Pelvic Exam

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    Pelvic Exam

    Pelvic Exam

    A pelvic exam is an exam of a woman's outer and inner genitals and reproductive organs. Pelvic exams are done to screen for health problems and to help prevent health problems from developing.

    A pelvic exam may be recommended to help explain or diagnose:
    • Changes in your body that may be signs of cancer in the reproductive system.
    • Inability to get pregnant (infertility).
    • Cause of vaginal itching or burning.
    • Abnormal vaginal discharge or bleeding.
    • Problems with sexual function.
    • Problems with urination.
    • Problems with menstrual periods.
    • Problems with the position of your pelvic organs due to weakening muscles (prolapse).

    Tell a health care provider about:

    • Any allergies you have.
    • All medicines you are taking, including vitamins, herbs, eye drops, creams, and over-the-counter medicines.
    • Any problems you or family members have had with anesthetic medicines.
    • Any bleeding problems you have.
    • Any surgeries you have had.
    • Any medical conditions you have.
    • Whether you are pregnant or may be pregnant.

    What are the risks?

    This is a safe procedure. There are no known risks or complications of having this test.

    What happens before the procedure?

    Usually, a physical exam is done first. This may include:
    • An exam of your breasts. Your health care provider may feel your breasts to check for abnormalities.
    • An exam of your abdomen. Your health care provider may press on your abdomen to check for abnormalities.

    What happens during the procedure?

    A speculum inserted in the vagina, a Pap test being done, and a gloved finger inserted into the vagina during a pelvic exam.

    Pelvic exams may vary among health care providers and hospitals. The following things usually take place during a pelvic exam:
    • You will undress from the waist down. You will put on a gown or a wrap to cover yourself while you get ready for the exam.
    • You will lie on your back on an exam table. You will place your feet into foot rests (stirrups) so that your legs are wide apart and your knees are bent. A drape will be placed over your abdomen and your legs.
    • Your health care provider will wear gloves and examine your outer genitals to check for anything unusual. This includes your clitoris, urethra, vaginal opening, labia, and the skin between your vagina and your anus (perineum).
    • Your health care provider will examine your inner genitals. To do this, a lubricated instrument (speculum) will be inserted into your vagina. The speculum will be widened to open the walls of your vagina.
      • Your health care provider will examine your vagina and cervix.
      • A Pap test, cervical biopsy, or cultures may be done as needed.
      • After the internal exam is done, the speculum will be removed.
    • Your health care provider will insert two fingers into your vagina to gently press against various organs.
      • Your health care provider may use his or her other hand to gently press on your lower abdomen while doing this.
    • A pelvic exam is usually painless, although it can cause mild discomfort. If you experience pain at any time during your pelvic exam, tell your health care provider right away.

    Depending on the purpose of your pelvic exam, your health care provider may perform:
    • A Pap test. This is sometimes called a Pap smear. It is a screening test that is used to check for signs of cancer of the cervix. The test can also identify the presence of infection or precancerous changes.
    • A cervical biopsy. This is the removal of a small sample of tissue from the cervix. The cervix is the lowest part of the uterus, which opens into the vagina (birth canal). The tissue will be checked under a microscope.
    • Other diagnostic tests that involve taking samples of tissue or fluid (cultures).

    What can I expect after the procedure?

    • You may have very light bleeding, particularly if a biopsy or cultures were obtained.
    • It is up to you to get the results of your procedure. Ask your health care provider, or the department that is doing the procedure, when your results will be ready.


    • A pelvic exam is an exam of a woman's outer and inner genitals and reproductive organs.
    • A pelvic exam may be recommended to help explain or diagnose various problems with your pelvic organs.
    • You may experience mild discomfort during a pelvic exam.

    This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.

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