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Definition of Pelvic Examination
A routine pelvic examination has three parts: visual examination of the external genitalia, bimanual palpation, and speculum examination of the inner vagina and the cervix.
A pelvic examination is painless and is part of a routine medical examination for women beginning around age 18 and continuing throughout life.
For a routine pelvic examination a woman lies on her back on the examination table with her feet in stirrups and her knees spread apart. The doctor also performs pelvic examination during labor to assess the status of the cervix and progression of labor.
The doctor visually examines the external genitalia to detect abnormalities such as growths, sores, discoloration, and other indications of infection or disease.
For the bimanual portion of the pelvic exam the doctor inserts two gloved and lubricated fingers into the vagina and with the other hand palpates the outside of the abdomen.
This procedure allows the doctor to feel the size and placement of the uterus and the ovaries, which may detect abnormalities such as swelling, hypersensitivity or pain, displacement (such as tipped uterus), and other indications of health concerns.
The doctor then inserts a lubricated speculum into the vagina. The speculum has two opposing blades that fit together to form a smooth, thin blade that easily enters the vagina. Once the speculum is in position the doctor gently opens the blades to spread apart the walls of the vagina, providing access to the cervix.
The doctor visually examines the cervix and inner vagina with the aid of a bright light, and may take a cervical smear (sampling of cells and mucous from the cervix) for a pap test or other laboratory procedures. The doctor closes the speculum’s blade to withdraw the speculum.
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