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July 12, 2019 | OB/GYN
If you or your daughter is due for a first pelvic exam and Pap test, knowing what to expect can help alleviate natural fears and concerns.
As a part of your regular well-woman visit, pelvic exams provide critical insight into your gynecological and reproductive health and allow your healthcare provider to identify any potential problems before they progress.
It doesn’t hurt, and it takes only a few minutes. The best way to prepare for this exam is to learn why it’s important to your health and what to expect when you arrive at the gynecologist’s office.
This exam allows your doctor to examine your internal reproductive organs and your exterior pelvic area to assess your gynecological health and wellness.
As a part of your exam, your gynecologist will typically perform a Pap test. The Pap test, commonly called a Pap smear, collects a small sample of cells from the cervix. The doctor then sends the sample to a medical testing lab where a technician will check for any abnormalities in the cells.
If you believe you may be experiencing any other gynecological problems, such as a yeast infection, your doctor may also take a swab sample at this time for testing.
According to The Center for Young Women’s Health, you should schedule your first pelvic exam when you turn 21. Certain symptoms, however, point to the need to contact a gynecologist and schedule an exam immediately.
If your first exam produces no abnormal results and you don’t have any risk factors, your doctor will likely recommend having a pelvic exam and Pap test every three years.
Although you might have heard other women express discomfort about having a pelvic exam, you have nothing to fear. The process typically takes only a few minutes and should be painless, although you may feel some pressure.
After you put on a medical gown for the exam, your doctor will enter the room and ask you to lie back on the table and place your legs in the footrests. The doctor will then perform a visual exam to check for irritation, discharge, cysts or any other abnormal conditions.
Next, your doctor will take a cervical cell sample using a swab and a special device called a speculum. Finally, your doctor will manually check for any abnormalities in your ovaries, fallopian tubes and the areas surrounding your uterus.
Although you may feel some slight discomfort, no part of the exam should cause pain. If you do feel pain, let the doctor know so he or she can make it more comfortable for you. You can even ask your doctor if you can bring a friend or family member into the room with you for your first exam.
Regular pelvic exams help ensure lifelong well-being for women. It is the most important step you can take to prevent cervical and other gynecological cancers, according to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
Don’t let fear or embarrassment prevent you from scheduling this critical exam. Talk to your family doctor or a gynecologist in your area to learn more. Your doctor can answer your questions and help you breeze through your first pelvic exam.
“Pap Test and Pelvic Exam.” Cancer Treatment Centers of America
“Your First Pelvic Exam.” Center for Young Women’s Health.
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.