As a woman, caring for your reproductive health can sometimes be challenging and confusing. To best support your body's unique systems and cycles, health experts recommend visiting your doctor or gynecologist regularly for a women’s wellness appointment that includes a pelvic exam.
If you’ve ever wondered why these wellness visits are so important, you are not alone. Many women feel unsure as to why they actually need a pelvic examination and how often these types of exams are necessary. If you’ve never had a pelvic exam before, you might even be nervous or wondering what to expect.
Not to worry. To help clear up some of the confusion, we’ve compiled all the answers to some of your most common queries about pelvic exams. Here is what you need to know:
What is a pelvic exam? And how often do you need one?
A pelvic exam is a medical examination for women, during which a gynecologist examines the internal and external reproductive organs to check for any abnormalities or signs of illness.
Some clinicians recommend getting your first pelvic exam at 25, or as soon as you become sexually active. Pelvic exams are a normal part of caring for the female body and should be a part of your wellness care after turning 25 and pelvic exam should be done annually.
Although current science doesn’t necessitate routine annual pelvic exams for women who are otherwise healthy and not pregnant, it is still recommended that women between the ages of 25 and 65 get regular pap smear testing, every three years with liquid-based cytology and if combine with HPV DNA testing (co-test) can do every 5 years for early detection of cervical cancer.
On the other hand, it’s important to note that you many need pelvic exams more frequently under certain circumstances, such as a history of abnormal pap test results, family history of certain cancers, or while you are pregnant.
What happens during a pelvic exam?
At your pelvic exam, you will be given a gown to change into privately and instructed by your doctor to remove your other clothing. This is so that the practitioner can more easily examine your reproductive organs, including the vulva, vagina, ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes.
You will be asked to lie back on the exam table and relax, as best as you can. The doctor will first examine various parts of your reproductive system by pressing on the stomach externally to feel the organs from the outside. Once the external portion of the exam is complete, the doctor will advise you on how to get into position for the internal exam, or speculum examination.
For the speculum exam, your gynecologist will insert a device called a speculum into the vagina. This is done to widen the vagina and allow them to better see inside to examine your cervix. At this point, a pap smear test may be conducted using a small spatula and brush to collect cells from the cervix.
After removing the speculum, the doctor will also check the internal organs by hand, feeling for any irregularities or changes in size and shape also the position. This allows the clinician to detect unusual tenderness or pain (a sign that infection or another condition may be present), enlarged ovaries, ovarian cysts or tumors.
Are pelvic exams painful?
A typical pelvic exam is a quick routine procedure. Most women report feeling only minor discomfort, pressure or stretching during an examination. That said, a pelvic exam should not feel painful. If at any point during your exam, you are experiencing pain or discomfort, it’s important to communicate with your doctor and let them know.
What is the difference between a pelvic exam and a Pap smear test?
Because they often take place during the same doctor’s visit, it’s easy to understand why many people are confused about the difference. However, the key thing to know is that a pap smear and a pelvic exam are two different types of tests that address different concerns. Both are necessary for monitoring your reproductive health and overall wellness.
A pap smear is technically a medical screening to check for cervical cancer. The cells collected during the speculum exam are examined in a lab under a microscope to check for any abnormalities. Meanwhile, a pelvic exam looks at the health of your reproductive organs, including the vulva and vagina, the pelvic floor, the ovaries, uterus and your cervix.
Can pelvic exams help diagnose STDs?
In addition to checking for cervical cancer, a pelvic exam can include other testing for sexually transmitted diseases. However, it is important to note that not all clinics automatically include this testing. Always talk to your gynecologist if you are concerned about an STD, or would like to be tested for one. Some of STDs can be tested by pelvic exams such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, HPV but some need blood examinations to test such as HIV, syphilis and hepatitis B infection.
How to prepare for a pelvic exam ?
There isn’t much you need to do before your pelvic exam, but there are a few things that will be helpful to know when planning your visit. If this is your first pelvic exam or you have any concerns, it’s a good idea to let your doctor know, so they can be sure to address any of your questions beforehand. You should try to schedule your pelvic exam on a day when you don’t have your period, but apart from that there isn’t anything special you need to prepare. If you have the period the pelvic exam can be done but we don't recommended to do due to sometimes we can not got full information from the test and maybe need further examination.
Gynecology services at Metro Bangkok Clinic
Metro Bangkok Clinic is committed to helping female patients support their reproductive wellness. The clinic offers a range of reproductive health care services including pelvic exams, pap smears and STD testing. Our on-site gynecologist is able to provide discreet, professional care for all of your health and wellness concerns in English or Thai. At Metro Bangkok Clinic, all patients are treated safely and confidentially. To learn more, simply message the clinic.
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