Pelvic Exam

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What is a pelvic exam?

A pelvic exam is an examination of a woman's genital system. A pelvic exam examines organs including the vulva, vagina, uterus, ovaries, and Fallopian tubes; the bladder and rectum are also usually included in the exam. A pelvic exam involves visual examination of the external genitalia and an internal visual exam of the vaginal walls and cervix using a speculum to open the vaginal canal. It also involves palpation, or examination by feeling the size and shape of the pelvic organs.

Why is a pelvic exam performed?

A pelvic exam may be performed as part of a regular checkup (or wellness visit) or can be done to investigate abnormal symptoms such as abnormal bleeding, unusual vaginal discharge, or pain. Pelvic exams are also done during pregnancy check-ups. Pelvic exams are also necessary for cervical cancer screenings, in which a sample of cells from the uterine opening (cervix) are taken for microscopic examination (known as the Pap smear or Pap test).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/3/2013