GYN & Pelvic Exams FAQs

What to Expect at Your GYN Exam

During your GYN exam, your doctor or midwife may:

  • Take your health history
  • Perform a general physical exam
  • Perform a breast exam
  • Perform a pelvic exam
  • Screen for sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Perform a Pap test, if needed

You will also be evaluated for depression or mental health concerns to ensure your emotional well-being. 

Your exam is an important time to talk with your provider about your overall health. If you feel that you need to talk with someone about your emotional needs, hormonal changes, acne, or other concerns, please speak to your provider.

What to Expect During Your Pelvic Exam

A pelvic exam is a routine part of a gynecological visit for women over age 21.

If you are under 21, your gynecologist will determine if a pelvic exam is needed, based on your health history and symptoms. 

After taking your health history and speaking with you about your concerns, your gynecologist will ask you to undress and to put on a paper or cloth gown. Another gown will be provided to cover your legs. You will lie on the exam table and put your feet in the footrests at the end of the table.

First, your doctor will look at the pelvic area for signs of cysts, discharge, genital warts and other conditions. This is the external portion of the exam.

If an internal exam is needed, your gynecologist will insert a lubricated speculum into your vagina. This should not cause any pain. If you experience discomfort, ask your doctor to use a different speculum in the appropriate size for you.

Pap Tests

As part of the internal exam, your gynecologist may perform a painless test called a Pap test – a test that checks for cancer in the cervix.

During a Pap test, your doctor will take a small sample of cells from your cervix using a tiny spatula; these will be sent to a lab for testing.

You may not have a Pap test as part of every pelvic exam.

Pap tests are recommended every 3 years for women between the ages of 21 and 65. For women between the ages of 30 and 65 who have a normal pap test with a negative HPV test, the screening is recommended every 5 years.

When to Have Your Exam


Your first gynecological exam is recommended at age 21. However, if you are sexually active or have irregular periods, you should see a gynecologist sooner.

GYN exams are recommended once per year. More frequent exams may be needed depending on your health history.

How to Prepare for Your Exam

  • Schedule your visit in between menstrual periods. Menstrual fluid can interfere with the exam and also with the results of lab tests.
  • Do not have sex at least 24 hours before the visit. Sex can irritate the tissue of the vagina and lead to incorrect Pap test results.
  • Know the date of your last period and how long your periods usually last. Your doctor will likely ask for this information.