What, exactly is your gyno hunting for when she lets her fingers do the walking? Find out now.
1. Clinical breast exam
"We examine your breasts with both our eyes and hands, looking for lumps and bumps, changes in skin, and nipple discharge," Dr. Wider says.
2. External exam
"When we separate the vaginal lips from the top of where the pubic hair is right down to the anus, we’re looking for skin changes and abnormalities," Dr. O'Connell White says. Docs can spy genital warts, herpes, or skin conditions like lichen planus.
3. Speculum exam
"Women dread the speculumthat duckbill device that opens up the vaginabecause it's intimidating, and it can be uncomfortable," Dr. Rankin says. But this exam, in which doctors often do a Pap smear to check for cervical cancer, shouldn't be excruciating. "To make it more comfortable, ask your doctor to use the teensiest speculum possible. If you're 25 and childless, you don't need the same size as a woman who has had six babies, if you catch my drift."
Your positioning can help, too: "Scootch all the way down the table," Dr. O’Connell White says. "We want your cheeks hanging off so the muscles around the pelvis open up. That way we don’t have to struggle to see the cervix."
4. Internal exam
One or two gloved fingers are inserted into the vagina while the doc presses your abdomen with her other hand. "We're feeling the size and position of the uterus and ovaries,” Dr. O’Connell White explains. It's not pleasant, Dr. Rankin adds. "But it’s important for making sure you don't have ovarian tumors or uterine fibroids.” You should also have a rectal exam, Dr. Wider says. "We're feeling for growths, blockages, or pain. It shouldn’t hurt, and it's quick."