What is a Pelvic Exam and Who Needs It?
The term “pelvic exam” might sound scary to some women, particularly if they have never had the procedure before. Visiting the doctor can be intimidating under any circumstances, and visiting the doctor to assess reproductive health can be even more so. In truth, pelvic exams are not so scary, and knowing what to expect can make the process much easier.
What Is a Pelvic Exam?
During an examination of the pelvis, a physician does a physical and visual examination of a woman’s reproductive system. The doctor will ensure that a woman’s cervix, vagina, fallopian tubes, uterus, ovaries, and vulva are healthy and free of abnormalities. The doctor will check for irritations, cysts, soreness, discharge, or something that might indicate a sexually transmitted disease (STDS).
What to Expect During the Exam
First, the doctor will conduct a visual exam of the vagina and vulva, making sure these areas are free from irritation and checking for signs of STDs.
The doctor will then insert a metal or plastic instrument called a speculum into the vagina, which gently opens the vagina canal. This allows the doctor to inspect both the vaginal walls and the cervix. A pap smear may also be done at this point. Pap smears test for the presence of precancerous or cancerous cells in the cervix.
Next, the doctor will conduct a brief manual exam to assess the condition of a woman’s reproductive organs. Using a lubricated glove, they will gently insert two fingers into the vagina while feeling the lower abdomen with the other hand. During this process, the doctor will be looking for irregularities in the uterus and ovaries.
How to Know if You Need a Pelvic Exam
Doctors recommend that women begin having regular pelvic exams as soon as they become sexually active or after they turn 21. It is widely agreed that women over 21 should start having pelvic exams once a year, even if they are not sexually active. Getting a yearly pelvic exam ensures that your reproductive system stays healthy.
Benefits of a Pelvic Exam
Pelvic exams should be treated as normal checkups. Such exams can detect dangerous diseases, cervical cancer, infections, and sexually transmitted diseases. If you are experiencing any vaginal irregularities such as unusual discharge, itching/irritation, excessive bleeding, or if you think you may have contracted a sexually transmitted disease, you should talk to a doctor about scheduling a pelvic exam.