We recommend that women 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:

  1. External. This is where your doctor will exam the outside of your vagina.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.