Carnegie Mellon University

Gynecology is health care for the female reproductive system.  All straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, married, single, or otherwise sexually active individuals with female reproductive organs, 21 years of age or older should have an annual gynecological exam. 

Gynecological exams may include:

  • talking about your medical history
  • a general physical exam
  • a breast exam
  • a pelvic exam
  • tests for sexually transmitted infections
  • a Pap test
  • vaccinations
  • talking about birth control, safer sex and other concerns
A pelvic exam is a normal and important part of taking care of your body. During a pelvic exam, a health care provider checks your pelvic area for problems.  There are usually three parts to the exam:

1. The Visual Exam - Your health care provider will look at your vulva and the opening of your vagina.

2. The Speculum Exam - Your provider will gently insert a speculum into your vagina. A speculum is a metal or plastic tool that separates the walls of the vagina when it opens. This may feel uncomfortable but not painful. Let your provider know if it is.

Your provider will determine if you should have a Pap test done.  During a Pap test, the provider takes a small sample of cells from your cervix for the Pap test.  At this time, a sample may also be taken to test for sexually transmitted infections.

3. The Bimanual Exam - Your provider will insert one or two gloved fingers into your vagina while gently pressing on your lower abdomen with the other hand. This is a way to check your uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.
This is a test that can find signs that cervical cancer may develop.  Providers use a tiny brush or spatula to collect a small sample of cells from your cervix (the lower part of your uterus).  The cells are sent to a laboratory to be examined. The Pap test is a painless procedure that takes less than a minute and is one part of a gynecological exam.
Gynecological visits take about one hour.  Extra time is needed to complete paperwork, prepare you for the exam and answer your questions.  Your health care provider will talk with you for 10-15 minutes and the exam itself takes 10-15 minutes, including a 5-minute pelvic exam.
No. You may feel some pressure but you should not feel pain. If you feel pain, tell the health care provider.
  • Plan your pelvic exam for a day you when you will not have your period.
  • Do not have vaginal intercourse or insert anything in your vagina for a day or two before your visit.
  • Women should not douche. But if you do, do not douche or use any other vaginal products for at least 24 hours before your visit.
  • Make a list of the questions you want to ask and be prepared to discuss your gynecological and sexual health history.