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Learn About Pelvic Exams and Pap Smears

North Central Florida's top women's health experts discuss the procedure for the annual pelvic exam and occasional Pap smear

When it comes to the annual preventive care checkup, most women have some apprehension about pelvic exams and pap smears, particularly the first time around. While pelvic exams may leave you feeling vulnerable, it is an important tool for assessing your gynecological health.

Usually pelvic exams and pap smears begin at age 21, unless you request certain types of birth control —like an IUD— where a pelvic exam is required, or if you're having symptoms of certain reproductive conditions that require treatment, like endometriosis.

Sometimes just knowing what's in store during a doctor's visit can help ease anxiety. Here, we'll discuss what to expect during your pelvic exam, including how a pap smear works.

  1. Discussion with Your Doctor and Exam Preparation

    There's a lot that will happen at your preventive care visit prior to your pelvic exam. First, you'll talk to the doctor or an assistant about your health history and they'll take health measurements, such as your weight and blood pressure. Then, your provider will recommend that you empty your bladder before your exam and you'll be left to change into an exam gown. The assistant will leave wipes for you to use.

    When your gynecologist or midwife reenters the exam room, she will probably first perform a clinical breast exam and talk to you about performing self-exams during the year. Then she will have you move to the bottom of the exam table, where you will rest your feet in the table's stirrups. You'll be asked to lie back on the table and relax your legs into an open position. Your exam will be more comfortable if you can relax your legs and pelvic muscles. Breathing deeply and slowly will help you with this.

  2. The Visual Check and the Speculum Exam

    The doctor will first perform a visual check of your vulva tissue to make sure everything looks nice and healthy. They will then tell you that they are inserting the speculum. A speculum is a plastic apparatus that looks similar to a duckbill. It's inserted into your vagina so your doctor can examine your vaginal walls and cervix, checking for lesions, inflammation, and unusual discharge. A speculum can be uncomfortable for some women. You may feel pressure in your bladder or rectum, but the speculum shouldn't be painful. If it is, tell your doctor.

  3. A Possible Pap Smear

    If you require a pap smear, you doctor will perform it during the speculum exam. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that pap smears begin at the age of 21.

    How often a woman should get a pap smear depends on several health factors, but the general rule is every three years from age 21 until the age of 30. Women aged thirty and above should receive a pap smear and HPV test every five years.

    A pap smear checks a woman for cervical changes that could indicate cervical cancer caused by the HPV virus. A pap smear involves your doctor swiping a long, Q-tip looking swab into your vagina, where cells from your cervix are collected. A lab will later analyze this sample for any cell changes. In comparison to the rest of the pelvic exam, the pap smear only takes a minute and is generally nothing to be worried about!

  4. The Bimanual Exam

    Your doctor will then remove the speculum and insert one or two of her gloved fingers into your vagina, while pressing with the other hand on your abdomen. This bimanual exam examines the shape, size and location of your uterus, and where your ovaries are. Your doctor will also be feeling for tender areas and growths that could indicate the presence of a condition such as endometriosis.

While your doctor has just collected a lot of information about your health, a pelvic exam generally lasts five minutes or less!

Pelvic exams and pap smears are much more comfortable when working with a health provider that you know and trust. The compassionate midwives and gynecologists at All About Women in Gainesville are passionate about providing competent care in a relaxing and comfortable setting.

If you want to learn more about your first visit with us, read our blog post Your First Gynecology Visit.

And if you’re ready to come in for a preventive care checkup, contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Contact us
‹ All About Women OB/GYN Knowledge Center
6440 W Newberry Road, Suite 111
Gainesville, FL 32605
(352) 331-3332
Lake City
4447 NW American Lane, Suite 102
Lake City, FL 32055
(386) 754-1744

Gainesville and Lake City OB/GYN Care

OB/GYN doctors at All About Women, Obstetrics & Gynecology offer personalized, technologically advanced obstetrics and gynecology services from Board Certified OB/GYB physicians. Besides expert women's healthcare, permanent birth control and prenatal care, OB/GYN doctors also offers advanced hysterectomy surgery in and around the Gainesville area.

Women's Health Care in Alachua & Columbia Counties

With offices in Gainesville and Lake City, Florida, All About Women, M.D. provides expert OB/GYN services covering the entire range of women's healthcare needs. Our OB/GYN physicians and nurse midwives provide expert care during pregnancy as well as state of the art in-office treatments for gynecologic disorders including Novasure endometrial ablation to treat/stop heavy menstrual bleeding.

Personalized & Expert Prenatal Care

Gainesville obstetricians at All About Women, M.D. help ensure pregnancy goes as smoothly as possible by offering the best prenatal care available. And for those having difficulty getting pregnant, AAW obstetricians and gynecologists offer couples the best infertility help and treatment available.

Advanced Minimally Invasive Surgery: daVinci Surgical System

Clinic founder Dr. Anthony Agrios, Board Certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist also specializes in the daVinci Robotic surgery system, a minimally invasive option commonly used for a hysterectomy and other procedures. Instead of creating several small incisions like traditional surgical methods, OB/GYN surgeons simply open one incision with the daVinci system to complete the procedure. Not only do patients experience less pain and blood loss, they recover and get back to normal much faster.

Pregnancy & Prenatal Care: Creative Pregnancy Announcement : Fruits for Pregnant Women

OB/GYN Tips: Choosing an OB/GYN : Robotic Hysterectomy

Infertility & Reproduction Health: Infertility Treatment : Permanent Birth Control

Women's Health: Preventive Care : Well Women Care : Mammogram Screenings : Abnormal Periods

Gainesville Maternity Care


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All About Women
Gainesville and Lake City, Florida Obstetrics & Gynecology

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