Why It Is Done
- As part of a woman’s regular physical checkup. A Pap test may be done during the pelvic exam. For more information, see the topic Pap Test.
- To detect vaginal infections, such as yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis.
- To help detect sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as chlamydia, herpes,gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, or human papillomavirus (HPV).
- To help determine the cause of abnormal uterine bleeding.
- To evaluate pelvic organ abnormalities, such as uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, oruterine prolapse.
- To evaluate abdominal or pelvic pain.
- Before prescribing a method of birth control (contraception). Some methods of birth control, such as a diaphragm or intrauterine device, require a pelvic exam to make sure the device fits properly.
- Collect evidence in cases of suspected sexual assault.
How To Prepare
- Try to schedule the exam when you are not having your period, since blood can interfere with the results of a Pap test. But if you have a new vaginal discharge or new or increasing pelvic pain, a pelvic exam may be done while you are having your period.
- Do not use douches, tampons, vaginal medications, or vaginal sprays or powders for at least 24 hours.
- Do not have sex for 24 hours prior to the exam if you have abnormal vaginal discharge.
- If you are or might be pregnant.
- If you have any reproductive or urinary tract symptoms such as itching, redness, sores, swelling, or an unusual odor or increased vaginal discharge. If you have been performing regular vaginal self-exams, discuss any changes you have noticed with your health professional. For more information, see the medical testVaginal Self-Examination (VSE).
- If you are using a method of birth control.
- If this is your first pelvic exam.
- The first day of your last menstrual period and how long your period lasted.
- If you have had surgery or other procedures, such as radiation therapy, involving the vagina, cervix, or uterus.