Gynecologists perform pelvic tests to check for symptoms in a woman's body in other areas. The pelvic exams are best done annually during a physical examination. When a woman is expectant, when a woman is in pain in her pelvic area, when the back is painful, or when the doctor may suggest that you do your pelvic exam more often, generally, a woman should have her first pelvic exam at 21 years of age. However, other health issues like cysts, sexually transmitted diseases, and ovarian cancer may require an earlier review. Often, the first pelvic exam is when you go to seek birth control. It is essential for determining a woman's sexual and reproductive health. Hence, connect with All Women's Care for your first and consequent pelvic exams. Our doctors are experienced and board-certified and will be able to tell you right away if any abnormalities were found.
Pelvic Exam Overview
Pelvic testing includes a physical examination of the womb, vagina, cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and rectum. The doctor performs the exams in a clinic or an office, and it takes only a few minutes. Before performing the pelvic exam, you can be required to change your garments into a loose gown. Your doctor listens to your heart and lungs and conducts abdominal, back, and breast exams.
If everything is okay, the area outside the vagina is first checked for signs of illnesses. Then, the doctor inserts a speculum into the vagina to expand the area to check for abnormalities in the cervix and vagina. After your first pelvic exam, the physician will tell you if any disease was detected and when to start treatment. Depending on your medical history, the doctor should recommend how frequent you may need pelvic exams.
When Should You Consider Having Your Pelvic Exam?
Most Gynecologists and doctors would advise you to take your first pelvic examination at age 21 or when you have symptoms like pain or discharge. You can also have it sooner if you are sexually active or have a medical problem. The doctor will decide whether you need an exam to figure out your concerns. Other significant symptoms involve a pelvic examination. They comprise:
- Vaginal bleeding that lasts for more than ten days
- No signs of menstrual periods three years after breast development or by the age of 15 years (amenorrhea)
- Painful menstrual cramps that interfere with your daily routine (dysmenorrhea)
- Unbearable pain around the vulva or in the lower abdomen
- Missed periods especially if you are sexually active
- Vaginal discharge that causes inflammation, itching, bad smell particularly if you have had sex
It doesn't matter your age, or how sexually involved you are, provided you have any of the symptoms mentioned above, you need to see a gynecologist. You should make an appointment with All women's Care for better treatment.
Preparing For A Pelvic Exam
Regular pelvic exams are an essential part of any woman's health care routine. For the first time, it can be intimidating, and some patients feel anxious, which is normal. Our doctors are experienced and would first take you through the process. The aim is to help you feel relaxed and comfortable since this is a critical part of taking Care of your body throughout adulthood.
When scheduling for the appointment, ensure that you are not on your periods. To obtain the most accurate results, go after one or two weeks after your periods. Refrain from sexual activity at least 24 hours in advance of the appointment. Also, you should not insert anything into the vagina, including tampons, before the appointment.
Write down the questions you might have for the doctor to ensure you don't forget to ask them. Some people get uncomfortable with the appointment. If this is the case, you can ask your doctor whether to invite a trusted relative or friend to join you.
The examination does not hurt and takes a short time. The best way to prepare for the pelvic exam is to learn why it is essential to your health and what to expect when you arrive at the gynecologist's office.
Why You Need a Pelvic Exam
Most women find themselves dreading their first pelvic exam. This simple procedure is associated with a high level of anxiety. However, various reasons make it mandatory to undertake pelvic exams. It is an integral part of a woman's regular Care. Understanding the purpose of these visits makes it easier to determine what type of exam women need. Here's why you might need the pelvic exam:
- To assess your gynecological health — Typically, doctors perform pelvic exams during the first and third trimesters of pregnancy to evaluate the health of the expectant mom. The exam assists in the discovery of any symptoms of potential complications. During spotting, the exam allows the doctors to know the underlying problems that may have caused the bleeding.
- To diagnose a medical condition — A pelvic exam may be recommended by the doctor when you are experiencing gynecological issues. Vaginal discharge indicates the vaginal health of women. Especially if that discharge is smelly, itchy, or burning. The pelvic exam is conducted to determine the problem. In many cases, the changes in discharge can be indicative of a sexually transmitted disease or a yeast infection. When allowed to progress, they can lead to severe complications. However, when early detected, these diseases can easily be treated.
- To diagnose cervical cancer — When one is experiencing unexplained pain in the lower back regularly, a pelvic exam is required. The pain in the lower belly is a gynecological symptom that can indicate cervical cancer or ovarian cysts if precancerous cells have been found.
- To check on potential fertility issues — Those women who suffer from fertility issues, the doctors use pelvic exams to reveal any underlying problem that could be part of the issue. The doctors will look at the Fallopian tubes, cervix, ovaries, and uterus to identify the abnormalities that could hinder conception. Not only are they useful for fertility problems, but they may also reduce recurrent miscarriages, which the cervix or uterus can cause.
