Learning Center

Helping you lead a better life

Do I need a pelvic exam every time I go to the gynecologist?

We often hear from patients that they avoid annual visits, recommended screenings, or gynecology appointments 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 recommends that you receive pelvic exams only when you have symptoms or a medical history that requires it. In fact, our 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 I 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 should I do if I find pelvic exams painful?

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.

In the words of Dr. Barbara Levy, Visana's Chief Medical Officer, "Your body belongs to you, and your health decisions are yours".