How Often Do You Need a Pelvic Exam

How Often Do You Need a Pelvic Exam

Pelvic exams are crucial in maintaining your reproductive health. Routine pelvic exams help screen for potential issues like cervical cancer or sexually transmitted diseases, allowing you to receive early treatment or take preventative measures. 

The frequency of these exams can vary widely based on your medical history and any symptoms or concerns you might have. Some healthcare providers recommend an annual pelvic check-up, while others suggest a pelvic exam by your doctor every three years until you reach the age of 65.

Knowing how often you need an exam and when extra gynecologist visits might be necessary can help you maintain your reproductive health. 

Why is a Pelvic Exam Done? 

Pelvic exams are performed for several vital reasons, primarily aimed at assessing and ensuring the overall health of your reproductive organs. They help identify any signs of medical conditions such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), fibroids, cysts and cancers affecting the uterus, cervix, vagina, fallopian tubes or ovaries. 

Pelvic exams are also essential to prenatal care during pregnancy or help determine an appropriate contraception method. They allow healthcare providers to address concerns or answer questions about your menstrual cycle, sexual activity and overall reproductive health.

How Often Should You See Your Gynecologist for a Pelvic Exam?

The journey toward maintaining reproductive health begins early. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) advises girls to start seeing a gynecologist between 13 and 15. However, this initial visit is more about developing a relationship with your provider and doesn’t require a pelvic exam.

The following are the ACOG’s recommendations for when you should have a pelvic exam:

  • Sexual activity: If a young woman becomes sexually active, a pelvic exam may be recommended to ensure her reproductive health is in good standing, irrespective of age.
  • Specific symptoms or health concerns: Pelvic exams may be conducted if there are specific symptoms or health concerns, such as irregular periods or menstrual pain, regardless of sexual activity.
  • Age 21: ACOG recommends that most girls have their first pelvic exam at age 21. This exam might include a Pap smear and HPV test to check for human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted infection that could lead to cervical cancer. 
  • Regular pelvic exams: For women between age 30 and age 65, regular pelvic exams are advisable. The frequency might vary based on personal medical history, sexual activity and any other health concerns, but is typically every three years. HPV testing and a general pelvic exam are also advised every three years. 
  • Well-woman exams: These comprehensive check-ups often include a pelvic exam as a component but cover a broader range of health assessments, including breast exams, cholesterol checks and screenings for high blood pressure, diabetes and other potential health issues. The ACOG recommends an annual well-woman visit for most women.

Other Factors Affecting the Frequency of Pelvic Exams

After the first exam, most women should have a pelvic exam with Pap tests performed at least every three years, based on the recommendation of their gynecological provider. However, your doctor will talk with you about your specific needs, depending on your health conditions, age and medical history. Some reasons for more frequent pelvic exams include: 

  • History of gynecological issues: Women with previous gynecological problems such as cysts, fibroids or endometriosis may require closer monitoring.
  • Chronic health conditions: Conditions like diabetes, hypertension or autoimmune disorders like Sjögren’s syndrome can impact reproductive health, necessitating more frequent exams.
  • Multiple sexual partners: Increased numbers of sexual partners can heighten the risk of STIs, requiring regular check-ups.
  • Irregular menstrual cycles: Unpredictable or abnormal menstrual cycles can indicate underlying health issues, warranting more frequent examinations.
  • Family history of reproductive cancers: A family history of ovarian, cervical or uterine cancer can increase risk, necessitating more regular screening.
  • Symptoms of concern: Experiencing pelvic pain, abnormal bleeding or unusual discharge can prompt more frequent evaluations.
  • Use of certain contraceptives: Women using intrauterine devices (IUDs) might require more regular exams to ensure proper placement and monitor for complications.
  • Pregnancy and postpartum: Pregnant individuals and those in the postpartum period often have more frequent pelvic exams as part of their prenatal and postnatal care.
  • Postmenopausal bleeding: Women who experience bleeding after menopause often require more frequent exams to rule out any serious condition.
  • Infertility concerns: Couples facing fertility issues might undergo more frequent pelvic exams as part of the evaluation and treatment process.
  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT): Women on HRT, especially post-menopause, might need more regular monitoring through pelvic exams.
  • Previous abnormal Pap smears: A history of abnormal Pap smear test results can indicate a higher risk of cervical dysplasia or cancer, necessitating closer observation.

Advances in Pelvic Exam Tools

Gynecologist anxiety is common for most women, no matter your age or previous experience with your provider. Pelvic exams require the use of a tool called a speculum, which allows the doctor to get a better view of your cervix and vagina. 

A speculum exam also helps your doctor perform a Pap smear, which involves scraping cells from the cervix and sending them to a lab for assessment for irregularities. These procedures can often lead to embarrassment, pain and discomfort, especially when a metal or hard plastic speculum is used. 

The Nella is a fresh take on the traditional speculum, designed to ease the common discomfort and anxiety many women feel during pelvic exams. Unlike the cold, hard feel of metal or plastic specula, this modern speculum is crafted from soft silicone, which warms quickly to body temperature, providing a more comfortable experience. 

Its ergonomic design allows it to adapt to each woman’s unique anatomy, enhancing your comfort during the exam. The disposable speculum is equipped with a light, offering an unobstructed view for your gynecologist, making examinations more patient-friendly.

How Can You Get the Nella for Your First (or Next) Pelvic Exam?

If you’re interested in using the Nella for your pelvic exam, you have a few different options. You can order your own and bring it with you to your appointment or talk with your provider about ordering it for your exam:

  • Call ahead: Contact your gynecologist’s office before your appointment to check if they already offer Nella. Some providers have adopted this comfortable speculum to help create a more welcoming patient experience. 
  • Buy your own: Purchase your own Nella to bring to your appointments. You can easily order the Nella Comfort Kit and have it delivered to your home or your provider’s office. 
  • Discuss your preference: During your visit, express your preference for Nella and discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider. You can refer them to Nella and we will contact them to help get the speculum sent to their office. 

There are several other tips for a pelvic exam you can use to make your visit more comfortable. These can include wearing comfortable clothing, practicing deep breathing and remembering that you can ask to stop the exam at any time.

Safeguard Your Health with Regular Pelvic Exams

There are few things you can do that are as impactful as scheduling your well-woman visit once a year or as often as your provider recommends. Take charge of your health by ensuring your doctor uses a speculum designed for women by women. 

Explore the benefits of the Nella today and speak with your provider about using it at your first or next pelvic exam.

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