What Is a Speculum and How Does It Work

What Is a Speculum and How Does It Work

A speculum is an essential tool for gynecological exams, with a history stretching back 200 years. Originally designed by Dr. Marion Sims, speculums were cold, hard and uncomfortable for patients up until the last decade. This led to many women suffering from gynecologist anxiety when visiting their provider for a pelvic exam. 

Recent changes to the speculum design allow for a more comfortable gynecological experience. Knowing more about a speculum and how it works can help you choose a comfortable speculum for your next exam so you feel at ease and in control of your health.

What is a Speculum?

A speculum is a medical instrument used during gynecological examinations. It gently separates the walls of the vagina, giving the healthcare provider clear visibility of the cervix and the vaginal interior. 

The speculum helps women take care of their reproductive health from the time of a girl’s first pelvic exam. The tool enables you to receive routine screenings for sexually transmitted infections, cancers or other conditions so you can identify and address them early on.

When was the Speculum First Used?

Archaeological excavations have uncovered early versions of the tool in Greek and Roman sites, one of the most notable being the Roman dioptra, a vaginal dilator with adjustable valves. This mechanism is reflected in designs seen as late as 18th-century Europe. 

In the 19th century, Dr. J. Marion Sims, often dubbed the father of modern gynecology, created the design we recognize today. However, his legacy is controversial; between 1845 and 1849, he performed experiments on enslaved women without anesthesia. 

What are the Parts of a Speculum?

The typical speculum has specific parts that allow your provider to perform your gynecological examination. These include:

  • Blades. Typically made of metal or hard plastic, the blades are the part of the speculum inserted into the vagina. They spread the vaginal walls about an inch, so your doctor can see your vagina and cervix clearly.
  • Handle. The handle offers the provider a firm grip, usually constructed from the same material as the blades. It's essential to guide the speculum during insertion and adjust its position once inside.
  • Thumb screw or locking mechanism. Found on the handle, this component ensures the blades stay open at the desired width. Securing the blades in place provides stability for a consistent view for the provider during the examination.
  • Hinge. The hinge connects the blades to the handle and is pivotal for the opening and closing motion of the speculum. It allows the provider to adjust the width of the blades, tailoring the speculum’s fit to individual patients.

Modern Speculum Design

The traditional speculum design causes apprehension and discomfort for many women. While older models of speculums were often cold, rigid and impersonal, new disposable speculums have ushered in a new era of patient-centered care. 

The Nella speculum is designed by women for women. It considers the unique challenges and discomforts women might experience with traditional tools. With Nella, your provider can perform the same thorough examination without the pain, fear and discomfort of old-fashioned tools. 

  • Slim shape for comfort. The Nella speculum is streamlined, setting it apart from its bulkier predecessors. Its slim design, about the size of a tampon, reduces discomfort, ensuring a gentler examination experience.
  • Smooth material for easy insertion. Nella is made from a temperature-neutral, medical-grade polymer. This material choice provides a smoother insertion, alleviating fears and discomfort associated with the procedure.
  • Integrated lighting. Nella is a disposable speculum with a light. Its integrated LED light improves visibility for your healthcare provider for a more accurate examination. It also eliminates the need for external lighting sources, promoting a more relaxed exam environment. 
  • Neutral, quiet operation. Older models were often noisy, clicking as they opened and closed. The Nella speculum offers a quiet operation, boosting your comfort and ease during examinations.

Benefits of Using a Nella Speculum 

Gynecological care can be daunting; having a few helpful tips for a pelvic exam can make you more comfortable during the procedure. Using the Nella speculum can transform your experience with the following benefits: 

  • Enhanced comfort. Its slim shape and temperature-neutral material make insertion feel more natural and less intrusive.
  • Efficient examinations. With integrated lighting, your doctor can quickly and accurately examine you, ensuring you spend less time on the examination table.
  • Minimized anxiety. Experience the peace of a quieter operation and the comfort of smoother material, reducing those common pelvic exam apprehensions.
  • Empowering experience. Nella ensures you feel more in control and valued during your health assessments. With our comfort kit, you also get a pair of warm, cozy socks to help you feel relaxed during your exam.
  • Reduced physical strain. Its ergonomic design exerts less pressure on your vaginal walls, making the entire procedure gentler on your body.

Get a Nella Speculum for Your Next Pelvic Exam

Taking charge of your gynecological health is vital, and using the right tools can help you feel empowered on your journey. To get the Nella for your next appointment, you can order it directly and have it shipped to your house or your provider’s office. You can also speak to your healthcare provider about ordering it for you or find a clinic offering it as part of the exam process. 

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