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James Marion Sims developed a treatment for vesico-vaginal fistulas in Montgomery, Alabama in the 1840s. Vesico-vaginal fistulas were a relatively common condition in which a woman's urine leaked into her vaginal cavity from her bladder, and many regarded the fistulas as untreatable during the early 1800s. After years of efforts to repair the fistulas with myriad tools, techniques, and procedures, Sims developed the speculum and a vaginal examination position later named for him.
A vaginal speculum is a medical device that allows physicians and health providers to better view a woman’s cervix and vagina during pelvic exams. Most specula are made of metal and plastic, and physicians insert a portion of the speculum into the patient’s vagina to separate the vaginal walls. Physicians have used devices to view inside a woman’s vagina for centuries, but physicians did not begin using what is known as a speculum in the twenty-first century until the 1800s.