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What is a Gynecology Speculum?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated May 17, 2024
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A gynecology speculum is a device, most often made from plastic but sometimes metal, which is used to open the vagina for internal examination. The speculum will generally resemble tongs in shape and feature various settings to accommodate the needs of the physician and the individual being examined. At times the gynecology speculum is pre-wrapped, and is thrown away after each use. Metal speculums, however, can be sterilized and reused.

Many women dread the use of a gynecology speculum, but the discomfort experienced during an exam is often dependent on the gentleness of the physician. Before inserted, the end of the speculum will be covered with lubricant to make penetration easier and less painful. It should be inserted slowly to ensure the woman's comfort. Once it is inside to the needed depth, the ends are opened slowly and locked into place to hold the vagina open for an examination. Slight discomfort, often resembling menstrual cramps, may be experienced.

For operations on the cervix or vagina, a weighted gynecology speculum may be used. This device is similar to more common speculums, but it features a weight end to hold the speculum open during long periods so that surgery can be completed more easily. These are often made of metal and reused on various patients. They are sterilized after each use.

A gynecology speculum is also typically used for a rectal or anal exam. These are generally the same overall size and shape as those used in the vagina. They are generally implemented during exams used to detect colon cancer or other obstructions in the large intestines. The use of a gynecology speculum may not always be appropriate during a rectal exam, and there are various other types available depending on the needs of the patient.

Some women choose to purchase and use a gynecology speculum at home to note changes in the cervix and to track their menstrual cycles. The safety of this practice is heavily debated, but no ill effects should arise if the woman has been taught to use the speculum correctly. Any speculas purchased for this purpose should be ordered from a medical supply company that is held to professional standards. This helps to ensure sterility and safety.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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