Many women feel anxious about visiting the gynecologist, often due to uncertainty about the tools used during exams and procedures. Gaining insight into these tools, including understanding what a speculum is and its purpose, can help alleviate much of this anxiety.
Learn about the standard tools gynecologists use, their importance in women’s healthcare and their functions. This knowledge can help reduce anxiety and make your next gynecological appointment more manageable.
A speculum is a medical instrument used in medicine to gently open the vagina, allowing for the examination of both the vagina and cervix. The speculum is crucial in gynecological exams, especially for procedures like pap smears. It facilitates the collection of cervical cells for diagnosing various infections or conditions.
The bivalve speculum tool, consisting of two hinged blades, is the most common type—a speculum works by gently separating the vaginal walls when inserted. The two hinged blades, controlled by the handle, can be adjusted to the desired width, allowing clear visual and physical access to the cervix and upper vagina for examination.
Specula comes in both metal and plastic varieties. Metal specula are known for their durability and reusability, but they may feel cold and be more intimidating to some patients. Disposable plastic speculum provide a warmer touch and are often considered less intimidating, making them a popular choice among many women.
A vaginal retractor is a tool similar to a speculum used in medical settings to keep the vaginal walls apart. This provides doctors with clear visibility and easier access during exams or surgeries. It’s especially useful in childbirth for examining cervical or vaginal tears and in operations like hysterectomies or repairing the pelvic floor.
Vaginal retractors vary in design to suit different medical needs. The single-blade type has one flat, typically curved blade to pull back one side of the vaginal wall. Double-blade retractors have two blades that work oppositely, allowing for the retraction of both sides of the vaginal wall. These often come with adjustable features to control the degree of openness required.
Self-retaining retractors are designed to keep the vagina open without the need for manual holding. They come equipped with a locking mechanism that holds the blades in place, making procedures more efficient and easier to perform.
A colposcope is a device that looks like binoculars mounted on a stand and gynecologists use it for detailed examination of the cervix, vagina and vulva. It functions as a specialized magnifying tool, allowing for an up-close view of these areas.
The colposcope is an essential instrument for conducting colposcopies, a non-invasive procedure vital for the early detection and prevention of cervical cancer. It is used when there are signs of abnormalities like unusual bleeding, precancerous changes or the presence of suspicious lesions.
A curette is a surgical instrument used primarily in gynecology to scrape the lining of the uterus. It’s used in procedures like dilation and curettage (D&C), where it helps remove tissue for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes, such as after a miscarriage or for investigating abnormal bleeding. Curettes come in various forms, including sharp curettes, which manually scrape the uterine lining and suction curettes, which use vacuum power for tissue removal.
In gynecology and obstetrics, forceps are vital for grasping, holding and manipulating tissues during surgical procedures. They come in various types, including:
- Obstetric. These are used during childbirth to assist in the delivery of a baby. They have curved blades that fit around the baby’s head.
- Allis. Known for their firm grip, they are used to hold or grasp heavy tissue like the uterine wall during a cesarean section.
- Babcock. Similar to Allis but with a gentler grip, they are ideal for handling delicate tissues without causing damage.
- Ring or Sponge. Typically used to hold gauze and other items during procedures.
- Adson. Commonly used for holding and maneuvering delicate tissues, such as skin and blood vessels.
- Heaney. Specifically designed for use in gynecological surgeries, particularly hysterectomies, due to their angled structure.
An endometrial aspirator is a medical device designed to collect samples of the endometrium, the lining of the uterus, for diagnostic analysis. It’s primarily used to investigate abnormalities such as unusual uterine bleeding and infertility or to screen for endometrial cancer.
The device works by gently suctioning a small tissue sample from the uterine lining, a process that is typically less invasive and painful compared to traditional D&C. This sample is then examined microscopically to diagnose potential infections, hormonal imbalances or pathological changes.
Gynecologists use ultrasound probes as a non-invasive method for routine prenatal care and evaluating gynecological health issues. The probe uses sound waves to create images of the internal structures of the female reproductive system. It’s essential for monitoring the health and development of a fetus during pregnancy, allowing for real-time visualization of the baby in the womb.
Additionally, it’s used to examine the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes, helping your doctor diagnose conditions like ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids and ectopic pregnancies.
Get the Right Tools for the Job with Nella
At Nella, we believe that gynecological exams don’t need to be anxiety-inducing and uncomfortable. We’ve designed a disposable speculum that is smooth, temperature-neutral and the size of a tampon to minimize any discomfort during routine pelvic exams.
Talk to your doctor about using Nella speculum or order your own Nella Comfort Kit to be delivered to the clinic before your next exam.