Is it Normal to Bleed After a Speculum Exam?

Is it Normal to Bleed After a Speculum Exam?

Bleeding after a Pap smear or gynecological exam might feel unsettling, but it’s a fairly common side effect. These exams are key to reproductive health and don’t typically result in heavy bleeding or damage to your reproductive organs

However, exam tools, like metal or plastic speculum, can lead to light bleeding or spotting

This occurs because the tissues in that area are delicate and can sustain micro-tears during the exam.

Understanding why you might have a small amount of blood after a pelvic exam or pap test can help ease any worries. 

Common Reasons for Light Bleeding During a Pelvic Exam

Experiencing light vaginal bleeding during or after a pelvic exam is more common than you may realize. It’s usually not something to worry about, but knowing the common reasons can help put your mind at ease. 

  • Cervical irritation. The cervix is particularly sensitive and even gentle contact during an exam can cause minor bleeding. This is because the exam tools or techniques used to collect cells or inspect the area can irritate the delicate tissue.
  • Pap smear procedure. During a Pap smear, a sample of cells is taken from the upper vagina and cervix to screen for cervical cancer and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The process involves scraping the cervix, which can sometimes cause a small amount of bright red blood to show in your panties. This is a routine part of the exam and should stop quickly. 
  • Vaginal dryness. When the vaginal walls are dry, possibly due to hormonal changes (including the use of hormonal contraception) or menopause, they might bleed slightly when touched or stretched during the exam. This dryness can make the tissue more susceptible to abrasions.
  • Infection or inflammation. Conditions like a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis can inflame the vaginal area, making it more prone to bleeding with the slightest agitation. These infections can alter the natural balance, causing sensitivity.
  • Recent sexual activity. Engaging in sexual activity close to your exam date can leave the cervix or vaginal walls and blood vessels slightly irritated or swollen, which might result in bleeding when examined.
  • Polyps. These are small, benign growths on the cervix or inside the uterine cavity. They are generally harmless but can bleed easily when they come into contact with exam instruments or are brushed during the procedure.

When Should You Be Concerned About Post-Exam Bleeding

Noticing post-exam bleeding can leave you feeling anxious, but it’s often a normal response. However, there are times when you may need to pay closer attention and reach out for medical advice. Contact your provider if you notice any of the following: 

  • Heavy bleeding. If you experience more than just light spotting, such as needing to use a pad or tampon, consult your healthcare provider. For instance, heavy or unusual bleeding can be a symptom of cervical cancer, which may require further testing. 
  • Prolonged bleeding. Additional bleeding that lasts more than a few days after your exam isn’t typical. It’s a good idea to check in with your doctor if this happens.
  • Severe pain or discomfort. While some cramping or pain might be expected, severe pain accompanying the bleeding could indicate something more serious and warrant a call to your healthcare provider.
  • Unusual symptoms. If you notice other symptoms like foul-smelling discharge, fever or severe cramps alongside the bleeding, these could be signs of an infection or other condition that needs medical attention.

How to Minimize Bleeding After an Exam?

While you may be unable to prevent light bleeding during an exam, you can take steps to minimize discomfort and spotting. Here are a few tips:

  • Choose a disposable speculum. Some clinics offer the option of a disposable speculum, which can be gentler and more hygienic. This tool is used to gently widen the vaginal canal, allowing your healthcare provider to view the cervix and collect cells from the cervix.
  • Discuss speculum size. Speculum tools come in different sizes. Discuss the best fit with your provider to help minimize discomfort and the potential for bleeding.
  • Stay relaxed. Tension can make the vaginal muscles contract, making a speculum insertion more difficult. Deep breathing can help relax your muscles, potentially reducing the risk of irritation.
  • Schedule wisely. If possible, avoid scheduling your exam close to your period. Your cervix can be more sensitive during this time. This can also help the provider gather cells from the cervix for accurate test results, which can be affected by menstruation.
  • Discuss medication use. If you’re on birth control pills or other hormonal treatments, mention this to your healthcare provider. These can influence the sensitivity of your cervical area.

Try the Nella for a More Comfortable Experience

At Nella, we know that vaginal bleeding can happen during a pelvic exam and it’s usually due to hard metal or plastic speculums that scrape your cervical tissues. That’s why we designed the Nella, a modern speculum made just for women by women. 

The Nella is slim, gentle and discreet, offering comfort and peace of mind during your exam. Medical-grade polymers and thin tampon-like design make micro-tears less likely during exams, leading to less post-appointment bleeding. 

Check out Nella for your next pelvic exam. You can refer your provider to us or have your own comfort kit shipped to your home or clinician’s office. Take control of your reproductive health and get Nella today.
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