This Medical Video:
Routine pelvic exams are important for good reproductive health. A
woman should have her first GYN exam when she first thinks about
becoming sexually active, when she becomes sexually active or when
she turns 18.
At the gynecologist, you will have a short general
physical exam, including a breast exam. You will wear a hospital
gown and nothing else. For the actual pelvic examination, you will
lie down on an examination table with your feet resting in elevated
“stirrups” (props that support your legs in the air). Stirrups
might look a little scary, but they are there to keep you
comfortable. Your legs will be spread apart, with your knees falling
to each side so that your vagina is exposed. You may feel
uncomfortable, but relax and realize that everyone goes through
The practitioner will visually examine your
vulva for discoloration, irritation, swelling and other
abnormalities, and will gently feel for glands.
There are two parts to the internal exam. The first involves a
speculum, a metal or plastic instrument that the practitioner
inserts into the vagina. The speculum is shaped like a duck’s
bill, and once it is inserted into the vaginal canal, it is gently
widened to spread the interior vaginal walls (this is not painful).
As the vaginal walls are spread, the practitioner is able to see the
walls of the vagina itself, and up the vaginal canal to the cervix.
When viewing the vaginal canal and the cervix, the practitioner can
look for discoloration, abnormal discharge, lesions, growths and
signs of infection. It is possible for you to look at your own
cervix during this process by propping yourself up on your elbows
and using a mirror. Some practitioners ask if you would like to do
this, but feel free to ask to if she doesn’t mention it
Next the practitioner will take a pap smear.
She/he uses a long-stemmed cotton swab to collect a sample of cells
in the cervix. Some women feel a slight cramping sensation when
their cervix is touched. The collected cells are smeared onto a
slide and sent to a lab for testing and examination. The pap smear
is extremely important for spotting abnormalities in the cervix
which may indicate infection or disease.
If you are
sexually active, the practitioner will test for STDs. The
gynecologist will swab the inside of the cervix with a long cotton
swab. The speculum is then taken out of the vagina. The samples are
sent to a laboratory for various STD testing. The tests will
probably take a couple days. Ask when your results will be available
so you can call. If you want to be tested for HIV, syphilis, genital
herpes or hepatitis you need to have blood taken. They can do that
as well, but you will need to ask since it is not usually
The second part of the pelvic exam is
called the manual or bi-manual exam. The practitioner will insert
one or two fingers into your vagina and press with her/his other
hand on the outside of your lower abdomen. They will use a lubricant
on their fingers so it is more comfortable. The person can then feel
the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries, and check for any swelling
or tenderness. Once the doctor is finished checking your uterus and
ovaries, the exam is complete. The entire pelvic exam (the parts
involving your vagina, cervix, uterus, and ovaries) takes 3 to 5
minutes to complete.