What to Expect from an Annual Pelvic Exam

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It’s normal to feel nervous or embarrassed about pelvic examinations, but they’re an important and normal part of taking care of your body. An annual pelvic exam is quick, isn’t painful, and Dr. Mark Schumacher has performed thousands, so you’re in safe hands.

A routine pelvic exam can check for many conditions of the vulva, vagina, or pelvic organs, and it’s an opportunity to discuss any issues or symptoms with Dr. Schumacher in confidence.

Women over the age of 21 are invited to make an appointment for a routine pelvic examination every year, and if you’re wondering what to expect from your exam, let us explain what to expect.

What happens before the exam

First, you meet Dr. Schumacher to discuss any concerns you have, your sexual history, and your contraception needs. Then you’re given privacy to remove your clothing and put on the gown provided for you. Then you lie down on the examination table with your feet in the footrests.

Dr. Schumacher tells you to scoot down the table and let your legs fall apart. The more you’re able to relax, the easier the exam will be for you. Practice some breathing exercises before your appointment to help you relax all the muscles in your belly, butt, and genital area.

The external exam

The first part of the exam just involves Dr. Schumacher visually examining your vulva and vaginal opening. During this part of the exam, he looks for any abnormalities like cysts, unusual discharge, genital warts or sores, or issues with the skin or tissues. There should be nothing to worry about.

The speculum exam

Next, Dr. Schumacher uses a speculum to examine you. Made from plastic or metal, the speculum will not be too large for you, and will be well-lubricated with KY jelly. The jelly may feel cold. The speculum is used to hold apart the walls of your vagina so Dr. Schumacher can see your cervix, and it can feel a little uncomfortable, but shouldn’t cause you any pain. If you do feel pain, speak up and Dr. Schumacher can make adjustments for your comfort.

The Pap smear

After visualizing your cervix, Dr. Schumacher performs a Pap smear. He uses a tiny brush to swab some cells from your cervix, then the cells are sent off to the lab to be viewed under a microscope. This is a very important test that detects changes to the cervix that could signify impending or existing cervical cancer. Early detection of cervical cancer can save your fertility and your life, so this is arguably the most important part of your pelvic exam.

If you’ve agreed to testing for sexually transmitted diseases, Dr. Schumacher also takes swabs for common STDs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.

The bimanual exam

Dr. Schumacher removes the speculum and performs the bimanual exam. He inserts 1 or 2 gloved fingers into your vagina, using lots of lubrication for your comfort again, and then presses down on your belly with his other hand. This allows him to feel your ovaries and uterus and check for any pain or swelling.

The rectal exam

Finally, Dr. Schumacher performs a quick anal exam to assess the muscles and tissue separating your rectum and vagina, checking for sphincter tone and for any masses or abnormalities. This can feel weird and a bit like you might poop, but you won’t, and it’s over in a few seconds.

The results

After your exam, you can get dressed again in privacy, and Dr. Schumacher then returns to discuss his findings. If no issues have been discovered, you can leave. If he found anything in the exam, further tests are scheduled. Your swabs are sent off to the lab and you’re contacted with any results.

A routine pelvic exam usually reveals no concerns, but it can be instrumental in diagnosing conditions like pelvic inflammatory disease, STDs, cervical cancer, vaginal atrophy, ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, fistula, or prolapse.

To ensure you’re taking the best possible care of your personal health, make your appointment for your routine pelvic exam with Dr. Schumacher by calling our office in Reno, Nevada.

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