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6 Things To Avoid or Plan for Before a Pelvic Exam

Visiting the gynecologist and undergoing a pelvic exam are important components of overall health. There are certain things to plan for and avoid before the appointment so that it goes smoothly. Here’s a comprehensive list of things to keep in mind before a pelvic exam from Flo.

Before an appointment with the gynecologist, it is important to preserve the natural vaginal flora. This helps the health care provider make an objective assessment and ensures Pap smear test results are accurate.

Contraceptive gels and suppositories can skew the test results.

They sometimes contain substances that can cause redness and itching, which can also be mistaken for symptoms of disease by the health care provider.

Medical professionals recommend avoiding using these products 24−48 hours before the exam so that the results are as accurate as possible.

Sex can affect test results, too.

Sperm’s alkaline pH affects the vaginal acidic pH and flora, distorting the results of Pap smear tests.

Sex with a condom can also slightly disrupt the mucosa or cause inflammation from friction, which sometimes leads to diagnostic errors.

Using a lubricant is also not recommended.

Telling the gynecologist about any recent sex will help them adequately interpret the test results.

The best option is to refrain from having sex 24−48 hours before a pelvic exam.

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It’s normal to want to feel confident and comfortable when visiting a health care provider such as a gynecologist.

Some people go overboard with their intimate hygiene before the appointment, and excessive thoroughness can adversely affect the examination and Pap smear test results.

During the exam, the health care provider pays attention to the nature, color, smell, and amount of vaginal discharge, among other things.

Changes in these parameters can be indicative of a health issue.

Douching with mixtures of fluids, soaps, intimate hygiene gels, antibacterial soap, or other products can also affect the vaginal pH and distort test results. Gynecologists don’t recommend douching at all because it can disrupt the normal balance of vaginal flora and its natural acidity. 

Instead, before a pelvic exam, it is recommended to rinse or wash the vagina with just warm water.

Also, make sure to avoid using any vaginal creams or foams for 48 hours prior to the exam.

Is it still possible to have a pelvic exam while on your period?

In some cases, menstrual blood in the vagina makes it difficult to examine the internal organs.

Many gynecologists believe that changes occurring in the body during menstruation can also distort Pap smear test results (due to the changes in the vaginal pH and cellular composition).

However, health care providers recommend coming in for a pelvic exam during menstruation specifically if the flow has become too heavy (when the pad needs to be changed every one to two hours) or a period has come unexpectedly.

If this occurs, seeing a health care provider promptly can help get to the bottom of the issue quickly.

For people who are planning to have an intrauterine device inserted, gynecologists often recommend scheduling the appointment for a time when they will be on their period. During this time, the procedure is usually less painful.

Everyone is free to make their own choices about how their pubic area looks, and this doesn’t affect the procedure of a pelvic exam itself.

The decision has more to do with aesthetics than health. Pubic hair doesn’t interfere with the examination or affect test results.

When preparing for an appointment, you’re free to do whatever is most comfortable for you personally.

Intestinal gas formation is a natural process of the human body. During a pelvic exam, the health care provider will press on the stomach, which may sometimes lead to gas.

This is absolutely normal and part of a health care provider’s daily routine.

Avoiding foods that cause excessive gas before the appointment can help.

Some common gassy foods include legumes, dairy, grains, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, apples, peaches, pears, prunes, onions, candy, and chewing gum.

Having an empty bladder can also result in a more comfortable exam.

Continuous gas formation and bloating may be a symptom of ovarian disorders, so be sure to tell the gynecologist about it.

Pelvic exams are an important part of maintaining overall health. Lots of people feel nervous before the appointment, but a little planning and preparation can help ensure it’s a comfortable experience. Be honest with the health care provider, and feel free to ask any questions you may have.

“Pelvic Exam.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 25 July 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/pelvic-exam/about/pac-20385135.

“Douching.” Womenshealth.gov, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 Apr. 2019, www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/douching.

“Test Preparation: Your Role.” Lab Tests Online, labtestsonline.org/articles/laboratory-test-preparation.

“Pap Test.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/pap-test.

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