How often do you need a pelvic exam?

Mar 30, 2023
Key Takeaways
  • Pelvic exams are not mandatory at every gynecologist visit. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends them based on symptoms or medical history.
  • You have the right to decline a pelvic exam. Discuss benefits and risks with your provider and make decisions collaboratively.
  • If pelvic exams are painful or cause anxiety, communicate with your provider for support and solutions. Your health decisions are yours to make.

We often hear from women that they avoid annual visits, recommended screenings, or gynecology appointments all together because they don't want to undergo a pelvic exam.

While many patients are under the impression that they will be required to undergo a pelvic exam at every office visit, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends that you receive pelvic exams only when you have symptoms or a medical history that requires it.

Do you need a pelvic exam every year?

If you have no pelvic symptoms and no medical history that would require it, you do not need a pelvic exam every time you go to the gynecologist. As a virtual women's health clinic, Visana gynecologists and nurse practitioners can treat and prescribe for many conditions without in-person visits.

While you shouldn't need a pelvic exam for many common issues, they are an important tool for diagnosis and treatment, and sometimes your provider can identify potential issues like skin conditions, even if you don't have symptoms.

Can you decline a pelvic exam?

As a patient you always have the right to decline an exam, and you can speak with your provider to discuss the benefits and risks and come to a decision together.

Dealing with chronic health issues - whether it's pain or heavy bleeding, endometriosis, recurrent UTIs, or something else - can make you feel like you've lost control of body, and repeated pelvic exams can inadvertently make those feelings worse, especially if you experience pain, anxiety, or distress when undergoing pelvic examinations.

What if pelvic exams are painful?

"Your body belongs to you, and your health decisions are yours," says Dr. Barbara Levy, Chief Medical Officer at Visana.

Speak to your provider if you experience discomfort or anxiety during pelvic exams. They should be able to provide you with information, support, and actionable steps to make your experience as comfortable and painless as possible.

Visana’s clinical model leads with empathy

Visana clinicians listen to your symptoms, signs, stories, and health goals, so they can give you the most clinically effective and compassionate treatment possible. If you and your clinician determine a pelvic exam is necessary, our care coordinators can seamlessly connect you to in-person care.

Does your insurance cover Visana?

Visana's services are available through certain employers and health plans.

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