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Brief Description

Vaginal examination is a way for doctors to look for signs of illness in certain organs in a woman’s body. It can also be referred to as pelvic exam depending on the purpose. It is mostly done in labour wards to monitor the progress of labour.

Why the Test is Performed

Vaginal examination is performed:

  •  During a yearly physical exam
  •  When a woman is pregnant
  •  When a doctor is checking for an infection (such as chlamydia, vaginosis, trichomoniasis, etc)
  •  When a woman is having pain in her pelvic area or low backHow the Test is Performed

    During a typical vaginal exam, your doctor may:

  •  Ask you to take off your clothes in private (You will be given a gown or other covering.)
  •  Talk to you about any health concerns
  •  Ask you to lie on your back and relax
  •  Press down on areas of the lower stomach to feel the organs from the outside
  •  Help you get in position for the speculum exam (You may be asked to slide down to the end of the table.)
  •  Ask you to bend your knees and to place your feet in holders called stirrups
  •  Perform the speculum exam. During the exam, a device called a speculum will be inserted into the vagina. The speculum is opened to widen the vagina so that the vagina and cervix can be seen.
  •  Perform a Pap smear. Your doctor will use a plastic spatula and small brush to take a sample of cells from the cervix (A sample of fluid also may be taken from the vagina to test for infection.)
  •  Remove the speculum.

Perform a bimanual exam. Your doctor will place two fingers inside the vagina and uses the other hand to gently press down on the area he or she is feeling. Your doctor is trying to note if the organs have changed in size or shape.

Sometimes a rectal exam is also performed. Your doctor inserts a gloved finger into the rectum to detect any tumours or other abnormalities.

How to Prepare For the Test

Because a Pap smear, endocervical swab or high vaginal swab may be performed following routine vaginal exam, you should schedule the exam when you are not having your period.

In addition, for 48 hours prior to the exam, you should not douche, use a tampon, have sex, use birth control foam, cream, jelly or use medicine or cosmetic cream in your vagina.

During the Test

You can expect to feel a little discomfort, but you should not feel pain during a pelvic exam. The exam itself takes about 10 minutes. If you have any questions during the exam, be sure to ask your doctor.

After the Test

Your doctor may request for further tests after vaginal examination.


There is minimal risk involved. Rarely, there may be bruising or infection.

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