What’s The Difference Between A Pelvic Exam And A Pap Smear?

Many experienced gynecologists in San Diego and the rest of the country recommend that a woman get a pelvic exam on an annual basis. Your San Diego gynecologist will also tell you, depending on your indicators, that you should have a pap smear. While you may not need a pap smear every year, you do need a pelvic exam.

What to Expect from a Pelvic Exam

Pelvic ExamA pelvic exam, sometimes called a pelvic, is a checkup of your sexual and reproductive organs inside and out. There is rarely any pain involved unless you have an infection and it takes just a few minutes. The doctor will insert a speculum, which looks rather like a pair of large spoons, into your vagina so that he or she can have a clear view of the inside. The doctor is looking for sores inside and out, discolorations, obvious infections, or deformities. You cervix will be checked to see if it’s healthy and then the doctor will remove the speculum.

Next, the doctor will use his or her fingers inside your vagina and a hand atop your belly to apply pressure so that they can feel the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and uterus. If you have swelling from an infection or a cyst this is a good way to detect it. You may have an infection of the fallopian tubes or ovaries and not felt pain until your doctor applies pressure. This part of the exam can catch an infection before it has time to damage your reproductive system. The doctor can also detect cysts, growths, or a pregnancy during this phase of the pelvic exam.

What is a Pap Smear Like?

The Papanicolaou test, or Pap smear, is a test for pre-cancerous and cancerous cells responsible for cervical cancer. Georgios Papanikolaou, a Greek physician, invented the test in the 1920s. Cells are scraped from the cervical opening and sent to the lab to be tested for cells that may indicate the beginnings of cancer. This is usually done during the pelvic exam; the doctor will use a swab to take a sample of the cells of your cervix. This is not painful at all and in fact, most women who feel it at all say it’s like a mild tickle.

After you pass your 21st birthday you should get a pap smear every 2 years. After you turn 30 and have 3 normal pap smears in a row, you can space them every 3 years. After you turn 65, you can ask your doctor if you need one at all. If you’ve had a hysterectomy, your chances of cervical cancer are nil since you no longer have a cervix, so you don’t need a pap smear.

In most women the results of a pap smear are negative, which means no cancerous or pre-cancerous cells were found. If there are abnormalities, your doctor’s office will usually ask you to return for more tests. Abnormalities may be caused by a wart virus rather than cancerous cells, so don’t panic if your results come back with a request for further tests.

There are many experienced gynecologists in San Diego to choose from. It is important for your sexual, reproductive, and general health to get an annual pelvic exam and a pap smear when your doctor recommends it.

10 Things Couples Can Do Before Getting Pregnant


According to the average ob gyn in San Diego, there are a ten things couples can do before getting pregnant to help them have a healthy baby. If you do these things before you conceive, you’re more likely to have a safe delivery of a healthy baby and you’ll both be healthier as well.

1. Because a woman conceives a couple of weeks before her period, you may not know you are pregnant until you miss your period. However, your baby is growing and is most susceptible to harm 2-8 weeks after he or she begins to grow in your womb. The organs are beginning to form and anything you put in your body can affect it. So if you are trying to get pregnant, act as if you already are. Avoid hot tubs and steam rooms as high temperatures can adversely affect the fetus. Likewise, long hot baths are not recommended.

2. It is very important to eat properly and avoid junk foods. Junk foods are made to taste good with all the chemicals and artificial flavorings they contain but they actually offer very little nutritional value. By eating junk foods, you won’t be hungry enough to eat the nutrition rich foods that you should be consuming. Stick to a balanced diet and be sure you get plenty foods with calcium, folic acid, iron, and protein.

3. Take prenatal vitamins as soon as you decide you want to get pregnant. They are specially formulated to nourish a growing fetus and keep you at the peak of your health. It’s particularly important because of the folic acid they contain, which helps prevent damage to the brain and spinal cord of the fetus.

4. If you don’t already exercise, you should start! Both of you should exercise so that you’re physically fit enough to take on the rigors of caring for a newborn, and later, playing with your very active child. It’s important to get into shape but be aware that excessive exercise can actually prevent conception. Swimming, hiking, walking, and biking are great ways to exercise. Avoid activities that involve possible injuries such as kickboxing or horseback riding.

5. Both of you should get rid of bad habits like smoking, recreational drugs, and drinking to excess. Did you know that the father’s habits can affect his sperm or even cause damage to his chromosomes? Even marijuana, long thought a benign drug, is suspected of affecting the way a fetus develops. Smoking cigarettes is responsible for 5% of all deaths during delivery, 20% of low weight births and 8% of premature deliveries.

6. There are certain foods you should not eat, and some seafood can even harm you, your spouse, and your baby. You should limit seafood because of the mercury content that can accumulate in fatty tissues of your body and be passed on to your child through the placenta. Avoid mackerel, raw fish, shark, swordfish, and tilefish altogether. As a rule of thumb, fish that are high up on the food chain should be avoided as they have the potential to accumulate more mercury from other fish on which they feed.

7. Make sure that neither of you lives or works in an environment that can damage his sperm or your growing fetus. If you work around pesticides or chemicals, radiation or environmental pollutants, do what you can to avoid them or protect yourself with the proper gear. Stay away from radiation and pesticides and things like oven cleaners and paint fumes. If your partner works around chemicals that get on his clothing, be sure not to touch them; wash them separately and be sure you’re not exposed to shoes or hats he wears on the job.

8. If either of you are overweight, you should make it your goal to lose the extra pounds. The extra weight can also cause high blood pressure or diabetes in the mother, which will endanger the child.

9. Do either of you own a cat? Cats have parasites in their feces that cause disease Toxoplasmosis, a disease that can cause blindness, brain damage and other birth defects. The parasite can also be in your garden if your cat is allowed outside or if neighborhood cats wander into your yard.

10. You should both see your primary care physician, particularly if you have a chronic condition such as asthma, thyroid problems, or migraines. Mothers-to-be, in particular, should talk to their doctor about the potential effects of their medications, whether they are over the counter or prescription. Be sure to tell your doctor you’re trying to conceive and disclose to him everything you are taking such as herbal supplements. Many herbal supplements can damage a fetus or even cause a miscarriage. You should both also get tested for STDs. Oftentimes a person may have an STD but have none of the symptoms, so they are unaware that they’ve been infected. Be sure that you both have been vaccinated against German measles (rubella) if you haven’t had it.

There are many things couples can do before and during a woman’s pregnancy to help them have a healthy child. Doing these ten things before you conceive is a good start in helping you give birth to a healthy, developmentally normal child.