Young woman patient with a senior gynecologist during the consultation in the gynecological office
Tue. August 22, 2023

Why Does the Speculum Hurt So Much?

Pelvic exams are an essential part of women’s health. They allow gynecologists to assess the health of the reproductive organs, catch potential problems early, and provide valuable insight into a woman’s overall well-being. 

An essential tool used during these exams is the speculum. But the word “speculum” can elicit a shudder for many women. Why does the speculum hurt so much? And how can we make this experience more comfortable? Discover how Nella can help you overcome your speculum fears with its innovative design that is made for comfort.  

What is a Vaginal Speculum? 

The vaginal speculum is a medical instrument designed to be inserted into the vagina to open up the vaginal walls. This allows healthcare professionals to view the vaginal canal and the cervix clearly, facilitating various medical examinations, tests, and procedures, such as a pelvic exam, Pap smear, or STI test. 

A speculum has two hinged blades that curve to match the body's natural contours. They are typically made of stainless steel or plastic and often come in different sizes to accommodate the different anatomies of women. 

Why the Discomfort?

The discomfort associated with using a vaginal speculum can be attributed to several factors, making it essential for healthcare providers to approach using a speculum with sensitivity, ensuring you are as comfortable and informed as possible during the procedure.

  • Temperature and material: Traditional speculums are often made of metal. Even when warmed before use, the metal can feel cold against the sensitive skin of the vagina, causing an initial discomfort.
  • Size and fit: Speculums sometimes come in different sizes, but if an inappropriately sized speculum is used, it can cause discomfort or pain. An ill-fitting speculum might even exert excessive pressure on the vaginal walls.
  • Anxiety and tension: For many women, pelvic exams can be anxiety-inducing, whether due to negative past experiences, embarrassment, or trauma. This anxiety can lead to involuntary tensing of pelvic muscles, making inserting and adjusting the speculum more uncomfortable.
  • Insertion technique: How the speculum is inserted and opened can affect the comfort level. It can be more painful if done too quickly or without proper technique.
  • Past traumas: For some women, especially those with a history of sexual trauma or negative medical experiences, using a speculum can be emotionally and physically triggering, intensifying feelings of discomfort.

How Nella is Revolutionizing the Speculum Experience

Nella recognized these concerns and took them to heart. Our mission? To design a comfortable speculum, prioritizing patient comfort without compromising on functionality. 

  • Material innovations: Moving away from the cold, intimidating metal speculums, Nella has embraced body-friendly materials that are gentle on the skin and adapt more readily to body temperature. Our temperature-neutral specula ensures minimal shock upon insertion, making the procedure more comfortable.
  • Disposable speculum with light: Our disposable speculum ensures hygiene and comes equipped with a light. This added feature ensures that practitioners have a clear view, reducing the duration of the exam and the associated discomfort.
  • Reusable specula: Nella also offers reusable speculums made from our specialized temperature-neutral polymer that can be sterilized in an autoclave for optimal hygiene. This minimizes biowaste and reduces your carbon footprint. 
  • Comfortable sizing: Nella features ultra-narrow blades no bigger than a standard tampon, reducing discomfort during insertion. 
  • Near-silent operation: The ratcheting noise made by conventional specula causes discomfort and tension in patients. Nella provides clinicians with a convenient one-handed opening and locking mechanism, eliminating unsettling noises.

Tips for a Comfortable Pelvic Exam

Pelvic exams, which include using tools like the speculum, are essential for monitoring reproductive health, but the experience can sometimes be unnerving. You can mitigate your discomfort and anxiety by understanding the process and mentally and physically preparing.

Here are some valuable tips for a pelvic exam to help you relax and ensure the experience is as comfortable as possible.

  • Relaxation: Easier said than done, right? But taking deep breaths, focusing on relaxation, or practicing pelvic floor drops can reduce muscle tension during the exam.
  • Distraction: Take your earphones and stream a series, podcast or favorite tunes during the exam to take your mind off it. Just make sure that you aren’t using noise-canceling headphones so you can respond to your doctor’s questions during the exam.
  • Communication: If you’re feeling nervous, let your practitioner know. They can walk you through each step or even give you a moment to adjust. You can also communicate with your doctor before the procedure and request that they use a Nella. We have an easy script to follow if you are anxious about approaching the subject; you can also ship Nella directly to your doctor’s practice. 
  • Know your options: Before the exam, research and find out if options like the disposable speculum with light from Nella are available at your healthcare facility. Being prepared can ease a lot of anxiety.

Looking Ahead: A Future of Comfort

While the speculum may historically be associated with discomfort, Nella believes in a future where pelvic exams are no longer something women dread. With innovations like The Nella Comfort Kit and disposable speculum models, we’re on a path to making that vision a reality.

We’re more than just a brand; we’re an ally in women’s health. By focusing on real concerns and offering tangible solutions, Nella hopes to shift the narrative around pelvic exams. The goal? A world where comfort and care go hand-in-hand.