It’s the most dreaded part of a regular checkup at your gynecologist’s office. The Pap smear. Your doctor uses it to check for cervical cancer. Even though it’s a part of your routine checkup, Pap smears aren't always comfortable. Unfortunately, they're also a critical part of your routine checkup. Here’s what to expect and how to make it less uncomfortable.
Also called a pap test, a pap smear is done in your doctor’s office. It requires your doctor to carefully scrape away cervical cells from your cervix. Once removed, the cells are tested for abnormal growth.
During a Pap smear, your doctor will ask you to undress form the waist down. You’ll be given a hospital gown or covering. After your doctor instructs you to lay down and put your feet up, he or she will insert a speculum. The speculum is usually a little cold, and may pinch or feel uncomfortable, but it's essential as it opens up your vagina for your doctor to see and reach your cervix. Once the speculum is in, your doctor will scrape away cervical cells with a soft brush or long Q-tip. These cells will then be tested. You may experience some cramping and/or spotting after your test.
It doesn’t take much to prepare for a pap smear. Some women may feel like they need to shave their pubic hair, but it’s unnecessary for this test. You should only tackle it if you’ll be more comfortable. Your doctor has seen it all, so a little bit of pubic hair won’t bother him. For the most accurate results:
- Schedule your Pap smear for a day when you are not menstruating. If you must go during your period, avoid putting anything in your vagina for at least 24 hours before your appointment.
- Avoid douching beforehand.
- Abstain from sexual intercourse for one to two days before your Pap smear.
Women love to hate Pap smears. It’s uncomfortable. It can hurt a little. But, regular Pap smears can catch cervical cancer long before it becomes a problem. Don’t put it off because it’s a little uncomfortable.