Worrying about getting a pelvic exam for the first time is normal, as it can be embarrassing, awkward, and uncomfortable, especially if you don’t know what to expect.
Gynecologists at Houston Physicians’ Hospital have compiled a series of common questions and answers to reassure you that pelvic exams are not painful, are simple, and typically last less than five minutes.
Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you feel relaxed, in control, and empowered before going for your first pelvic exam:
First things first: What’s a pelvic exam?
The majority of healthcare experts agree that when a female turns 21 she should consult an experienced obstetrician or gynecologist to discuss getting a pelvic exam.
Pelvic screening allows the healthcare practitioner to examine the exterior pelvic area and internal reproductive organs to assess one’s overall gynecological wellness and health.
The exam typically includes swab sample testing for yeast infections and a pap smear test to check for any abnormalities in the cervix by collecting a small sample of cells from the cervix.
Other crucial reasons to get a pelvic exam
- Wetness or continuous vaginal discharge that causes burning, itching, or foul odor
- Unexplained pain around the vulva or lower belly
- No sign of menstrual periods even after breast development has begun or by the age of 16
- Vaginal bleeding that exceeds 10 days
- Extreme menstrual cramps that disrupt your routine
I’m a virgin. Do I still need a pelvic exam?
Regardless of whether or not you’ve had vaginal intercourse, you should still get regular pelvic exams to rule out underlying problems, especially if you’re experiencing certain symptoms. Similar to using tampons, a pelvic exam doesn’t cause damage to a female’s hymen.
Getting ready for your first pelvic exam
- Avoid having sex, douching, or using vaginal creams for at least 24 hours before the pelvic exam.
- Once you check in for the appointment, try to empty your bladder so you don’t feel any pressure during the exam.
- Ask your sister, friend, or mom to tag along if you think it would be helpful. The procedure usually involves a nurse taking your medical history, blood pressure, weight, and other stats, after which you put on a hospital gown.
- Since a breast exam is also a part of such a screening, be prepared to be comfortable removing all your undergarments before you’re asked to place your feet in the stirrups.
What happens during the pelvic exam?
The healthcare specialist will first perform a visual exam to rule out unusual discharge, irritation, cysts, and other abnormalities. They will then take a cell sample from your cervix using a speculum and a swab, and then do a manual check for abnormalities in the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and other areas surrounding the uterus.
Regular appointments with an experienced gynecologist are crucial for women to ensure lifelong well-being and help prevent the dangers of gynecological and cervical cancers with early diagnosis. Don’t let your embarrassment or fear stop you from scheduling this critical screening.
If you are due for your first pelvic exam but don’t have a doctor, visit one of the leading hospitals in Texas, Houston Physicians’ Hospital, to find a gynecologist who’s right for you.
Our team is dedicated to providing minimally invasive and individualized options to diagnose or treat a wide range of specialty-specific disorders.