Importance of Pelvic Exams

Many women dread their yearly pelvic exam.  This feeling stems from a lack of understanding regarding its necessity.  As one of the leading OBGYN clinics, we want to emphasize the importance of pelvic exams.

What is a pelvic exam?

A pelvic exam is the best way for a health care specialist to determine the health of a woman’s reproductive system.  Through a pelvic exam, the doctor will determine if there are any infections or precancerous growths.  A pelvic exam is generally looked at as a life-saving appointment because it may reveal any health conditions that must be treated.

An annual visit to your gynecologist provides an excellent opportunity to learn about living a healthy lifestyle and reducing any health risks.  This combination of screening, evaluation, and counseling acts as a preventative method for possible pelvic complications in women.

Protection against cervical cancer

Early detection is the ideal way to prevent cervical cancers. Consistent, annual pelvic examinations can detect precancerous conditions that often can be treated before cancer develops. If invasive cancer does occur, it can be diagnosed at an early stage during a pelvic exam.

Diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases

Sexually transmitted diseases can be extremely harmful to one’s health.  These diseases need to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.  An annual pelvic exam will give your health care provider the opportunity to test you for any sexually transmitted diseases and start treatment if applicable.

Protection against infertility

As we have mentioned, pelvic exams are best for detecting any problems with the cervix or sexually transmitted diseases.  These types of problems can often lead to infertility; therefore, your annual pelvic exam is necessary to protect you from anything that could cause infertility.

How to prepare:

No special preparation is needed before a pelvic exam, although it is recommended that you schedule your pelvic exam on a day when you don’t have your period.  If you have questions about the exam or its possible results, write them down and bring them with you to the appointment so that you don’t forget to ask about them during the visit with your doctor.

Medical History questions

Your medical history is very important during a pelvic exam (especially your first one).  So, before the doctor begins she will ask you a few questions about:

  • Your overall state of health
  • What medications are you presently taking and if you have any allergies?
  • Questions about your menstrual period, such as how old you were when you first got it, how long it lasts, how often it comes, the first day of your last period, etc.
  • Whether you are sexually active
  • If you notice anything unusual

Your health care provider will also perform standard medical exam procedures such as recording your weight, height, pulse rate and blood pressure.

The Exam

A pelvic examination is a complete physical exam of a woman’s pelvic organs by a health professional. A pelvic exam is an important part of preventive health care for all adult women. The entire pelvic exam will take 5 minutes at the most.  It might be uncomfortable, but not painful.  It is best to relax by breathing slowly during the exam to avoid any pain that may occur.

What Is A Pap Test Also known as a Pap Smear?

A Pap test or Pap smear is a screening test that helps detect changes in the cervix.  This is usually performed during a pelvic exam.  A Pap smear involves taking a sample of cells from the cervix that are put on a glass slide and examined by a laboratory that looks for changes that might warrant further investigation.

It is important to understand that the Pap test is a screening test only. Health care professionals do not base treatments on the Pap test, but use it to determine whether further testing is needed. If your Pap test is abnormal, don’t be alarmed – most conditions detected by an abnormal Pap test are minor and easily treated in the office.

It’s over …. what’s the next step?  

Many women are surprised that the test is over so quickly.  After the test, your health care provider will tell you when your next appointment will be, inform you of any medication you should start taking, and explain when you will get your test results.

Remember, pelvic examinations and Pap tests are the methods used to determine if there are cervical problems. Women who are or have been sexually active, or are over the age of 18, should have regular checkups, including a pelvic exam and Pap test yearly.

As you can see, pelvic exams are very important, but if an abnormal change occurs and you can’t get an appointment with your health care provider, consider an emergency center like the GYN Emergency Care Center.  Our Gynecology Emergent Care Center is a unique facility intended exclusively for early pregnancy (1-12 weeks) and gynecological needs.  Contact one of our OBGYNs today for more information.

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