Purpose of review: Adolescents’ experiences of their first pelvic examination (external inspection, speculum examination and bimanual palpation) may have a marked influence on future experiences; why examination techniques and strategies for creating a positive experience of this situation need to be developed. This review addresses to what extent that ambition is reflected in recent literature.
Recent findings: The majority of articles on ‘pelvic examination during adolescence’ come from the United States, which skews the review's perspective. Several researchers recommend using investigations based on new technology rather than a pelvic examination when medical indications for a full examination are present. The profession's attitudes toward annual check-ups and pelvic examinations (in the United States) are currently debated, for teens as well as for adults.
How to perform a first pelvic examination on an adolescent is not often discussed, nor are strategies for creating a positive experience of this event.
The contexts in which a first pelvic examination is performed probably differ among societies. The Swedish and the US contexts are compared as an illustration; for example preventive healthcare and sex education is in Sweden the responsibility of schools, open for anybody and without admission fees.
Summary: Recent literature does not mirror a need for developing examination techniques and strategies for creating a positive experience of the first pelvic examination, nor for exploiting its maximal potential as a positive rite of passage.
The ongoing US debate on indications for pelvic examinations and annual check-ups is even more relevant for adolescents, in whom contraindications need to be considered.