UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Helpful hints for the pediatric prepubescent genitourinary exam

Keywords: vaginitis, vaginal discharge (PubMed Search)

Posted: 11/20/2020 by Jenny Guyther, MD (Updated: 4/13/2024)
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To determine if the child is prepubescent, look for the lack of pubic hair, clitoral size, configuration of the hymen, breast development, and axillary hair growth. A Tanner stage of 1 would be consistent with prepuberty.

The proper positioning for the physical exam will allow the child to be comfortable and the examiner to obtain an adequate view including up to one-third of the vagina.

If the child is small enough, they can lay in the parent’s lap. For a larger child, you can have the parent sit in the bed with the patient or stand near the child’s head. Engage child life if available.

The frog leg position with gentle downward and outward traction of the labia at the 5- and 7-o’clock positions provides the optimal view.

The knee to chest position is helpful when further evaluation is needed.

A rectovaginal exam is useful for evaluation of masses or foreign body only and is not routinely needed. Place the examiner’s little finger in the rectum and the other hand on the abdomen and palpate.

The use of a vaginal speculum is rarely needed in prepubertal children; if it is needed, perform the exam under anesthesia.


McCaskill A, Inabinet CF, Tomlin K, Burgis J. Prepubertal Genital Bleeding: Examination and Differential Diagnosis in Pediatric Female Patients. J Emerg Med. 2018 Oct;55(4):e97-e100. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2018.07.011. Epub 2018 Aug 28. PMID: 30170834.

Loveless M, Myint O. Vulvovaginitis- presentation of more common problems in pediatric and adolescent gynecology. Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol. 2018 Apr;48:14-27. doi: 10.1016/j.bpobgyn.2017.08.014. Epub 2017 Sep 5. PMID: 28927766.

Manning S. Genital Complaints at the Extremes of Age. Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2019 May;37(2):193-205. doi: 10.1016/j.emc.2019.01.003. PMID: 30940366.