To stay healthy, women should have a physical exam every year. Most of the time, the pelvic examination is a part of this annual exam. It’s also a time for the Obstetrician/Gynecologist to provide reassurance of normal anatomy and answer specific questions.
A pelvic examination is a complete physical exam of a woman’s pelvic organs by a health professional. A pelvic exam helps a health professional evaluate:
- Size of the vagina
- Position of the vagina
It is an important part of preventive health care for all adult women. A pelvic exam is done to help detect:
- Certain cancers in their early stages
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Other reproductive system problems.
In some cases a pelvic ultrasound may be performed. A pelvic ultrasound is a noninvasive diagnostic pelvic exam that produces images that are used to assess organs and structures within the female pelvis.
A pelvic exam may be done:
As part of a woman’s regular physical checkup. A Pap test may be done during the pelvic exam. For more information, see the topic Paps.
- To detect vaginal infections, such as yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis.
- To help detect sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as chlamydia, herpes, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, or human papillomavirus (HPV).
- To help determine the cause of abnormal uterine bleeding.
- To evaluate pelvic organ abnormalities, such as uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, or uterine prolapse.
- To evaluate abdominal or pelvic pain.
Before prescribing a method of birth control (contraception). Some methods of birth control, such as a diaphragm or intrauterine device, require a pelvic exam to make sure the device fits properly.
Collect evidence in cases of suspected sexual assault.
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 medications, 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.
- 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.
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.
The information provided on this site is intended to educate the reader about certain medical conditions and certain possible treatment. It is not a substitute for examination, diagnosis, and medical care provided by a licensed and qualified health care professional. If you believe you, or someone you know suffers from the conditions described herein, please see your health care provider immediately. Do not attempt to treat yourself or anyone else without proper medical supervision.
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Dr. Amir Marashi, MD
Brooklyn GYN Place
142 Joralemon Street, Suite 4CF
Brooklyn, NY 11201