What is pelvic exam?

Pelvic Exam
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Pelvic exam for teens: Overview

A pelvic exam is a physical exam that lets your doctor check to see if your pelvic organs are healthy. You may have a pelvic exam if you have abnormal vaginal bleeding or an infection in your vagina. Or you could have one if you have pain in your pelvis. You might also have this kind of exam to check for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

The more information you can give your doctor, the better care you can receive. Tell your doctor if you might be pregnant. And tell your doctor if you have a pelvic problem or any other health problem. You can also use this time to ask any questions about your body, birth control, sex, or STIs. Be sure to tell your doctor if there is anything that can be done to help you feel safe during the exam.

If you are having any kind of sex (oral, vaginal, or anal), it's important for your doctor to know that. Your doctor may check for signs of pregnancy. You may also be checked for STIs, such as herpes, chlamydia, and gonorrhea.

Speculum exam and bimanual exam

A speculum exam and a bimanual exam are often done together. These exams are used to check the pelvic organs. They let your doctor see the vagina and cervix and check the size and position of the uterus and ovaries.

For these tests, you will lie back on an exam table with your knees bent and your feet supported by footrests.

For the speculum exam, the doctor places a tool called a speculum into the vagina. The speculum helps to open the vagina a little bit, allowing the doctor to see the cervix and the walls of the vagina. Samples may also be collected for testing.

A bimanual exam is done to check the pelvic organs (such as the uterus and ovaries). The doctor places two gloved, lubricated fingers into the vagina while pressing on the abdomen with the other hand (bimanual means with two hands). This allows the doctor to check the size and shape of the pelvic organs.

How long does a pelvic exam take?

This exam takes about 10 minutes.

How do you prepare for a pelvic exam?

If you have any fear about having the test, tell your doctor or nurse.

No other special preparations are needed. For your own comfort, you may want to empty your bladder first.

What are the risks of a pelvic exam for teens?

There is a small chance that the doctor will find something on a pelvic exam that would not have caused a problem. This is called overdiagnosis. It could lead to tests or treatment you don't need.

What do the results of a pelvic exam mean?

Some test results may be ready right away. But results from a culture or a Pap test may take several days or a few weeks.

Pelvic exam


The uterus and ovaries are normal in size and location. The uterus can be moved slightly without causing pain.

The vulva, vagina, and cervix look normal with no signs of infection, inflammation, or other abnormalities.

Glands around the opening of your vagina (Bartholin's glands) or urethra (Skene's glands) are not swollen or inflamed.

No masses (nodules) of abnormal tissue are felt in the area between the uterus and rectum or in the ligaments that attach to the uterus to hold it in place. No fibroids are felt.

There is no pelvic pain or tenderness.

No hardening of tissue is felt.


Sores, signs of infection, inflammation, or abnormalities of the vulva, vagina, or cervix are seen. Signs of a sexually transmitted infection (such as genital herpes, genital warts, or syphilis) may be seen. More tests will be needed to find the cause.

The glands around the vagina (Bartholin's glands) or urethra (Skene's glands) are swollen or inflamed.

The uterus cannot be moved (even slightly) during the exam.

Pain or tenderness is felt when the uterus is moved slightly or when the area between the uterus and rectum is touched. The uterus is pushed away from the midline of the belly.

The ovaries are enlarged, not movable (fixed), or painful when touched.

An ovarian mass is found. Or a mass that was found during a previous exam is still there or has grown larger.

Small masses (nodules) of abnormal tissue are felt. Uterine fibroids are felt.

Hardening of tissue is felt.

An area of ulceration or a tear is found.

A mass can be felt near one or both ovaries.

Many conditions can change the results of your pelvic exam. Your doctor or nurse will talk to you about any significant abnormal results.

How does having a pelvic exam feel?

You may feel some pressure or mild discomfort when the speculum is placed into your vagina. If a metal speculum is used, the metal may feel cold. The speculum may be warmed with water or lubricated with a vaginal lubricant, such as K-Y Jelly, before being placed.

During the bimanual part of the exam, you may feel some pressure or mild discomfort as the doctor or nurse checks your ovaries.

During the rectovaginal exam, you may feel as though you are about to have a bowel movement as the doctor or nurse withdraws a finger from your rectum. This is normal and lasts only a few seconds.

What is a pelvic exam?

A pelvic examination is a thorough check of the pelvic organs. The exam helps a doctor or nurse see the vagina and cervix and check the size and position of the uterus and ovaries.

How is a pelvic exam for teens done?

  • During a pelvic exam, you will:
    • Take off your clothes below the waist. You will get a paper or cloth cover to put over the lower half of your body.
    • Lie on your back on an exam table with your feet and legs supported by footrests.
  • The doctor may:
    • Put on gloves and check the opening of your vagina for sores or swelling.
    • Gently put a tool called a speculum into your vagina. It opens the vagina a little bit. You may feel some pressure. The speculum lets your doctor see inside the vagina.
    • Use a small brush, spatula, or swab to get a sample for testing. The doctor then removes the speculum.
    • Put one or two fingers of one hand into your vagina. The other hand goes on your lower belly. This lets your doctor feel your pelvic organs. You will probably feel some pressure.

This exam takes about 10 minutes. You may have a small amount of vaginal discharge or bleeding after the exam.

Why is a pelvic exam for teens done?

  • You think you have a vaginal infection. Signs include itching, burning, or unusual discharge.
  • You have vaginal bleeding that is not part of your normal menstrual period.
  • You have pain in your belly or pelvis.
  • You are pregnant.
  • You have been sexually assaulted. A pelvic exam lets your doctor collect evidence and check for STIs.

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