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Vaginal Self-Examination (VSE)

A vaginal self-examination is a way for a woman to look at her vulva and vagina. A vaginal self-examination may help you better understand your body, the changes that take place during the menstrual cycle, and any problems that may need medical attention. See a picture of the vulva camera.gif.

The best time to do a vaginal self-examination is between your menstrual periods. A vaginal self-examination should not replace a regular pelvic examination by your doctor.

Why It Is Done

A vaginal self-examination can be done to:

  • Help you learn more about your body and what is normal for you.
  • Help you check for vaginal sores, abnormal discharge, or other problems, such as genital warts.

How To Prepare

To do a vaginal self-examination, you will need:

  • A small flashlight or good lighting in the room.
  • A handheld mirror with a long handle.

Choose a time when you are not having a menstrual period. Do not use vaginal creams or douches before doing the examination.

How It Is Done

Take off your clothes below the waist. Have the mirror and flashlight where you can easily reach them. Wash your hands. Sit on the floor, a bed, or a couch and support your back with pillows. Bend your knees, place your feet near your bottom, lean slightly backward, and spread your knees apart so your genital area can be seen.

Hold or prop the mirror in front of your genital area. Look at the:

  • Outer and inner fleshy lips of the vulva (called the labia).
  • Bump of tissue covered by a hood of skin at the front of the labia (called the clitoris). The clitoris is the main area that is stimulated during sexual activity.
  • Opening of the urethra where urine drains from your body.
  • Opening of the vagina.
  • Opening of the anus.

Have the light reflect off the mirror so you can clearly see your vaginal area. Then use your fingers to spread apart the vaginal lips. Adjust the light and mirror until you can see into the vagina. You should be able to see the reddish pink walls of the vagina, which have small folds or ridges known as rugae.

Look at your vaginal discharge. A normal discharge usually is clear to cloudy white, smells slightly acidic (like vinegar), may be thick or thin, and changes a little throughout the menstrual cycle. For more information, see the topic Fertility Awareness.

How It Feels

Relax your pelvic and belly muscles as much as you can during the vaginal self-examination. You should have little or no discomfort from the examination, unless you have a vaginal infection or an open sore.

Risks

Normally, there are no problems from doing a vaginal self-examination.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 28, 2012
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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