How to Examine a Woman’s Genitals (the Pelvic Exam) 535
How to Examine a Woman’s Genitals (the Pelvic Exam)
Knowing how to examine a woman’s genitals can save lives. It is necessary for
giving some family planning methods and for finding out about many serious women’s
health problems, such as pregnancy in the tubes, cancer of the cervix and of the womb
(uterus), many STIs, and complications from abortion. It is not difficult to learn, and
with practice, most women or health workers can:
• examine the outer genitals.
• feel the reproductive parts inside the abdomen.
But only do a pelvic exam if it is really necessary. Any time you put something
inside a woman’s vagina you increase her risk of infection.
IMPORTANT Do not do a pelvic examination:
• when a woman is pregnant and bleeding, or if her waters have broken.
• after a normal birth or uncomplicated abortion.
Before you start:
1. Ask the woman to pass urine.
2. Wash your hands well with
clean water and soap.
3. Ask her to loosen her clothing.
Use a sheet or her clothing to
4. Have her lie on her back, with
her heels close to her bottom
and her knees up. Explain what
you are about to do.
5. Put a clean glove on the hand
you will put inside the vagina.
Always examine a woman
where others cannot see.
Look at the outside genitals:
Using the gloved hand to gently touch the
woman, look for lumps, swelling, unusual discharge,
sores, tears, and scars around the genitals and in
between the skin folds of the vulva. Some diseases
have signs that appear on the outside of the
genitals (see the chapter on STIs).
Where Women Have No Doctor 2012