A pelvic examination is a gynecological exam given by your doctor or health care provider. The pelvic exam takes place in your doctor or practioner’s office and during the exam your external genitalia will be examined along with a manual exam and a Pap test or ‘Pap Smear’. The Pap smear itself is an evaluation of the opening to your uterus, the cervix. The pap smear can tell your doctor a lot. It can detect diseases and even different types of cervical cancer. These tests can detect about 95% of the known cervical cancers, therefore they are vital to your gynecological health.
In the doctor’s office you will be asked to change from your clothes to an exam gown. You will lie back on the table and the nurse will assist in putting your legs up into the stirrups. The best thing to do is to try to relax your muscles. If your doctor does not suggest it, you might try asking if you could use the ‘frog-leg’ position for this part of the exam. This would involve placing your feet with your heels together and allowing your legs to gently fall to the sides. Many women have used this approach and felt much more relaxed than having their legs placed in the stirrups.In order to get the ‘smear’ needed from your cervical area, your doctor will need to insert an instrument called a speculum into your vagina. The speculum helps open the vaginal walls so that the doctor can have a clear view of what he or she is looking at. If you are very petite, sensitive to the speculum or if this is your first examination you can request that a smaller speculum be used. They are often much more confortable, especially if this is your first exam and you are very tense or experiencing anxiety. Once the speculum is placed the doctor will insert a large tipped cotton swab. It basically looks like a large size Q-Tip. They will gently swab some cells from your cervix and this is usually not a very uncomfortable or painful part of the exam. The swab containing the cells is what goes off to the lab to be processed, and you will generally get results back from your doctor as soon as the lab has processed the information.
For the manual part of the exam your doctor will insert two lubricated fingers (gloved of course) into your vagina and gently press down on your lower abdomen with her or his other gloved hand. What they are doing during this portion of the exam is feeling for any abnormal masses or tissues and assessing the size and shape of your uterus and your ovaries. This too can be a comfortable exam if you remember to relax. If your doctor is not being gentle enough you have the right to speak up!
Remember that pelvic examinations are vital to your health as a woman and you should schedule your exam every year without fail.