Pelvic Examination for Teens: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Side view of the female pelvic anatomy

A pelvic examination is a physical examination only for women. It lets your doctor check to see if your pelvic organs are healthy. You may have a pelvic examination if you have bleeding or an infection in your vagina. Or you could have one if you have pain in your pelvis. You might also have this kind of examination to check for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

You can have this kind of examination at any time. But try to schedule it when you do not have your period. And do not use douches, tampons, or vaginal medicines, sprays, or powders for at least 24 hours before your examination.

Before the examination, it's best to talk honestly with your doctor. Tell your doctor if you might be pregnant. And tell him or her if you have a pelvic problem or any other health problem. You can also use this time to ask any questions about your body, birth control, or STIs. If you are not having sex, but you're thinking about it, you can also discuss that.

If you are sexually active, it's important for your doctor to know that. This is so he or she can check for signs of pregnancy. You can also be checked for STIs, such as herpes and gonorrhea.

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 call line 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. Your feet will be raised above you. Stirrups will support your feet.
  • The doctor will:
    • 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 will feel some pressure. But if you are relaxed, it will not hurt. It lets your doctor see inside the vagina.
    • Use a small brush, spatula, or swab to get a sample of cells, if you are having a Pap test or culture. 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. Try to stay relaxed.
    • Put one gloved finger into your rectum and one into your vagina, if needed. This can also help check your pelvic organs.

This examination takes about 10 minutes. At the end, you will get a face cloth or tissue to clean your vaginal area. It's normal to have some discharge after this examination. You can then get dressed.

Some test results may be ready right away. But results from a culture or a Pap test may take several days or a few weeks.

Why should you have a pelvic examination?

  • You think you have a vaginal infection. Signs include itching, burning, or unusual discharge.
  • You might have been exposed to an STI.
  • You have vaginal bleeding that is not part of your normal menstrual period.
  • You have pain in your belly or pelvis.
  • You are pregnant.
  • You have been sexually assaulted. A pelvic examination lets your doctor collect evidence and check for STIs.

What are the risks of a pelvic examination?

There are no risks from a pelvic examination.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You have heavy bleeding or discharge from your vagina after the examination.
  • You think you have been exposed to an STI.
  • You think you may be pregnant.
  • You have questions about birth control or preventing STIs.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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