A pelvic exam is done to check a woman's pelvic organs. It may be done as part of a routine physical exam or if a woman is having pelvic problems.
During the exam, the woman lies on a table on her back, with her knees bent and her feet and legs supported by stirrups. The health professional inserts a metal or plastic device (speculum) into the woman's vagina. The speculum opens up and holds the sides of the vagina apart. This allows the health professional to see the opening to the uterus (cervix) and to collect samples of cervical cells for a Pap test (a screening test for cervical cancer).
The health professional also feels (palpates) a woman's pelvic organs to check their size and texture by inserting one or two gloved fingers into the vagina and pressing on the lower abdomen with the other hand. Sometimes this exam involves placing a finger in the vagina and rectum at the same time to feel the structures deeper in the pelvis. The woman should tell the health professional if it hurts when her organs are touched or moved.