- To spot what ruins your sex life — Many ladies refuse to discuss their sexual problems. They may be uncomfortable or don't think it's important enough for a health care provider to bring up the subject. Gynecologists can diagnose vaginal dryness due to fluctuations in estrogen and give recommendations for getting your sex life back.
- To reveal your body's fascinating secret — You might never know the surprising secrets that your body has unless the gynecologist explains it to you. Including having two uteruses and two vaginas. You may also be uninformed of specific asymptomatic anatomical observations that should be well established before they become an issue such as a swollen uterus signaling fibroids or a small bladder signaling bladder prolapse. The doctor will fill you in and help you to decide what to do if any modifications are needed.
What to Expect
A doctor will gather necessary information at the beginning of the visit, including blood pressure, weight, and the last date of your menstrual period. You will be provided with a cloth gown and privacy to undress. You will also get a sheet to cover up with.
A pelvic examination can include private discussions on family health history, options for contraceptives, sexual life, and calendar menstrual cycles. Appointments are a perfect time to answer any questions you may have about vaginal fluid, irregular menstrual, STD, and pregnancy tests.
It's natural to feel anxious about your examination since they mostly revolve around the private parts of your body. However, you need to relax. Such exams are standard procedures for the doctor, and many women are also astonished and delighted to find out how the pelvic tests are fast and relatively painless.
What Happens During A Pelvic Exam?
During the pelvic examination period, the gynecologist or nursing assistant tests your internal reproductive organs and vulva. Let your doctor know if you have any issues with your reproductive health at the beginning. The doctor will speak to you and will determine whether you need any diagnostic tests or exams.
Generally, This is what goes down during a pelvic test. Next, you will be told to lie down on the exam table after changing into a gown and place your legs on the footrests or knee rests. You slip down your thighs to the table bottom (the doctor will help you in this). Your bottom, abdomen and pelvic muscles must remain relaxed to the fullest (lithotomy position). Usually, the doctor does the following three or four sections for a pelvic exam after you're comfortable:
Part 1 - External exam
The doctor presses down on your lower stomach while lying on your back on the table to feel the organs from outside. The doctor may also do a breast exam pressing to check for lumps or abnormalities on various areas of your breasts. More importantly, the areas that would need a closer look are labia, clitoris, anus, and vaginal opening.
Part 2 - Speculum exam
At this part, the doctor uses an instrument known as speculum and a cooling water-based lubricant and gently places the device into your vagina. The lubricant will help the speculum to slide into the vagina. After the insertion, it is later gently opened so that the cervix and vaginal canal are visible.
The doctor uses a thin plastic stick and a special tiny brush to take a sample of cells (mucous) from the cervix and remove the rest of the mucous from your cervix. This is also known as a pap test that can detect the cervix's new changes before the cells become cancerous. If you are sexually active, another sample from the cervix will be taken or urine tests to check for sexually transmitted diseases. After all the samples are taken, the doctor closes the speculum and gently takes it out of your vagina.
Part 3 - Bimanual exam
Here, the doctor checks your organs such as ovaries, tubes, or uterus. He then slides a gloved finger or two into the vagina. He uses the opposite side to place pressure on the lower portion of the abdomen. You may experience some discomfort when exerting pressure is applied to certain areas. It should not hurt, but if it does, talk to the doctor. The procedure is manually done to check on growths and cysts and also your Uterus size, shape, and position.
Part 4 - Rectovaginal exam
During this part, your health care professional will insert a gloved finger in your rectum. The aim is to check the muscles between the anus and the vagina. It even tests for tumors on the lower wall of your vagina, or in your rectum, behind your uterus. The doctor can put another finger into your vagina for a thorough examination to examine the tissue in between. You may feel like you'd like to answer the call of nature, but it's impossible. It is a normal feeling that lasts for a few seconds.
If the doctor has finished the test, you'll be granted privacy to dress up again. In case the speculum triggers some bleeding, some tissues may be given to clean off any excess lubricant, and a maxi pad or panty liner.
After the gynecologist has finished the physical examination, there is also a final chance for you to address any more problems or doubts that you might have. Our Doctor is a reliable and truthful information source. So don't feel afraid to talk about any sexual health-related topics. Our doctor adheres to strict confidentiality conventions. Therefore any information that you share will remain private. Regular gynecologist visits are crucial to achieving and maintaining good sexual wellbeing.
