A gynecology examination is very personal and many women feel vulnerable, but the outcome can be life saving.  Simply put, it is used to screen for cancer, infections, and potential problems that can be very serious if not discovered.  Since you will be getting a pap test during the gynecology routine pelvic exam, it is ideal to schedule the test when one is not menstruating, but if you are having mild spotting, then the pap smear can still be performed.   At the same time, 48 hours before you go to the gynecology check, you should not have sexual intercourse, not use a tampon, birth control foam, jelly, cream, or any medicine in your vagina.  This helps prevent any false pap smear readings that could make you repeat the test at a later date.

During a gynecology visit, it is encouraged that they talk to the doctor about any issues you might be having.  The gynecology annual exam is a preventative visit and a time to discuss birth control, hormone changes, and wellness issues.  The annual exam is not designed to thoroughly investigate significant or chronic gynecology problems.  It is best to schedule a problem focused office visit for those issues.  If you are not comfortable going by yourself, then ask a friend, family member, or partner to come in with you, at least for the discussion part.  Most of the time when someone else is with you, they will step to the top of the table for your privacy and won’t be able to stare at your privates.

What Is a Gynecology Examination?

The gynecology examination features an assessment of the body, including the breast and pelvic organs such as the labia, bladder region, urethra, vagina, cervix, uterusfallopian tubes, and ovaries.  Your doctor will examine these areas visually, as well as palpate, (medical term for “feel”), these as well.  The goal is to find any abnormalities so they can be corrected.  The examination on the “outside” will take about 1-2 minutes.  The examination on the “inside” will take about 1 minute.

Types of Gynecology Examinations

During the test, one will be asked to take off their clothes and wear a gown or other coverings. The doctor might ask to talk about the health concerns present. After that the doctor will ask you to lie on your back and relax your muscles.  The doctor will start up top and examine your upper body first, including your breasts.  When the doctor examines your abdomen, remember to relax your abdominal muscles so the internal organs can be palpated.  Lastly, you will be asked to slide toward the bottom of the table and bend your knees and place your feet in a stirrup position.

  • When an exam is ongoing, a device known as speculum gets inserted into the vagina. It is used to open the vaginal canal so the cervix can be visualized and examined.
  • If you are doing a pap smear, the health provider will use a brush or plastic spatula to wipe samples from the cervix.
  • Also, if you are getting a bi-manual exam, the doctor will place two fingers inside the vagina and then press down on your abdomen with the other hand to be able to palpate the size of your uterus, ovaries, tubes, organs in between his or her hands.

Who Needs a Gynecology Examination?

Visiting a gynecologist implies that you are responsible for your body.  It is important to do this to be sure that everything is going well with you reproductive system. The gynecologist will have answers to most or all of the questions you might have and the many changes that could be taking place in your body. Some examples of the women who might need an exam include:

  • Teenage girls who are sexually active;
  • Anyone who is sexually active in any way;
  • Persons with discharge from the vagina that is green, gray, or yellow, itchy, or has a strong foul smell;
  • You have missed your periods or irregular periods
  • Problem with periods like heavy bleeding, pain, severe cramps, or other challenges;

Risks Involving a Gynecology Examination

For a long time, gynecology experts have believed that yearly tests can detect problems like cervical cancer or other infections even if there are no other symptoms. Though the examinations do help in detecting such issues in some instances, there have been questions if the yearly rituals add any value to the health of the woman.  Personally, I can say that different ages and states of a woman’s life presents different challenges along with the need for yearly or less frequent exams.  I have found over the past 20 years that yearly exams are very important especially during the fertile years when many things are changing in a woman’s life.

However, the debate on whether the annual gynecology exam is necessary for women who have a low risk of contracting these illnesses is ongoing.  Much of the debate is also due to so some concern that frequent tests might lead to increased costs to the insurance companies or patients due to possibly extra surgeries or extra procedures.  I encourage every patient to ask their gynecologist if the exam or procedures are necessary and what are other options that might work as well.

woman in consultation
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To Sum It Up

Even though no one really wants to get a gynecology exam, it is paramount for you to get a gynecology exam, especially when you feel something is not right.  Note that you are the only one responsible for your health.  Therefor it is important to make good lifestyle decisions.

Images from depositphotos.com.

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