Background: A pelvic examination is the most common procedure in gynecological practice. A majority of women have negative experiences of such examinations. The aim of the present study was to explore attitudes to and experiences of pelvic examinations, as well as possible background factors to such attitudes and experiences.
Methods: A postal inquiry was sent to 788 randomly selected Swedish women, of fertile age. Sixty-seven per cent answered the questionnaire, which had 56 items and covered, inter alia, attitudes to and experiences of pelvic examinations, as well as possible background factors.
Results: The women had positive, uniform attitudes to pelvic examinations in general, but negative experiences of the specific parts of the procedure. Women's attitudes to and experiences of pelvic examinations correlated. The experience of the first pelvic examination was more negative than the experience of the last. A negative experience in general and the experience of pain during the first pelvic examination correlated. The first pelvic examination emerged as a statistically powerful background factor for subsequent attitudes to pelvic examinations.
Conclusions: Swedish women have positive attitudes to pelvic examination in spite of negative previous experiences. A powerful background factor for subsequent attitudes to pelvic examination was the experience of the first one. A woman's first pelvic examination should therefore be used as an opportunity to condition positive emotions and behaviors to the examination situation, as a basis for future positive experiences.