Getting a Pap smear is an integral part of maintaining every woman’s health. It only takes a few minutes every three years and helps detect and curb cervical cancer. If you’re getting a Pap smear for the first time, you might be understandably nervous. That’s completely normal, but knowing what to expect can give you confidence in taking the test.
Preparing for the Procedure
A Pap smear is a fairly simple test that doesn’t require extensive preparation. However, there are a few things you’ll be expected to do to ensure comfort and accurate results.
- Schedule the procedure at least five days after the last day of your period.
- If you’re menstruating, reschedule your appointment or at least let your doctor know.
- Do not have vaginal intercourse for at least two days before your exam.
- Refrain from using tampons, vaginal medicines, contraceptive gels, and lubricants at least two days before the test.
- Pubic hair doesn’t affect the result, so no need to worry about shaving.
- Wear easily removable clothes for your appointment.
- Inform your doctor when you had your last period, what type of birth control you’re using, and if you have a history of bleeding disorders and your medications.
- Tell your doctor if you are or might be pregnant.
- Empty your bladder before the procedure.
Pap Smear Procedure
Despite being the best defense against cervical cancer, many women avoid the procedure out of embarrassment and anxiety. Concerns about smell, body shape, and what happens during procedure are common.
If you’re feeling self-conscious, remember that the doctors and nurses who perform and assist you during a Pap smear have been doing the same procedure for years. They have seen thousands of patients and have heard every question and assisted all types of patients throughout their years.
Here’s what you should expect during a Pap smear:
- Before the procedure, your blood pressure, temperature, and weight will be recorded.
- The nurse or gynecologist will ask you to undress, and they will provide you with a gown and cover up for your legs. Some clinics will only require you to get undressed from the waist down.
- You’ll lie on your back on the procedure table and place your feet in stirrups.
- The gynecologist will insert an instrument called a speculum into your vagina. The speculum is slightly bigger than a tampon, and your doctor will use lube to ensure it slides in easily. You might feel some discomfort and pressure, but there’s rarely any pain.
- Your gynecologist will use a small brush or a spatula to scrape cells from your cervix gently. It won’t hurt, but it might feel odd. Some women say it’s like being pinched.
- The sample will be transferred to a petri dish and sent to a pathologist for evaluation.
After your gynecologist removes the speculum, you’re all done! You might see some light spotting (vaginal bleeding) after the test. Don’t panic — that’s totally normal. It won’t be as heavy as a period and should clear up in a day, so you should bring a pantyliner just in case. Remember to inform your doctor if you experience excessive bleeding, fever, or severe abdominal pain.
Pap Smear Results
You can go about your day with no worries immediately after a Pap smear. It usually takes three to five days for the results to come in. Your doctor will contact you when they receive the results and discuss them with you.
There are three possible results:
- Normal. This result means there’s no sign of disease. You won’t need further treatment or testing until your next Pap smear, which should be every three years.
- Unclear. It isn’t determined whether the cells are normal or abnormal. You might have to take another Pap smear, either immediately or in six months.
- Abnormal. If you get an abnormal result, it does not automatically mean that you have cervical cancer. An abnormal finding means that some cells look unusual. Menopause, HPV, UTIs, and yeast infections can cause an abnormal result. You might need another Pap smear or a different test, such as a colposcopy.
Regular screening is important. If the test detects cancerous or precancerous cells, your gynecologist will recommend the proper treatment to get it addressed quickly and effectively.
Pap Smear In Illinois
Every woman deserves the best OB/GYN care, and that includes you. Here at Aishling Obstetrics & Gynecology, we’re committed to providing quality, compassionate, and personalized care to our patients. Our providers specialize in abnormal Pap smear management and colposcopy to help prevent and treat cervical cancer. We have convenient locations in Sandwich, Yorkville, Plainfield, and Aurora, IL.
If you have never had a Pap smear before or if it has been a while since your last one and you want to schedule a consultation, contact our friendly staff by calling (815) 786-1088. You may also use our online appointment request form. We look forward to serving you!