What to Do and Expect Before, During, and After a Pap Smear
Turning 21 can be an exciting milestone. But, it also entails some responsibility and more care for one’s health. For women, turning 21 means scheduling their first pap smear test. The purpose of this procedure is to look for abnormal cells in the cervix that could lead to cervical cancer. Early detection significantly helps in preventing the cells from fully developing.
Although it’s an important procedure that should be done regularly, a lot of women are afraid of going to a pap smear clinic to undergo the test. But, being well prepared and informed about the procedure might help ease the mind. So, here are the things you need to do and should expect before, during, and after a pap test:
Before the Procedure
The first thing you should do is to schedule your appointment. It’s important that you don’t take the pap test when on your period or expecting to have your period. If by any chance, your menstruation comes early, it’s best to reschedule. This will make the whole procedure much easier for both you and your doctor.
Once your schedule is confirmed, there are a few things you should do to make sure that the procedure goes well. It’s important to avoid sexual intercourse, douching, or any vaginal medications for at least 2 days prior to the test. They can wash away or obscure the abnormal cells, which would lead to an inaccurate result.
On the day of the procedure, it’s also best to wear easy to remove clothes like a dress, skirt, or leggings. Your doctor will ask you to undress from the waist down. But, if they decide to do a breast exam as well, then you may have to remove all of your clothes. They’ll give you a hospital gown as a cover.
During the Procedure
It’s normal to feel nervous once you get to the clinic, especially if it’s your first time taking the test. Your pap smear doctor will explain the procedure to you so you’d know what to expect. At this time, you can also ask them any questions or notify them if you have any concerns.
Once you’ve undressed, the doctor will ask you to lie on the examination table and place your feet on the stirrups. The doctor will then insert an instrument called a speculum into the vagina. This will keep the vaginal walls open, allowing the doctor to take another instrument called a spatula to collect cells from the cervical walls.
After the cells have been collected, the doctor will gently remove the speculum and let you get dressed. The procedure should only take a couple of minutes to complete.
It’s important to remember that this procedure should not be painful. But, expect to feel some discomfort. Make sure to keep your pelvic and abdominal muscles relaxed to lessen the feeling of pressure in the lower area. It’s also best to pee first before the procedure since a full bladder can add more discomfort. If you feel that the test is too painful, inform your doctor immediately.
After the Procedure
Once you’re done, you’re free to go through the rest of your day like normal and with no restrictions. You may still feel some discomfort in your lower region, and sometimes, there may be some slight bleeding. But, know that this is normal. If it persists the day after, let your doctor know immediately.
After a couple of days, your doctor will contact you about the result. If it comes out normal or negative, that means your cervical cells are perfectly healthy, and you won’t be needing any follow-up treatment or examination. Ideally, your next pap smear test should be taken after 3 years.
If the results come out positive or abnormal cells are found, then you might need to undergo more tests. Take note that a positive result doesn’t necessarily mean you have cervical cancer. This will depend on the type of cells discovered in the test. Your doctor will most likely recommend a colposcopy or biopsy to further examine your cervical cells. This will confirm whether or not the abnormal cells are indeed cancerous.
A pap smear test may be intimidating in hindsight. But, by knowing what to expect and being properly prepared, you’ll have a quick and relatively comfortable experience. So, go ahead and call a pap smear clinic and schedule your first appointment.