ACOG Practice Advisory on Annual Pelvic Examination Recommendations
June 30, 2014
Washington, DC — The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (the College) has reviewed the recommendations from the American College of Physicians about annual pelvic examinations and continues to stand by its guidelines, which complement those released recently by the American College of Physicians.
The College’s guidelines, which were detailed in this year’s Committee Opinion on the Well-Woman Visit, acknowledge that no current scientific evidence supports or refutes an annual pelvic exam for an asymptomatic, low-risk patient, instead suggesting that the decision about whether to perform a pelvic examination be a shared decision between health care provider and patient, based on her own individual needs, requests, and preferences.
However, the College continues to firmly believe in the clinical value of pelvic examinations, through which gynecologists can recognize issues such as incontinence and sexual dysfunction. While not evidence-based, the use of pelvic exams is supported by the clinical experiences of gynecologists treating their patients. Pelvic examinations also allow gynecologists to explain a patient’s anatomy, reassure her of normalcy, and answer her specific questions, thus establishing open communication between patient and physician.
Of course, pelvic examinations represent just one part of the annual well-woman visit, which can help to identify health risks for women and which can also feature clinical breast examinations, immunizations, contraceptive care discussions, and health care counseling. Importantly, annual well-woman visits help to strengthen the patient-physician relationship.
“We continue to urge women to visit their health care providers for annual visits, which play a valuable role in patient care,” said John C. Jennings, MD, President of the College. “An annual well-woman visit can help physicians to promote healthy living and preventive care, to evaluate patients for risk factors for medical conditions, and to identify existing medical conditions, thereby opening the door for treatment. Annual well-woman visits are important for quality care of women and their continued health.”
For more information on well-woman visits, please visit www.acog.org/wellwoman.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College), a 501(c)(3) organization, is the nation’s leading group of physicians providing health care for women. As a private, voluntary, nonprofit membership organization of more than 58,000 members, The College strongly advocates for quality health care for women, maintains the highest standards of clinical practice and continuing education of its members, promotes patient education, and increases awareness among its members and the public of the changing issues facing women’s health care. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a 501(c)(6) organization, is its companion organization. www.acog.org