A routine vaginal, or pelvic, examination is conducted by a physician that will visually and physically assess a woman’s reproductive organs. Most exams will check the same organs. Healthline specifically states they will likely review the woman’s vagina, cervix, fallopian tubes, ovaries, uterus, etc. A standard vaginal examination can be conducted at a medical clinic, medical practice, or large-scale medical facility.
It is no surprise patients may have questions surrounding their upcoming vaginal examination. Here are a few common questions asked by patients and corresponding answers to offer them clarity before an appointment.
“When should I schedule a vaginal exam?”
A standard vaginal examination is recommended for adult women of all ages; however, some females may need to pay a visit to the gynecologist for specific reasons. Women may need to be treated for irregular menstruation patterns, treated for a sexually transmitted disease, or even screened for different cancers. Nonetheless, visiting a gynecologist should be a regular aspect of every woman’s healthcare plan.
Women are encouraged to start scheduling annual or biannual Pap tests at 21 years old. These Pap tests, also called Pap smears, screen women for cancers and precancers located in the cervix. The Pap test begins with a standard pelvic exam and ends with the physician extracting a sample of cells from the patient’s cervix.
“What should I do to prepare for a vaginal exam?”
To prepare for a vaginal exam, female patients should refrain from heavy pelvic activity immediately before the appointment. For example, patients should avoid vaginal intercourse, douching, or aggressive vaginal play at least 24 hours prior to the visit. If possible, patients can try to schedule their vaginal exam before or after a full menstrual cycle. Physicians can also assess any issues with menstruation if a patient prefers to move forward with an appointment during a specific menstrual window.
“What should I expect to feel during a vaginal exam?”
Every physician has his or her preferred way of conducting a vaginal examination. That being said, each physician is expected to follow a standard protocol that protects the safety and health of all patients.
- First, the physician will inspect the visible area of the patient’s vagina to look for any signs of redness, swelling, irritation, irregular discharge, sore, or cysts. If an area is in fact irritated, the patient might feel discomfort or pressure when touched.
- Next, the physician may perform a manual exam with his or her fingers to assess the abdominal area. The physician will use lubricated gloves for this portion for optimal safety.
- Then, the physician will proceed to prepare the patient’s vaginal area for a physical exam. He or she will use medical equipment, like a speculum, that the medical practice will have on hand. The patient will feel an initial stretch or pull once the speculum has been inserted. Often, metal speculums are cold to the touch because they are made of hard medical steel. This may cause the patient to cringe or wince once the metal speculum is inserted into the vagina. Other medical practices may carry a disposable speculum that is made of plastic. These speculums are typically more comfortable for the patient, boasting smooth insertion and an ideal skin-contact temperature.
- If a Pap smear is to be conducted, the physician will swipe the patient’s cervix with a small spatula. This will collect cells for further lab tests. The Pap smear should cause minimal discomfort.
Although many women are hesitant to attend routine vaginal examinations, medical practices can carry medical devices that can alleviate patient discomfort and ultimately increase patient turnover. The SpecuLume EZ, Cyalume Medical’s single-use chemiluminated speculum, can do just that. This plastic, environmentally friendly, and patient-safe speculum was designed to optimize the physician and patient experience during a routine vaginal exam. To learn more about the medical innovation improving pelvic examinations, contact Cyalume Medical today.