An annual gynecological exam is to ensure you are healthy inside and outside. We recommend that all women, even menopausal, have an annual exam. An annual exam consists of:
- Assessment of current health status
- Breast exam
- Pelvic exam
- Pap smear, depending on age, health history and when your last one was
We also will provide information regarding vaccines that may be available to you such as human papilloma virus (HPV), Tdap and flu. It is also a good time to ask any questions you may have regarding birth control options as well as testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Depending on your age, a mammogram may also be recommended.
Children and teens have unique gynecologic needs. With West Virginia’s only fellowship-trained pediatric and adolescent gynecologist, Dr. Jennie L. Yoost, our team is experienced in providing age-appropriate care and comfort for younger patients.
What should I expect during a breast exam?
During a breast exam, the provider will examine your breasts for lumps, breast changes or nipple discharge. All women should be become familiar with how your breasts normally look and feel.
Immediately contact your provider of any changes. Finding breast cancer early is the main goal of routine breast care since it gives the highest chance of successful treatment. Routine care can also help find other noncancerous conditions.
Women 50 and older should schedule annual mammograms. Women who are high-risk or have a family history should talk with their doctor about when to begin having mammograms and what schedule is best for them.
When should I have my first pelvic exam?
Women should have their first pelvic examination at 21 years of age, unless they experience discharge or pain prior to that point. Other important reasons to have a pelvic exam include:
- Pain in lower belly or pelvic area
- Vaginal discharge or wetness that causes itching
- Burning or odor
- Lack of menstrual period before age 15
- Vaginal bleeding lasting longer than 10 days
- Missed periods or severe menstrual cramps
It is normal to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed, especially your first time, but it is a simple process. You will not experience any pain, and the exam itself only takes about five minutes. Remember, this exam is important for your health, especially if experiencing any of the symptoms listed above.
What happens during a pelvic exam?
During the exam, your doctor will examine female organs and check for any gynecological problems. You will lie on the table with a sheet to cover your belly and legs. You will then place your feet in the stirrups at the end of the table and bend your knees slightly, allowing your legs to spread apart. There are three parts to the exam:
- External. This is where your doctor will exam the outside of your vagina.
- Speculum. The speculum is an instrument used to open the canal of the vagina and cervix. Next, your doctor conduct a Pap test, where he or she will use a thin stick and brush to extract a sample of cells from your cervix. During this part, your doctor may also check for yeast if you are experiencing discharge or have you do a urine test to test for STDs if you are sexually active.
- Bimanual. The final step is to check your female organs. Your doctor will apply gloves and insert two fingers into your vagina. Although you may feel pressure in your lower belly, it should not be painful.