Pelvic exams are essential in women’s healthcare, offering insights into reproductive wellness. This procedure involves a visual and physical assessment of your pelvic organs to identify potential issues and ensure your health.
Studies have found that between 21 and 64 percent of women may experience anxiety around pelvic exams, which prevents them from having this necessary procedure. This is typically due to fear, potential discomfort or pain, or poor past experiences.
Understanding what happens during a routine pelvic exam and how to make it as comfortable as possible using a slender, modern speculum can help you have a more relaxed and confident approach to your reproductive well-being.
Why is a Pelvic Exam Essential?
The pelvic exam is not just about checking for diseases or infections; it’s also about fostering a culture of proactive healthcare. Regular checks can help detect problems early, ensuring timely intervention. They give you a better understanding of your body and assurance about your reproductive health.
Some reasons you need regular pelvic exams include:
- Early detection: Regular pelvic exams allow for the early detection of potential issues long before they escalate into more serious concerns. For example, pelvic exams can detect sexually transmitted infections (STIs), ovarian cysts and early-stage cervical or uterine cancers.
- Routine check-ups: Through regular pelvic exams, your doctor can monitor the health of your reproductive organs. This ensures that organs such as your vagina, cervix, fallopian tubes, uterus and ovaries function normally.
- Symptom assessment: If you have unusual discharge, pain, or irregular menstrual cycles, a pelvic exam can help you understand the cause. Your provider can assess you for conditions like menopause, pregnancy, infection or pelvic inflammatory disease and help you treat or manage it.
Pelvic Examination Process
The pelvic exam process follows a fairly standard procedure in most OB-GYN/GYN practices. When you show up for your appointment, you can expect the following to occur:
- Pre-examination discussion: Before the actual exam begins, your provider will begin with a discussion about your medical history, menstrual cycle and any current symptoms or concerns. During this time, you may ask questions about the exam, such as what kind of tools they use or if you can listen to music to help you relax.
- External examination: Your doctor will then have you lie down on an examination table, where you can lay back with your feet in footrests called stirrups. The doctor will carefully examine the outside parts of your genital area, like the vulva and nearby regions. This helps them spot any signs of redness, irritation, sores or anything unusual. They might also use a gentle touch to feel for any discomfort, tenderness or swelling.
- Speculum examination: Next, your doctor will use a specialized tool called a speculum to assess your vagina and cervix better. Formerly, these devices were made of metal or plastic, but new options like Nella are made with medical-grade polymer for a more comfortable speculum.
After applying lubrication, if necessary to minimize discomfort, they will gently place the speculum into your vagina to get a clear view of your vagina and cervix. This allows the doctor to inspect these areas, searching for any irregularities.
If a Pap smear is part of the examination, it will be performed during this stage. The doctor collects cells from the cervix using a small brush or spatula. The collected cells are later examined under a microscope to screen for cervical cancer.
- Bimanual examination: After removing the speculum, your doctor will perform a bimanual examination. They will insert one or two lubricated, gloved fingers into your vagina and use the other hand to examine your abdomen. This helps to assess the size, position and shape of the uterus and ovaries and to feel for any cysts, growths or other abnormalities.
- Post-examination Discussion: After the examination, your doctor will give you privacy to get dressed. Once you’re ready, your doctor will discuss any findings and you can ask questions.
The Modern Approach: Ensuring Comfort
For the past 200 years, pelvic exams were usually an uncomfortable experience for women. Doctors used a clunky, cold metal speculum, followed by hard, breakable plastic devices, in the last 50 years. Both options can cause discomfort, irritation and pain during your pelvic exam.
Thankfully, Nella is changing the way women experience pelvic exams. Our disposable speculum is made for women by women and offers you a new way to participate in your reproductive health. When you ask your provider about using Nella, you can benefit from the following features:
- Comfortable design: Crafted from a medical-grade polymer, the Nella speculum ensures comfort during the examination, minimizing discomfort or unease.
- Temperature-neutral: The speculum’s temperature-neutral material adds to your comfort, preventing any unexpected sensations during the procedure.
- Smooth insertion: With a smooth texture, the Nella speculum ensures a gentle and easy insertion, contributing to a more comfortable experience.
- Slim profile: As narrow as a tampon, the Nella speculum offers a discreet and less intrusive feel, enhancing your comfort during the examination.
- Quiet operation: The Nella speculum’s quiet operation ensures a serene and stress-free environment, making it a more relaxed experience.
Embracing the Future: The Evolution of Pelvic Exams
At Nella, we want to support women of all ages in taking control of their reproductive health. We offer helpful resources, like tips for pelvic exams and our Nella Comfort Kit, so you can confidently prepare for your next exam. The kit contains one disposable Nella speculum and a pair of cozy socks to keep your feet warm during the exam.Talk to your provider about using Nella or order your Nella Comfort Kit today and have it shipped to their office or your home for your upcoming visit.