee beforehand, so your bladder isn’t full.
You’ll lay down – way down – on a table
You’ll be asked to lay on your back on the table with your hind end all the way down towards the edge, while your feet rest in stirrups at the end and slightly out to the sides.
The doctor will palpate (gently press) your abdomen
It might all feel the same to you when you lay down and feel your tummy, but OB/GYNs know exactly where everything is located and what’s normal. We’ll typically start on the outside, but we’ll also use a lubricated, gloved finger inside your vagina to press slightly upwards into your pelvis as we physically verify all is well.
We’ll do visual checks both outside an inside
Your doctor will look at your vulva and the exterior opening of your vagina to make sure the color looks healthy and there is no swelling, irritation or other unusual signs, like spots or bumps that may indicate you have an STD.
A speculum will be inserted into your vagina. This looks kind of like a long duck’s bill and is usually made of metal or plastic. It doesn’t hurt but it might feel a little strange when it’s inserted and spread to show the interior of your vaginal walls and your cervix. Again, we look to make sure everything is healthy and normal. The more you can relax, the more comfortable you’ll be.
If you’re having a pap smear…
If you’re due for a pap smear, we’ll use this opportunity to swipe a small wand over and slightly into the cervix to collect a cell sample that is sent to the lab.
After we’re done, we’ll ask to get dressed and talk to you about the results of the exam and if any follow-up measures are required. If you’re on birth control or if you’re planning to get pregnant – we’ll discuss those topics as well.
Are you due for your annual pelvic exam? Schedule an appointment with Overlake.