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Pelvic Examination

A pelvic examination is a complete physical exam of a woman's pelvic organs camera.gif by a health professional. A pelvic exam helps a health professional evaluate the size and position of the vagina, cervix, uterus, and ovaries. A pelvic exam may be done to help detect certain cancers in their early stages, infections, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), or other reproductive system problems.

Why It Is Done

A pelvic exam may be done:

How To Prepare

Before a pelvic exam:

  • Try to schedule the exam when you are not having your period, since blood can interfere with the results of a Pap test. But if you have a new vaginal discharge or new or increasing pelvic pain, a pelvic exam may be done while you are having your period.
  • Do not use douches, tampons, vaginal medicines, or vaginal sprays or powders for at least 24 hours.
  • Do not have sex for 24 hours prior to the exam if you have abnormal vaginal discharge.

At the beginning of your visit, tell your health professional:

  • If you are or might be pregnant.
  • If you have any reproductive or urinary tract symptoms such as itching, redness, sores, swelling, or an unusual odor or increased vaginal discharge. If you have been performing regular vaginal self-exams, discuss any changes you have noticed with your health professional. For more information, see the medical test Vaginal Self-Examination (VSE).
  • If you are using a method of birth control.
  • If this is your first pelvic exam.
  • The first day of your last menstrual period and how long your period lasted.
  • If you have had surgery or other procedures, such as radiation therapy, involving the vagina, cervix, or uterus.

If you have had problems with pelvic exams in the past or have experienced rape or sexual abuse, talk to your health professional about your concerns or fears before the exam.

No other special preparations are needed before having a pelvic exam. For your own comfort, you may want to empty your bladder before the exam.

Talk to your health professional about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results may mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 22, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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