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When your doctor checks your pelvic organs, it's called a pelvic exam. This exam 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 exam, 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. Be sure to tell your doctor if there is anything that can be done to help you feel safe during the exam.
A pelvic exam may be done:
If you have any fear about having the test, tell your doctor or nurse.
No other special preparations are needed. For your own comfort, you may want to empty your bladder first.
You may have a small amount of vaginal discharge or bleeding after the exam.
This exam takes about 10 minutes.
You may feel some pressure or mild discomfort when the speculum is placed into your vagina. If a metal speculum is used, the metal may feel cold. The speculum may be warmed with water or lubricated with a vaginal lubricant, such as K-Y Jelly, before being placed.
During the bimanual part of the exam, you may feel some pressure or mild discomfort as the doctor or nurse checks your ovaries.
During the rectovaginal exam, you may feel as though you are about to have a bowel movement as the doctor or nurse withdraws a finger from your rectum. This is normal and lasts only a few seconds.
There is a small chance that the doctor will find something on a pelvic exam that would not have caused a problem. This is called overdiagnosis. It could lead to tests or treatment you don't need.
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.
The uterus and ovaries are normal in size and location. The uterus can be moved slightly without causing pain.
The vulva, vagina, and cervix look normal with no signs of infection, inflammation, or other abnormalities.
Glands around the opening of your vagina (Bartholin's glands) or urethra (Skene's glands) are not swollen or inflamed.
No masses (nodules) of abnormal tissue are felt in the area between the uterus and rectum or in the ligaments that attach to the uterus to hold it in place. No fibroids are felt.
There is no pelvic pain or tenderness.
No hardening of tissue is felt.
Sores, signs of infection, inflammation, or abnormalities of the vulva, vagina, or cervix are seen. Signs of a sexually transmitted infection (such as genital herpes, genital warts, or syphilis) may be seen. More tests will be needed to find the cause.
The glands around the vagina (Bartholin's glands) or urethra (Skene's glands) are swollen or inflamed.
The uterus cannot be moved (even slightly) during the exam.
Pain or tenderness is felt when the uterus is moved slightly or when the area between the uterus and rectum is touched. The uterus is pushed away from the midline of the belly.
The ovaries are enlarged, not movable (fixed), or painful when touched.
An ovarian mass is found. Or a mass that was found during a previous exam is still there or has grown larger.
Small masses (nodules) of abnormal tissue are felt. Uterine fibroids are felt.
Hardening of tissue is felt.
An area of ulceration or a tear is found.
A mass can be felt near one or both ovaries.
Many conditions can change the results of your pelvic exam. Your doctor or nurse will talk to you about any significant abnormal results.
Current as of: August 2, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffClinical Review Board: Sarah Marshall MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineMartin J. Gabica MD - Family MedicineKevin C. Kiley MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Current as of: August 2, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Kevin C. Kiley MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
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