Heading in for a pelvic exam might bring up some questions, especially about the speculum. This medical instrument has been used in some form since Ancient Rome but has been widely used in its current design since the 1800s. It helps gynecologists gently open the vaginal walls so they can view and access the cervix and surrounding tissues during an exam.
Unfortunately, many women feel gynecologist anxiety about the use of a speculum. It can be uncomfortable not understanding how or why the tool is used. To help you relax during a pelvic exam, here’s a breakdown of how a speculum is inserted and ways you can make your experience more comfortable with a disposable speculum designed for women’s comfort.
Types of Speculum
There are several types of speculums your provider might use during your exam. Each type meets different needs and patient comfort levels. While healthcare providers typically have a preferred type they use in their practice, it’s helpful to know the standard options:
- Traditional metal. Known for their durability, these metal speculums are often used for their ability to be sterilized and reused. They have a slightly heavier feel and a screw mechanism to adjust the opening size.
- Plastic. These are made of hard plastic. They are lightweight and typically disposable, ideal for ensuring a sterile tool for each patient. They are often used in clinics for one-time use.
- Medical-grade polymer. Among the newest speculum designs, these speculums are crafted for enhanced comfort. They have the strength of traditional materials with a more patient-friendly experience, featuring smoother edges and a more ergonomic design.
Preparing the Speculum Before the Exam
Before your pelvic exam, your healthcare provider gets everything set up for your comfort. They pick out the right speculum for you – a sturdy metal one, a disposable plastic or a gentler medical-grade polymer – depending on what works best for your speculum exam.
If using a metal speculum, your provider will sterilize it thoroughly to ensure it’s clean. To make the experience more comfortable, they may warm it by running it under warm water or using a special warming device so it’s not cold to the touch. They’ll also apply a bit of water-based lubricant to make the insertion smoother and more comfortable for you.
For a single-use speculum like the Nella, your provider will keep it in the sterile pack until just before your exam.
Visual Inspection and Assessment
Before inserting the speculum, your gynecologist performs a thorough visual inspection and assessment. They will start with an examination of your external genitalia to look for signs of irritation, swelling or other abnormalities that might need attention.
They’ll identify unique anatomical areas, like the labia and the entrance to the vagina, to guide the speculum's insertion. This step helps them ensure the procedure will be as comfortable as possible for you, especially if it’s your first pelvic exam.
During this assessment, they also look for any potential complications, such as skin changes or unusual discharge, which could indicate a need for a more specialized approach. This detailed external check allows for a safe and effective exam, ensuring everything is normal before proceeding with the speculum insertion.
Inserting the Speculum
The next step during your pelvic exam is the speculum insertion. Your provider will take the following steps to insert the device into your vaginal canal:
- Gentle insertion. Your healthcare provider gently separates the labia using their gloved fingers and carefully inserts the closed speculum into the vaginal opening.
- Angle and depth adjustment. As your provider inserts the speculum, they will skillfully adjust the angle and depth of insertion based on your comfort and anatomical response. This ensures precise positioning for an effective examination.
- Speculum opening. Once the speculum is inserted to the desired depth, the provider gently opens the blades of the speculum. This allows them to gently separate the vaginal walls, providing a clear view of the cervix and surrounding tissues for a thorough examination.
- Visual examination. With the speculum in place and open, your gynecologist conducts a visual examination of your cervix and vaginal walls. They take cervical cell samples, depending on the purpose of the exam.
After the examination is complete, your healthcare provider will carefully close the blades of the speculum, then gently remove it from the vaginal canal. This step is typically swift and should not cause discomfort. You may experience a slight sensation of relief as the speculum is taken out.
Following the removal, your provider will discuss their findings and address any questions or concerns you may have. After the exam, you may experience some mild spotting or discharge, which is normal and should subside quickly.
How to Make Your Pelvic Exam as Comfortable as Possible
You can use these tips for your pelvic exam to make your trip to the gyno as comfortable as possible. Consider discussing using a modern speculum like the Nella with your healthcare provider. The Nella speculum is designed with women’s comfort in mind, offering several advantages during your exam:
- Slim shape. The Nella speculum has a slim shape, similar to a tampon, that reduces discomfort during insertion.
- Smooth material. Crafted from a less rigid medical-grade polymer material, it ensures easier and less stressful insertion.
- Neutral and quiet operation. The Nella’s neutral and quiet operation makes insertion a more relaxed experience for everyone involved. As a disposable speculum with light, it allows your provider to see more clearly and comes in single-use sterile packaging.
Get Your Nella Speculum Today
Ready to experience a more comfortable pelvic exam? Get your Nella speculum today. You can order the Comfort Kit and have it shipped to your home address or provider’s office. You’ll receive a complimentary pair of cozy socks for comfort during your exam when you order.
If you don’t have a provider or want to switch to one that uses Nella, search our database to find a clinician who already has Nella at their practice. Prioritize your comfort and well-being during pelvic exams with the Nella speculum today.