What is a speculum?

A speculum is a duck-bill-shaped device that doctors use to see inside a hollow part of your body and diagnose or treat disease.

One common use of the speculum is for vaginal exams. Gynecologists use it to open the walls of the vagina and examine the vagina and cervix.

A speculum is made from stainless steel or plastic. Metal devices are reusable. Plastic ones are disposable.

Vaginal speculums

Vaginal speculums have one, two, or three blades.

Bivalve speculum (Cusco’s speculum)

The two-bladed, or bivalve, speculum is the most common type of instrument gynecologists use to examine the vagina and cervix. The doctor inserts the speculum into the vagina and opens up the blades, which exposes the inside of the vagina and cervix.

Vaginal speculums come in different sizes. Which one of the following speculum types your doctor chooses depends on your age and the length and width of your vagina.

Pediatric speculum

Gynecologists use this shorter version of the speculum to examine the vagina in infants and children.

Huffman speculum

This long, thin speculum is narrower than a regular speculum. It’s used in teenaged girls who haven’t yet been sexually active.

Pederson speculum

Doctors use the Pederson speculum in teenage girls who’ve been sexually active. Its blades are narrower than those of a regular adult speculum, but larger than the blades of a Huffman speculum.

Graves speculum

The Graves speculum has the widest blades of any speculum. Gynecologists use it to examine adult women. It comes in a larger size for those with an especially long vagina.

There are several reasons why your doctor might use a speculum.

Pelvic exam

Gynecologists do a pelvic exam to check the vagina, cervix, and other reproductive organs for problems. The speculum opens up the vaginal canal to make these organs easier for the doctor to see.

During this exam, the doctor might use a special brush to remove a few cells from the cervix. This is called a Pap test or Pap smear. The cells go to a lab, where they’re checked for early signs of cervical cancer.

Cell samples can also be removed from the vagina and cervix to check for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Doctors also use a speculum for procedures like these:

  • Vaginal hysterectomy. This procedure removes the uterus through the vagina.
  • Pelvic exams can be a little uncomfortable when your doctor places the speculum inside your vagina and opens it. However, there are few risks involved as long as the speculum is sterile. If it hurts, you can ask the doctor to use a smaller speculum.

    The speculum might feel like it’s stretching out your vagina, but it only opens up the vaginal canal temporarily.

Main Menu