Preparing for a Pap Smear: Dos and Don’ts for Patients

Pap smears are an important screening for females to have done once they reach adulthood. Specifically, the results of a pap smear can be used to detect potentially abnormal cells that could be the sign of a cervical cancer or another medical problem. If you've never had a pap smear done before but will be having one done in the near future, you may understandably be feeling a little nervous. To help you relax, there are a few preparation tips worth keeping in mind.

DO Write Down Questions/Concerns

If you have any questions or concerns that you'd like to talk to your gynecologist about, be sure to write these down before your appointment. If you're feeling nervous or stressed, there's a good chance you could forget them when you're at the gynecologist's office. Also, don't feel embarrassed about any questions you may have. More than likely, your gynecologist has heard it all.

DON'T Have Vaginal Intercourse

Generally, you should avoid vaginal intercourse for a couple of days before your pap smear appointment. Your gynecologist won't refuse to conduct the pap smear if you've had intercourse more recently than that, but the results have the potential to be obscured, so it's better to play it safe and avoid having sex in the days leading up to your appointment.

DO Avoid Douching or Deodorants

Douches, creams, deodorants, and other personal hygiene products that come into direct contact with the vagina (or are inserted into the vagina) should also be avoided in the days leading up to your appointment. Douching before your appointment, for example, could lead to inaccurate results. If you're using a prescription vaginal cream, talk to your gynecologist ahead of time to find out whether you should temporarily discontinue use or not.

DON'T Schedule During Your Period

While a pap smear can be performed while you're on your period, it's easier and the results will be more accurate if you schedule your appointment for a day when you're not menstruating. If you have an unpredictable cycle and your period unexpectedly starts before your appointment, contact the office. More than likely, they'll still have you come in, but if your flow is very heavy, they may ask you to reschedule.

These are just a few guidelines to keep in mind as you prepare for your first pap smear. Above all else, remember to relax; it'll all be over with in a matter of minutes.