The Pelvic Exam and Menopause
What Can I Expect During the Pelvic Exam?
You can expect to feel a little discomfort, but you should not feel pain during a pelvic exam. The exam itself takes about 10 minutes. If you have any questions during the exam, be sure to ask your doctor.
How Is the Pelvic Exam Performed?
During a typical pelvic exam, your doctor or nurse will:
- Ask you to take off your clothes in private. (You will be given a gown or other covering.)
- Talk to you about any health concerns.
- Ask you to lie on your back and relax.
- Press down on areas of the lower stomach to feel the organs from the outside.
- Help you get in position for the speculum exam. (You may be asked to slide down to the end of the table.)
- Ask you to bend your knees and to place your feet in holders called stirrups.
- Perform the speculum exam. During the exam, a device called a speculum will be inserted into the vagina. The speculum is opened to widen the vagina so that the vagina, cervix, and uterus can be seen.
- Perform a Pap smear if indicated. Your provider will use a plastic or wooden spatula and small brush to take a sample of cells from the cervix. A sample of fluid may also be taken from the vagina to test for infection.
- Remove the speculum.
- Perform a manual exam with their fingers. Your provider will typically place two fingers inside the vagina and use the other hand to gently press down on the area he or she is feeling. Your doctor is noting if the organs have changed in size or shape.
- Sometimes a rectal exam is performed. Your doctor inserts a gloved finger into the rectum to detect any tumors or other abnormalities.
- Finally, your doctor will talk to you about the exam. (You may be asked to return to get test results.)
What Tests Are Taken During the Pelvic Exam?
As mentioned above, during a pelvic exam, a sample of cells may be taken as part of a regular test called a Pap smear, or Pap test, to screen for cervical cancer or cells that look like they might lead to cancer. The sample is placed in a solution and sent to a lab where it is examined. Tests also may be taken to screen for sexually transmitted diseases or other infections.