Pap Smear Test During Pregnancy

Submitted by Nick on May 31, 2012

A pap smear or a pap test is an imaging procedure that is conducted on women, in order to diagnose cervical cancer. This test is usually carried out along with a pelvic exam.

According to The American Cancer Society (ACS) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), women should have their first Pap smear around the age of 21. These institutions also recommend that women should undergo the test once every 3 to 5 years.

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In case you have a family history of cervical cancer (or if you are a smoker),you may be asked to go through pap smears more frequently, as early detection of the condition can improve your chances of recovery.

The purpose of a Pap smear test is to collect a small sample of cells from your cervix. During the procedure:

  • You will be asked to lie down on your back, with your feet in stirrups.
  • A speculum will be inserted into the vagina, so that the doctor can get a clear view of your cervix.
  • The examiner will run a swab over the area to collect a few cervical cells

The swab carrying the cells is then sent to a laboratory, where it is cultured and tested for cervical cancer. The entire testing procedure should take no more than a couple of minutes. You should not experience any discomfort during the process and once it is over, you can resume your normal activities without any restrictions.

A pap smear not only tells your doctor if you are suffering from cancer, but it can also alert your physician to any changes in the cervical cells, which point towards the development of cancer in the future.

Why should I go through a pap smear during pregnancy?

In case you have an undiagnosed or an untreated infection during pregnancy and especially during childbirth, your baby could be a high risk of developing eye infections or pneumonia. Therefore, in the US, Pap smears are done at the first prenatal visit, as a regular part of prenatal care. Your OBS/GYN may conduct a pap smear, along with a physical exam, a blood test and a urine test, just to make sure your body is free of any infections.

During pregnancy, prenatal pap smears tests are carried out to rule out the possibility of a an yeast infection, or a sexually transmitted disease (STD), which could include:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), the main cause of genital warts and cervical cancer

What are the Risks of Pap Smear During Pregnancy?

The thought of going through an internal exam, like a pap smear, during pregnancy could be quitenerve-racking for just about any mum-to-be, especially if it is your first baby. Rest assured that if carried out correctly, pap smears are quite safe during pregnancy, which is why your doctor may suggest one. To avoid any problems, injuries or complications, make sure that you choose an examiner who is well-experienced in these tests.

During the procedure, a few cells will be scraped off your cervix for testing purposes. The good news is that your baby is lying safely in your uterus, which is not even close to the cervix. Therefore, even if you notice any light bleeding or spotting for a day after a pap smear, you should not really panic. However, in case the bleeding is quite heavy or goes on for more than a couple of hours, you need to notify your doctor immediately.

What do Pap Smear Results Indicate?

The readings of your Pap smear test can tell your doctor if you are at a risk of cervical cancer, or if you are suffering from any STDs. If the results are abnormal, your physician may ask you to undergo further tests, before commencing the treatment. In case the results are negative, it means that no risks or infections have been detected.

While a pap smear is a relatively safe and reliable way to screen for cervical cancer, it is not a foolproof procedure. At times, the results may turn out negative, even if you do have abnormal cells. This usually occurs when the number of abnormal cells is too small to detect.

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