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What You Need to Know Before Your Pelvic Exam Procedure

Medically reviewed by Kristina Campos, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Alyan Cortes · Updated Jun 20, 2022

What You Need to Know Before Your Pelvic Exam Procedure

Women go through pelvic exams as part of regular checkups. Doctors perform pelvic exams to evaluate the reproductive organs. Besides being a part of regular checkups, these are also done if you experience any unusual discharge or pelvic pain. In this article, we will discuss the pelvic exam procedure, when it is necessary and when it is not.

Pelvic exam procedure: What is a pelvic exam and how is it done? 

A pelvic exam is a procedure done by a doctor to check your vulva, vagina, cervix, ovaries, uterus, rectum, and pelvis. This is done in the doctor’s office and only lasts for a couple of minutes.

For the doctor to properly assess the area, they need to use a plastic or metal tool that is shaped like a duck’s bill, called a speculum. This is used to open your vaginal walls so the doctor can see your vagina and cervix. This may cause a little bit of discomfort, but the speculum can be warmed to be more comfortable for you, and being relaxed can help.

A pelvic exam procedure can also include a Pap smear. For this, the doctor will use a small wand to get a sample of cervical cells before finally removing the speculum.

What is a pelvic exam for? 

It is for the doctor to properly have a visual and physical assessment of a woman’s reproductive organs, and to search for any signs of illnesses in the body.

The Pap smear is taken to check for cells that may lead to cervical cancer. Your doctor may also check or perform tests to determine if you have sexually transmitted diseases.

You can also take this time with your doctor to discuss any concerns about your sexual or reproductive health.

When and how often should I get a pelvic exam?

A pelvic exam should only be done for women aged 21 years old and up. It is more common for women to undergo a pelvic exam once a year, usually as a part of general physical checkups. Also, it is mostly done in women who are sexually active.

There are a number of other reasons for women to take a pelvic exam. These include:

  • Pelvic pain
  • Unusual vaginal discharge or bleeding
  • Possessing a family history of cancer
  • Addressing concerns about cysts, sexually transmitted diseases, and other gynecological issues

It is advisable to have a Pap smear every three years.

It is not recommended for women under the age of 21 to undergo a pelvic exam. Tests done on women of this age can lead to over-treatment, false-positive tests, anxiety, and unnecessary costs.

Pelvic exam procedure results

Most of the time, your doctor will be able to determine during your pelvic exam if there is anything unusual. On the other hand, the results for a Pap smear usually takes a day or two.

With your results, your doctor may recommend any medication that you might need, additional tests, or even schedule you for a follow-up appointment or treatment.

Key takeaway

A pelvic exam procedure may seem scary at first due to how it is done and the discomfort that it brings. It can bring physical and mental uneasiness, which is why it is best to know everything about the procedure before undergoing the test. Knowing what to do before, during, and after a pelvic exam is helpful for your appointment.

If you feel uncomfortable during the procedure, let your doctor or healthcare provider know. It is also best to communicate and be open with your doctor about your sexual health.

Learn more about Pelvic Related Issues here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Kristina Campos, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Alyan Cortes · Updated Jun 20, 2022

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