Pelvic examination and the menopause
Why would I need a pelvic examination?
A pelvic examination is a physical examination of the pelvic organs. Pelvic examination can help in the early detection of cancer in women before and after the menopause.
Pelvic examination can also be used to diagnose prolapse, which is a common condition in older women. The pelvic floor muscles become weak or damaged and are unable to support the pelvic organs. This can sometimes cause incontinence.
Pelvic examination is used to examine a woman's:
- Uterus (womb)
- Cervix (opening from the uterus to the vagina)
- Fallopian tubes (tubes carrying eggs to the womb)
- Ovaries (glands that produce eggs).
What can I expect during the pelvic examination?
The procedure may cause some discomfort, but is not usually painful. The examination takes about 10 minutes. If you have any questions during the examination, ask your doctor.
The doctor will usually discuss any health concerns first.
How is the pelvic examination performed?
Clothes will be removed in a private room or behind a screen and a gown or other covering will be provided.
They may feel organs inside first by pressing down on the lower stomach.
You'll be helped into position on an examination bed for the speculum examination and will be asked to bend your knees and let them fall open.
A device called a speculum is inserted into the vagina. This is opened to widen the vagina to allow the vagina and cervix to be seen more easily.
A cervical smear sample will be taken using a special plastic brush to gather cells from the cervix. Swabs may also be taken from the vagina and cervix to test for infection.
The speculum is removed, then the doctor will perform a manual examination using gloved fingers while also pressing down outside the body to feel for organs that may have changed in size or shape.
A rectal (back passage) examination may also be performed. A gloved finger is inserted into the rectum to help detect any tumours or other abnormalities.