Hesperian Health Guides
Chapter 20: The Pelvic Exam: how to examine a woman's vagina and womb
Every day 20,000 people visit the HealthWiki for lifesaving health information. A gift of just $5 helps make this possible!
Make a gift to support this essential health information people depend on.
A pelvic exam is a way to learn what is happening inside a woman’s vagina and womb. Doing a pelvic exam can help you learn:
- if a woman is pregnant, and how many weeks she has been pregnant.
- if she has an infection in her womb or vagina.
- if she might have cancer of the cervix or womb.
This exam is not difficult to learn, and with practice, most people can do it.
A different exam can tell you if a woman’s cervix is opening during labor. This chapter does not explain how to do that exam. Learn how.
There are 3 parts of the pelvic exam
- The visual exam is a way to look for any signs of infection on the outside of the woman’s genitals.
- The speculum exam is a way to see inside the woman’s vagina and to test the health of her cervix. You use a tool called a speculum to do the speculum exam.
- The bimanual exam (2-hand exam) is a way to check the health of a woman’s womb and ovaries or to check the size of the womb in pregnancy. To do a bimanual exam, you feel the womb with the fingers of one hand inside a woman’s vagina and the other hand on her belly at the same time.
You do not always need to do all 3 parts of this exam.