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Women's Health

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Pelvic Examination

How To Prepare continued...

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

No other special preparations are needed. For your own comfort, you may want to empty your bladder first.

Talk to your doctor or nurse about any concerns you have. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).

How It Is Done

During a pelvic exam, you will:

  • Take off your clothes below the waist. You will have a paper or cloth covering around your waist. If it is your yearly exam, you may need to undress completely so your doctor or nurse can also check your breasts.
  • Lie on your back on an exam table with your feet raised and supported by stirrups. This allows the doctor or nurse to look at your vulva, urethra, vagina, and other reproductive organs camera.gif.
  • Have a drape across your body for privacy during the test. The doctor or nurse may use a lamp during the test.

You can ask for a mirror if you want to watch while the test is being done.

A female nurse or assistant may stay in the room with you during the exam. You may also request the presence of your partner or a friend.

A pelvic exam can involve three steps: the external exam, bimanual (two-handed) exam, and rectovaginal exam.

External exam

During the external exam, the doctor or nurse will:

  • Check your vulva and the opening of your vagina for signs of redness, irritation, discharge, cysts, genital warts, and other abnormal conditions.
  • Check inside your vagina with gloved fingers for any cysts or pus coming from the Bartholin glands.
  • Gently insert the speculum into your vagina camera.gif. The speculum spreads apart the vaginal walls. This lets the doctor or nurse see the inside of the vagina and the cervix. The speculum may be plastic or metal. It may be warmed with water or lubricated with a vaginal lubricant (such as K-Y Jelly).
  • Check the walls of your vagina and your cervix for damage, growths, inflammation, unusual discharge, or discoloration.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 26, 2014
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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