A pelvic exam is a physical exam that lets your doctor check to see if your pelvic organs are healthy. You may have a pelvic exam if you have abnormal vaginal bleeding or an infection in your vagina. Or you could have one if you have pain in your pelvis. You might also have this kind of exam to check for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
The more information you can give your doctor, the better care you can receive. Tell your doctor if you might be pregnant. And tell your doctor if you have a pelvic problem or any other health problem. You can also use this time to ask any questions about your body, birth control, sex, or STIs. Be sure to tell your doctor if there is anything that can be done to help you feel safe during the exam.
If you are having any kind of sex (oral, vaginal, or anal), it's important for your doctor to know that. Your doctor may check for signs of pregnancy. You may also be checked for STIs, such as herpes, chlamydia, and gonorrhea.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
How is a pelvic exam done?
- During a pelvic exam, you will:
- Take off your clothes below the waist. You will get a paper or cloth cover to put over the lower half of your body.
- Lie on your back on an exam table with your feet and legs supported by footrests.
- The doctor may:
- Put on gloves and check the opening of your vagina for sores or swelling.
- Gently put a tool called a speculum into your vagina. It opens the vagina a little bit. You may feel some pressure. The speculum lets your doctor see inside the vagina.
- Use a small brush, spatula, or swab to get a sample for testing. The doctor then removes the speculum.
- Put one or two fingers of one hand into your vagina. The other hand goes on your lower belly. This lets your doctor feel your pelvic organs. You will probably feel some pressure.
This exam takes about 10 minutes. You may have a small amount of vaginal discharge or bleeding after the exam.
Why is a pelvic exam for teens done?
- You think you have a vaginal infection. Signs include itching, burning, or unusual discharge.
- You have vaginal bleeding that is not part of your normal menstrual period.
- You have pain in your belly or pelvis.
- You are pregnant.
- You have been sexually assaulted. A pelvic exam lets your doctor collect evidence and check for STIs.
What are the risks of a pelvic exam?
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.
When should you call for help?
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.
Where can you learn more?
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter D738 in the search box to learn more about "Pelvic Exam for Teens: Care Instructions".
Current as of: August 2, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Kevin C. Kiley MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology