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How to Perform Vaginal Self Exam

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Updated December 16, 2009

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

While not recommended by medical professionals, some women give themselves vaginal and cervical self-exams. Supporters of these exams say they help women learn what is normal, allowing women to more quickly recognize changes -- a way that you can get to know your body better. But, keep in mind that a self-exam should in no way replace your annual professional pelvic exam, during which the Pap smear and other tests can detect important microscopic changes.
Difficulty: Hard
Time Required: 20 minutes

Here's How:

  1. You will need a strong light such as a flashlight, a mirror, a vaginal lubricant, antiseptic soap or alcohol, and a plastic speculum (get a speculum from a pharmacy that sells medical supplies).
  2. Find a place to relax. This can be the floor or your couch, wherever you can feel comfortable.
  3. Lie back.
  4. Bend your knees, with your feet wide apart.
  5. Lubricate the speculum, and insert it into your vagina in the closed position. Experiment to find the most comfortable position for inserting the speculum.
  6. Once the speculum is inserted, grab the shorter section of the handle and firmly pull it toward you until it opens inside your vagina.
  7. Push down on the outside section until you hear a click, while keeping a firm hold on the speculum. The speculum is now locked in place.
  8. Place the mirror at your feet so that you can see your vagina. Move the speculum, while shining the flashlight into the mirror, until you can see your cervix and vaginal walls in the mirror.
  9. Take note of the color of your cervix, as well as any vaginal secretions.
  10. Remove the speculum, after your examination is complete, either in the closed or open position whichever is most comfortable for you.
  11. Thoroughly wash the speculum with antiseptic soap or alcohol and store for your next self exam.

Tips:

  1. Speculums are available at pharmacies that sell medical supplies.
  2. Some women may find it easier to have a friend or partner help by holding the mirror. The normal cervix appears wet, pinkish, and has a bulb shape. The cervix of pregnant women has a bluish tint.
  3. Vaginal secretions change through out the month. Understanding the changes your body goes through can help you detect your fertile periods, as well as abnormalities.
  4. Vaginal self exam is neither recommended, nor valuable for detecting abnormal cervical cells that are detectable only by having regular Pap smears.

    Source: "Our Bodies, Our Selves." The Boston Women's Health Collective.

What You Need

  • plastic speculum
  • flashlight
  • mirror
  • vaginal lubricant
  • antiseptic soap or alcohol
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What to Expect From a Gynecological Exam

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