Results of a Pelvic Exam
After the pelvic exam, a minimal amount of discharge, or even some blood spots, is common. The doctor might give you immediate results if there was anything unusual. The examination helps the doctor to evaluate and investigate potential medical conditions. It is an essential part of taking preventative measures with the early diagnosis of the following conditions:
- Uterine fibroids
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Cysts, including ovarian cysts
- Gynecologic cancers
- Precancerous changes in the cervix
- Sexually transmitted diseases
If your doctor found you with any of the listed medical conditions, you will be advised on the steps to follow, additional tests, follow-up, or treatment that you need. For signs of fungi, bacteria, or viruses, the sample would be examined under a microscope in case the doctor took a vaginal fluid sample during your test to check for a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis. Those microorganisms' existence is immediately apparent. You'll most likely get the results before going home.
The Pap test results may take a few days. Tests from a cervical swab to test for gonorrhea and chlamydia also take a couple of days to return. The positive results on the cervical swab will show which infection you might have. Although, in most cases, you may have both gonorrhea and chlamydia. You will need an antibiotic to clear up the infection.
Finally, if your pelvic examination was fine, you'll need to schedule another one a year later, or the period your doctor recommends. Where the doctor found abnormalities, he or she will explain the findings and give treatment options. This is also a safe chance to explore your personal problems or other issues of interest.
Possible Complications in a Pelvic Exam
Sometimes there can emerge complications during a pelvic examination. They can be encountered in several exceptional circumstances. For instance, women with atrophic vaginitis experience pain and liberal lubrication during the speculum exam. For these patients, a narrow speculum is recommended.
Another challenge may be encountered with patients who have a history of sexual trauma. The pelvic examination triggers anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. With these patients, consent must be acquired. The doctor must emphasize on the procedure through clear explanations.
Patients who have undergone rape may need mental health counseling before the exam. Moreover, various alternatives to the exams can be suggested, including self-insertion of the speculum, having a chaperone present, having a female caregiver present, or having a family member or trusted friend in the room for comfort. The doctor should also stress that he can stop the exam at any time upon the patient's requests.
Pelvic Exam — Frequently Asked Questions
What is the feeling during the pelvic exam?
Answer: You'll feel the rubbing on the outside of the genitals with gloved fingertips. You'll feel two fingers inserted in the vagina during the bimanual test. At one point, a speculum will be inserted though it would be warmed to ease the discomfort.
Will the procedure hurt?
Answer: Typically, the pelvic examination will not hurt. Most of those who have done the examination define the sensation as a sense of crowding or vaginal fullness. However, no one talks of pain since the exam doesn't hurt. It is only that you may feel discomfort, mainly if you are tense during the process.
What is a speculum, and why is it used?
Answer: A speculum is a plastic or metal tool which comes in various sizes and shapes to fit into the anatomy of a woman. It is used in the pelvic exam to open up the vagina's walls for the vagina for the doctor to see inside. The plastic ones may make some clicking noises while opening, and it should not cause pain. If it does, let your doctor know, a different version may be used.
Will I still need a pelvic exam if I am a virgin?
Answer: If you have not started menstruating at around the same age as your peers, it is necessary to have a pelvic exam. You also need to have it when you have abdominal pain, discharge, or bleeding problems. You will still maintain your virginity after the pelvic exam. Moreover, if you used tampons during your menstruation period, you may find it easy for your first exam, unlike if you used external protection like pads.
What should I do during the pelvic examination to feel more comfortable?
Answer: Women react differently when fingers and speculum are inserted in the vagina. Some close their legs, and some compress their vaginal muscles. While clamping can be inherent, tensioning the muscles can make you feel uncomfortable. The best way to maintain your comfort during the pelvic exam is to relax. Take deep breaths slowly and try to stimulate your mind to help calm.
Which is the recommended duration for a woman in menopause to have a bimanual pelvic exam?
Answer: Most physicians would like to do a bimanual examination each year unless the patient has experienced a hysterectomy for an initial problem. In other cases, physicians wait until after the menopause a woman is symptomatic. It means that a doctor can usually express the need for a bimanual exam only when a woman is experiencing bleeding, discomfort, or swelling after menopause.
Will a pelvic exam trigger premature labor for a pregnant woman with twins at 14 weeks?
Pelvic exams are not known to induce preterm labor. However, when you are expectant with twins, the exam can enhance the chances of preterm labor. This is why you should talk about any pain, spasms, bleeding, or discharge to the doctor immediately they occur. The doctor might perform a pelvic exam to ensure you are not undergoing preterm labor.
Find a Gynecologist Near Me
When you feel like you can't endure a pelvic examination, you have the right to turn down the exam. Consequently, if you avoid this examination for too long, especially if you have symptoms, your health may be at high risk. Consider speaking to All Women's Care at 213-250-9461 about your worries or what's behind them, so you can get to a point where you feel comfortable about a pelvic examination. Our doctors have handled many uncertain patients, and in the course of the visits, they became comfortable. We will take measures that will motivate you to take full control of your reproductive health and overcome your fears. Contact us today!