A pelvic exam is a routine check performed by the doctor or any other healthcare provider on women. It involves the physical and visual exam of the female reproductive organs. The doctor will check the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, vagina, cervix and vulva during a pelvic exam. A public or private healthcare professional can perform a pelvic exam in a clinic or office.
When is the right time to get a pelvic exam?
Presently, no guideline states how often women should perform a pelvic scan, but it may be best to get a pelvic scan at least yearly. Your doctor may recommend frequent pelvic exams, but this usually depends on your medical history.
Doctors recommend that all women should get their first pelvic scan at the age of 21. In some cases of women with specific health issues, they may need a pelvic scan earlier. Most women get a pelvic scan before they get a contraceptive.
If you are over 21 years, ensure you undergo regular pelvic exams just as you undergo your general check-ups. Under the following conditions, you would need to get a pelvic exam.
- A history of cancer in your family
- Unusual vaginal discharge or bleeding
- Your doctor has concerns about cysts, ovarian cancer, STIs, and other gynaecological issues.
Preparing for your pelvic exam
If you have not had a pelvic exam, but about to get one, ensure you tell your healthcare giver during your appointment. A pelvic exam is best when you are not on your period so schedule the exam when you will not be on your period. However, if you have menstrual problems, your doctor may suggest you have the pelvic exam during your period.
Avoid douching, inserting anything into your vagina and vaginal intercourse, 24 hours before the pelvic exam.
During your pelvic
Your doctor will request that you undress and wear a robe. If a breast exam is involved, you will have to take off your bra. You may have an extra piece of clothing to put around your waist to give you more privacy. You would lie with your back on an exam table with your legs apart and feet on stirrups during the exam.
The doctor will first examine your vulva and vagina to check for irritation, redness, cysts, discharge or any sign of an STD like sores.
The next step involves your doctor inserting a speculum into your vagina. A speculum is a plastic or stainless steel device which looks like a duckbill. During the speculum exam, try to relax your abdominal, vaginal and rectal muscles while the doctor inserts the speculum. Your doctor may warm-up the speculum before the insertion.
In some cases, the doctor will swipe the cervix with a small spatula to collect cervical cells for examination before removing the speculum. This procedure is called a Pap smear. Analysis of the collected cells can show if you have sexually transmitted diseases and cancer.
During your pelvic exam, your doctor will manually check your sex and reproductive organs by inserting two fingers in your vagina then using the other hand to feel the abdomen. The manual exam helps the doctor to check for abnormalities in your ovaries and uterus.
You doctor can determine your uterus’s size during the manual exam, check for pregnancy and abnormalities in your fallopian tube. During the manual exam, the doctor will also perform a rectal exam by simultaneously inserting his/her fingers into your vagina, and rectum to check for tissue abnormalities in these organs.
After a pelvic exam
Immediately after the exam, your doctor will tell you if he/she found abnormalities in your sex and reproductive organs. However, you would get the result of your pap test after a couple of days. The result of your exam will determine if you need follow-up visits or medications.
Benefits of undergoing a pelvic scan
Getting a pelvic scan is necessary because it helps you determine your reproductive and sex organs’ health. Your doctor can also detect serious and life-threatening conditions like cancer during a pelvic exam.
A pelvic exam is a routine procedure for women, and it may cause spotting and a little discomfort. Most women do not underdo routine pelvic exams because they find the procedure mentally and physically discomforting.
You may decide to have a friend or family member present during the procedure and ask your doctor questions to help you prepare for the exam. Most doctors try to make the procedure comforting and painless by reassuring the patient about the procedure.
Some women like those sexually assaulted, adolescents, persons with disabilities, and minorities tend to feel more emotional and physical discomfort during the procedure. The doctor will try to make the exam less discomforting by using lubricants before inserting the speculum and educating them about the procedure before performing the exam. Ensure you inform your doctor about any discomfort you feel during the procedure.
If you want to get your routine pelvic exam, feel free to contact Private Gynaecologist in London at https://www.gynae-clinic.co.uk or call us on 020 7183 1049 to book an appointment.
Frequently asked question
Should a sexually inactive woman above 21 years get a pelvic exam?
All women need to get routine pelvic exams. If a woman is less than 21 but sexually active, she should get a pelvic exam at least once every year. During the exam, she can discuss STIs, birth control options, and safe sex with the doctor. If a woman is above 21 but sexually inactive, she still needs to visit her gynaecologist every year to discuss women-related health issues.