Pelvic exams are a routine but vital part of women’s healthcare. It’s common for patients, especially those having their first one, to have questions. One of the main things many wonder about is how long the exam will take.
To clear things up, let’s look into what happens during a pelvic examination. We’ll also address common topics, like using the modern speculum and why some people might feel nervous about visiting a gynecologist.
Duration of a Pelvic Exam
A pelvic exam involves several steps to evaluate the female pelvic organs. On average, the exam itself is relatively quick, lasting about ten minutes. This includes an external visual assessment, an internal visual inspection using a speculum and a manual evaluation where the physician palpates the uterus, ovaries and other pelvic structures.
While the examination component is brief, the overall appointment might be longer, especially if you have questions or your healthcare provider needs to discuss specific findings or recommendations.
What You Can Expect
You’ll be asked to change into a gown and may receive a sheet for added privacy around your waist. Before the pelvic exam, your doctor may check your heart and lungs. They might also examine your abdominal area, back and breasts.
A chaperone, often a nurse or medical assistant, might be present during the exam. If one isn’t provided, you can request one. You can also have a partner, friend or family member accompany you in the room.
You’ll be positioned on your back on an examination table, with your knees bent. Your feet will rest in supports known as stirrups. You will be asked to move your body toward the table’s edge and let your knees fall apart before the exam begins.
- External visual inspection. Your doctor will examine your vulva for any abnormalities, such as discoloration, irritation, sores or swelling.
- Internal visual inspection. Your doctor will then gently use a lubricated speculum to open your vagina. This device provides a clearer view of the vagina and cervix. While the speculum may cause a sensation of pressure, it’s essential to stay relaxed to minimize discomfort. If you experience any pain, inform your doctor immediately. They can halt the procedure and address your concerns.
- Pap test. A Pap test, also known as a Pap smear, might be performed during your exam. The doctor uses a small wand to collect cells from your cervix before removing the speculum.
- Physical examination: Your doctor will conduct a physical exam. This involves inserting one or two gloved fingers into the vagina while they use their other hand to gently press down on your abdomen.
This process helps assess the size, shape and position of the uterus and ovaries and detects any unusual growths or tender spots. After the vaginal examination, your doctor might also check your rectum by inserting a gloved finger to identify abnormalities.
Throughout the procedure, your doctor will inform you about each step to ensure your comfort.
Modern Speculum: Enhancing Comfort and Efficiency
The speculum is a tool used to open the vaginal walls for better visualization during the internal part of the exam. The modern speculum is designed to prioritize patient comfort without compromising on functionality.
- Comfortable speculum. Nella is a comfortable speculum crafted from temperature-neutral polycarbonate, so there are no cold surprises during your exam. It is also the same diameter as a standard tampon for easier and more comfortable insertion and removal.
- Disposable speculum: Many gynecologists now prefer a disposable speculum for hygiene reasons. These speculums are used once and then discarded, reducing the risk of cross-contamination. Nella is available in both disposable and reusable models. The reusable Nella speculums are fully autoclavable to ensure optimal hygiene.
Tips for a Pelvic Exam
Despite using a more comfortable modern speculum, you may still have some anxiety or discomfort around going to the OB/GYN. To ensure the process is as comfortable as possible, consider the following tips for a pelvic exam:
- Relaxation. It’s not uncommon to have gynecologist anxiety or to feel tense, especially if it’s your first exam or you’ve had previous uncomfortable experiences. Deep breathing, relaxation techniques or listening to your favorite tunes can help ease tension.
- Open communication: If you feel nervous, communicate with your gynecologist. They can provide reassurances, explain each step and might adjust their approach to make you feel at ease.
- Get into a comfortable position: Muscle tension and poor visibility can lead to a more uncomfortable exam. To reposition your body for better comfort, move further down the exam table so that your behind is slightly over the edge. This provides easier access for your doctor and allows your knees to fall apart naturally to alleviate muscle tension in your pelvis.
When Should a Girl Have Her First Pelvic Exam?
A common question many have is, “When should a girl have her first pelvic exam?” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that most girls have their first pelvic exam by age 21. However, if a young woman has specific health concerns, such as unusual menstrual cycles, pelvic pain or is sexually active, she might need an exam earlier.
Experience a More Comfortable Pelvic Exam with Nella
Pelvic exams are vital for monitoring your menstrual and reproductive health and only take a few minutes to complete. If you feel anxious about an upcoming pelvic exam, talk to your doctor about Nella. The revolutionary, modern speculum ensures you experience a more comfortable pelvic exam, helping you take control of your health.