What is a vaginal self-examination (VSE)?

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A vaginal self-examination (VSE) is an exam you can do in the privacy of your own home to familiarize yourself with your anatomy and to look for any problems. It is best done using a flashlight or headlamp and a mirror.
  • Wash your hands before doing the exam.
  • Undress from the waist down.
  • Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet near your bottom.
  • Gently relax your knees towards the floor.
  • Use your mirror to examine your vulva, vaginal opening, urethral opening and anus.
  • Use the flashlight to light up any hard-to-see areas.
This exam does not replace a pelvic exam by your family doctor. Schedule an appointment with your family doctor if you notice anything concerning.
Vaginal self-examination or VSE is a way that a woman can get to know what is normal for her own body simply by using a hand mirror. The best time to perform a VSE is in between menstrual periods. To perform a VSE, a woman simply needs to disrobe from the waist down, sit down or lay down in a well-lit area, and hold a mirror in front of her genital area. Some things a woman should note while examining her genital area include:
  • the color of the tissues of the vagina
  • the color, consistency and odor (if any) of vaginal discharge
  • any lesions, bumps, raised areas
  • redness, tenderness or irritation
When done on a fairly regular basis, a vaginal self-examination can help a woman get to know what is normal for her, and to identify problems more easily when they occur. Odd coloration, sores, smelly discharge, bumps or changes from previous exams should be brought to the attention of a medical professional. A vaginal self-examination can be a helpful tool for women, but it cannot replace a pelvic exam with her health care provider or a Pap test.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.