A pelvic exam is a procedure in which your healthcare provider examines some of the female reproductive structures.

It is a private exam in an exam room with your healthcare provider and if you choose, a supportive loved one.

Who Should Have Pelvic Exams?

Young women should have pelvic exams if there are any gynecologic concerns, such as:

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal pain
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Absence of menstrual cycle
  • Abdominal pain

Sexually active females may get a pelvic exam to rule out sexually transmitted abnormalities.

Description of Pelvic Exam

The pelvic exam involves you getting undressed from the waist down, covering in a paper gown or sheet and sitting on an exam table. You will lie on your back at the end of the table with your feet against foot pedals.

The exam consists of three major steps:

  • A look at the outside of your vaginal area
  • Insertion of a speculum to get a better look at the inside of your pelvic area. A light is often shined in the area for better viewing. Sometimes during this part of the exam, samples of the fluids in your pelvic area are collected using a cotton-tipped swab. This can help to find out if there is any infection in the area.
  • It is important to feel inside of your vagina with two gloved fingers to check the size and shape of the internal structures and to ensure that nothing is abnormal or tender in the area.

During the exam you may feel some pressure but you should not feel pain. The exam should not be avoided due to fear because it is important to make sure your reproductive organs are healthy. Talk with your healthcare provider about methods to help you prepare for a pelvic exam.


A pelvic exam is different from a Pap test. The pelvic exam is done in order to complete a Pap test, which involves getting samples of the cells from one of the pelvic organs. It is important to get your Pap test every year once your healthcare provider recommends that you start getting Pap tests.