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The speculum

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The speculum is a ‘duckbill-like’ instrument that is used at time of a gynecologic exam to hold the vaginal walls open so that the ‘inside’ can be visualized. Sort of like you putting your hand into a sock and spreading your fingers to hold it open.

A speculum size ranges from very small to large, with most exams being done using a medium, ‘regular’ size.

A speculum can be made of clear plastic, or of metal. Women are often concerned with the differences, so here they are:

  • Both plastic and metal are used the same way and do the same thing.
  • The plastic speculum is lightweight and disposable.
  • The metal speculum is a bit heavier, a bit colder, and need to be sterilized after each use.
  • The plastic speculum clicks when it is opened; the metal has a screw that needs to be turned, thus the associated sound.
  • Both plastic and metal have rounded edges, are smooth, and safe.
  • Your clinician may elect to use the disposable plastic speculum, or may elect to stay with his/her supply of metal specula (the plural of speculum) and autoclave (sterilize) them on a regular basis.
  • A pediatric speculum is typically made of metal.

Bottom line: no need to worry about the type of speculum used. Just be there, relax, and let the exam take place — it only takes a few seconds.

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