(Today, part two of our series, How to Make Your Pelvic Exam Less Scary. Did you get your annual for this year, yet?)
Yesterday, “How to Make Your Pelvic Exam Less Scary – Part I,” talked about tips for scheduling your first pelvic appointment. Now I’ll give you some information about what to expect the day of your appointment.
When You Arrive - As with all medical appointments, paperwork comes first. Expect questions about the medications you are taking, allergies, your menstrual cycle and your last menstrual period (LMP), sexual activity, family medical history questions, and any current medical problems. Medical assistants will check your weight and blood pressure. If you have had any sexual trauma or if it is your first exam, please let them know when you schedule the appointment and write something on the form indicating that you need them to be extra gentle, slow, and explain everything they are doing or about to do during the exam. If you like, the medical assistant will hold your hand or you can bring a support person (but they can’t come into the exam room with you).
The Exam - If you are having a complete well-woman exam (pelvic/pap/breast check), you will be asked to remove everything but your socks. You will be instructed to put on a paper gown (opening in front for breast exam) and drape a paper sheet over the lower half of your body. You will then lie down on the exam table. The medical provider (MP) will knock on the door and ask if they can enter the room. You will be asked to move down to the end of the table and put your feet in stirrups. Your MP will then look at the vulva (clitoris, urethra, labia, vaginal opening) and the rectum to make sure they don’t see anything that looks abnormal. They will then insert a speculum made of plastic or metal into the vagina. After it is inserted they will open it wide enough to see your cervix. If you have never seen your vulva or cervix up close and personal, you can ask for the MP to show you with a mirror. If your MP notices any abnormal vaginal discharge or unusual smell they will take a sample of the discharge. If you are having a pap smear the MP will wipe your cervix with a thin Q-tip-like brush to test for cervical cancer.
During the pelvic exam portion of the exam the MP will insert one or two gloved fingers into the vagina and place their hand on your lower abdomen to feel your reproductive organs and make sure they are the right size, not painful, etc. Please let the MP know if you experience any pain during this part of the exam. Some MPs will also perform a rectal exam by placing a gloved finger into the anus to check for anything abnormal. After the exam they will ask if you have any questions and then you will be done!
It sounds like a lot, but the exam is over before you know it. If you have any additional questions, please contact your MP or local Planned Parenthood.