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PAP Smear

How Should A Woman Prepare For A Pap Smear?

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Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

  • A woman who is still menstruating should schedule a Pap smear about two weeks after the start of the menstrual period. That's the stage of the cycle when the doctor can obtain the clearest, cleanest sample of cervical cells.
  • A woman who has reached menopause can schedule a Pap smear at any time of the month.
  • A woman who is having abnormal bleeding or any other gynecological problem should see her doctor right away.

What Activities Should A Woman Avoid Before Having A Pap Smear?

In the 48 hours before having a Pap smear, a woman should not

  • douche
  • have intercourse
  • take a tub bath
  • swim
  • use tampons, spermicides, vaginal lubricants, or feminine deodorant sprays or powders

These activities can irritate the cervix. Avoiding them helps ensure collection of an adequate cell sample.

Nice To Know:

It's a good idea to avoid scheduling a Pap smear during a holiday season when lab technicians may be preoccupied.

Nice To Know:

Questions A Woman's Healthcare Provider Will Ask

The healthcare provider who performs a Pap smear will want to know the date of the first day of a woman's last menstrual period and whether she

  • is sexually active
  • has ever been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease (STD)
  • has ever had an abnormal Pap smear
  • is pregnant
  • has one or more risk factors for cervical cancer
  • has had surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy
  • is taking hormones, birth control pills, or other medications




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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.