Healthy Living

Can You Get a Pap Smear on Your Period? Dr. Firestein Answers This Question and More

Jan 26 2024

Can you get a Pap smear on your period? And how often do you need to get one?

Pap smears are an essential part of preventive health care for individuals with a cervix, playing a crucial role in the early detection of cervical cancer. However, many people have questions about this routine screening procedure. Let us help you answer some of them!

First, what is a Pap smear?

A Pap smear, also known as Pap test, is a screening test that involves collecting cervical cells to check for abnormalities or precancerous changes. Your OB-GYN may opt to test for sexually transmitted infections, like human papillomavirus (HPV), during a Pap smear exam, too. This is because HPV is the highest significant risk factor for cervical cancer in women over 30.

Overall, the test is primarily designed to detect cervical cancer in its early stages when it is most treatable.

“Pap smears are an invaluable tool in our arsenal against cervical cancer,” Scott Firestein, MD, board-certified gynecologist in our Cincinnati market, shares. “They empower individuals with the opportunity for early intervention and treatment, significantly improving outcomes and even preventing cervical cancer in the first place.”

When should I start getting Pap smears?

In general, individuals with a cervix should start getting Pap tests at the age of 21, regardless of whether they are sexually active. The frequency of Pap smears may decrease with age, but it is important to follow the recommendations provided by your health care provider, as they will know best about any risk factors your may have.

How often should I get a Pap smear?

“Regular screenings are a proactive approach to reproductive health,” Dr. Firestein says. “Current guidelines consider factors like age, previous Pap test results and health history to ensure a personalized screening schedule and address individual needs.”

He continues, “guidelines have shifted toward less frequent testing for certain age groups. However, be sure to consult with your health care provider to determine the most appropriate screening schedule for your individual needs.”

Can I get a Pap smear while on my period?

Yes, you can still get Pap smear tests while menstruating! Menstrual blood does not interfere with the accuracy of the test. However, some individuals may feel more comfortable scheduling their appointment at a time during their menstrual cycle when they are not on their period.

What shouldn’t I do before a Pap smear?

Two days before a Pap smear, be sure to avoid sexual intercourse, using vaginal medications or douching. This is because these activities may hide or wash away abnormal cells.

What if my Pap smear results are abnormal?

“Receiving abnormal Pap smear results can be concerning, but it’s important to remember that abnormalities do not necessarily indicate cancer,” Dr. Firestein explains.

Many abnormal cells are benign or can be easily treated. Your health care provider will discuss the results with you, recommend any necessary follow-up tests and develop an appropriate plan of action based on your individual situation.

Dr. Firestein also notes that Pap tests and guidelines will be changing and evolving again soon. Thus, it is important to be seen regularly by your health care provider to keep up on current guidelines.

So, can you get a Pap smear on your period? We hope we have helped answer this question and more!

Learn about the gynecology and obstetrics services we provide at Mercy Health.

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