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 symptoms such as abnormal bleeding, unusual vaginal discharge, or pain. Pelvic exams are also done during pregnancy check-ups. Pelvic exams are 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).
What conditions can be evaluated with a pelvic exam?
A pelvic exam can be useful in the evaluation and diagnosis of multiple conditions.
Some examples include:
- sexually-transmitted infections, such as gonorrhea, syphilis, Trichomonas, human papillomavirus, and Chlamydia
- bacterial vaginosis
- yeast infections
- urinary tract infections
- abnormal uterine bleeding
- fibroid tumors
- ovarian cysts
- polycystic ovary syndrome
- rectal bleeding
- tumors of the genital organs
- genital warts
- ectopic pregnancy
Quick GuidePelvic Pain: What's Causing Your Pelvic Pain?
How is a pelvic exam performed?
There is no special preparation needed for a pelvic exam. A pelvic exam is performed in the doctor's office and takes only a few minutes. The woman undergoing the exam lies on an examination table, covered with a sheet. The doctor and/or nurse will help the woman get in position for the speculum examination, which involves bending the knees and placing the feet in metal supports on the side of the exam table. The speculum is a metal or plastic device that is inserted into the vagina to allow the vaginal walls and cervix to be seen. A small sample of the cells of the cervix is taken by a brush or a small spatula for the Pap test. While there may be some discomfort, a pelvic exam should not be painful.
A bimanual exam is another component of the pelvic exam. This involves placement of two fingers inside the vaginal canal and pressing on the lower abdomen with the other hand to palpate (feel) the pelvic organs. A rectal exam is also often performed at this time. The bimanual exam may reveal enlarged organs or tissue masses.
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"Pelvic Examination." MedscapeReference.com. Updated Mar. 17, 2016.
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Bacterial Vaginosis (Causes, Symptoms, Treatment)
Bacterial vaginosis is an abnormal vaginal condition with signs and symptoms of vaginal discharge, vaginal odor, and vaginal pain.
Bacterial vaginosis results from an overgrowth of normal bacteria in the vagina. Although it may cause some disturbing symptoms (discharge and odor), it is not dangerous and cannot be passed by sex. Diagnosis becomes important to exclude serious infections like gonorrhea and Chlamydia. Many treatment options are available such as oral antibiotics and vaginal gels.
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Pap SmearA Pap smear (Pap test) is a medical procedure to screen for abnormal cells of the cervix. A woman should have her first Pap smear (in general) three years after vaginal intercourse, or no later than 21 years of age. The risks for women at increased risk for having an abnormal Pap smear include: HPV (genital warts), smoking, a weakened immune system, medications (diethylstilbestrol), and others. Some of the conditions that may result in an abnormal Pap smear include: absence of endocervical cells, unreliable Pap smear due to inflammation, atypical squamous cells (ASCUS), low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion (LSIL), high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion (HSIL), cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), and carcinoma in situ.
Signs and symptoms of pregnancy vary by stage (trimester). The earliest pregnancy symptom is typically a missed period, but others include
breast swelling and tenderness,
- nausea and sometimes vomiting,
- fatigue, and
Second trimester symptoms include
- weight gain,
- itching, and
- possible stretch marks.
Third trimester symptoms are
- additional weight gain,
- swelling of the ankles,
- fingers, and face,
- breast tenderness, and
- trouble sleeping.
Eating a healthy diet, getting a moderate amount of exercise, also are recommended for a healthy pregnancy. Information about the week by week growth of your baby in the womb are provided.
Pregnancy Symptoms Am I Pregnant
Pregnancy symptoms can vary from woman to woman, and not all women experience the same symptoms. When women do experience pregnancy symptoms they may include symptoms include
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- mood changes,
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- breast tenderness, and
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Uterine fibroids are benign (non-cancerous) tumors in the womb (uterus). Most uterine fibroids do not cause symptoms; however, if the fibroid is large enough and in the right location, it may cause symptoms of pelvic pain, abnormal vaginal bleeding, and pressure on the bladder or rectum.
Uterine fibroids that remain small and do not grow usually do not need treatment; however, surgery to remove the fibroid may be necessary. Uterine fibroids do not cause cancer; however, there is a rare, fast-growing cancerous called leiomyosarcoma.
Yeast Infection in Women and Men
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- vaginal discharge,
- odor, and
Treatment is generally OTC medications. A man can contract a yeast infection from his female sexual partner. Symptoms of a yeast infection in men include penile itching. Treatment is with oral or topical medication.