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Pelvic Examination: Care Instructions

Female pelvic organs in lower belly, including ovary, uterus, cervix, bladder, urethra, vagina, clitoris, labia minora, and rectum.


When your doctor examines your pelvic organs, it's called a pelvic examination. This examination is done to evaluate symptoms, such as pelvic pain or abnormal vaginal bleeding and discharge. It may also be done to collect samples of cells for cervical cancer screening.

Before your examination, it's important to share some information with your doctor. You can talk about any concerns you may have. Your doctor will also want to know if you are pregnant or use birth control. And your doctor will want to hear about any problems, surgeries, or procedures you have had in your pelvic area. You will also need to tell your doctor when your last period was.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How is a pelvic examination done?

  • During a pelvic examination, you will:
    • Take off your clothes below the waist. You will get a paper or cloth cover to put over the lower half of your body.
    • Lie on your back on an examination table with your feet and legs supported by footrests.
  • The doctor may:
    • Ask you to relax your knees. Your knees need to lean out, toward the walls.
    • Put on gloves and check the opening of your vagina for sores or swelling.
    • Gently put a tool called a speculum into your vagina. It opens the vagina a little bit. You may feel some pressure. The speculum lets your doctor see inside the vagina.
    • Use a small brush, spatula, or swab to get a sample for testing. The doctor then removes the speculum.
    • Put one or two fingers of one hand into your vagina. The other hand goes on your lower belly. This lets your doctor feel your pelvic organs. You will probably feel some pressure.
    • Put one gloved finger into your rectum and one into your vagina, if needed. This can also help check your pelvic organs.

You may have a small amount of vaginal discharge or bleeding after the examination.

Why is a pelvic examination done?

A pelvic examination may be done:

  • To collect samples of cells for cervical cancer screening.
  • To check for vaginal infection.
  • To check for sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia or herpes.
  • To help find the cause of abnormal uterine bleeding.
  • To look for problems like uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, or uterine prolapse.
  • To help find the cause of pelvic or belly pain.
  • Before inserting an intrauterine device (IUD).
  • To collect evidence if you've been sexually assaulted.

What are the risks of a pelvic examination?

There is a small chance that the doctor will find something on a pelvic examination that would not have caused a problem. This is called overdiagnosis. It could lead to tests or treatment you don't need.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.