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 the size and position of the
ovaries. 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, infections,
sexually transmitted infections (STIs), or other
reproductive system problems.
Why It Is Done
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
- To detect vaginal infections, such as
yeast infections or
- To help detect sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as
human papillomavirus (HPV).
- To help determine the cause of abnormal uterine bleeding.
- To evaluate pelvic organ abnormalities, such as
ovarian cysts, or
- 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.
How To Prepare
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
- 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. For more information, see the medical
Vaginal Self-Examination (VSE).
- 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
If you have had problems with pelvic exams in the past or
have experienced rape or sexual abuse, talk to your health professional about
your concerns or fears before the exam.
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.
Talk to your
health professional about any concerns you have regarding the need for the
test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results may mean. To help you
understand the importance of this test, fill out the
medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).