A pap smear, or Pap test, is an important screening tool for cervical cancer. The test checks for precancerous or cancerous cells on the cervix, the opening in the uterus. It is not screened for ovarian cancer or other gynecological cancers.
The procedure consists of carefully removing cells from the cervix and then examining them in a laboratory for abnormalities. This is a routine test that will be done in your doctor’s office. It’s generally painless, although some people may experience mild discomfort.
Because the Pap smear checks the cells of the cervix and is sensitive to abnormalities or inflammation, it is generally recommended not to have sex before having a Pap smear.
Avoiding sex before the procedure reduces the risk of an abnormal outcome due to inflammation or discharge related to sexual activity.
No, you shouldn’t have sex right before a pap smear.
Sex can irritate the skin of the cervix, inflame the vaginal tissues, and cause a discharge that can mask results or lead to an abnormal test result.
If you have sexual intercourse right before a Pap smear, tell your doctor before the Pap smear.
You will likely still get the Pap smear, and this information can put the next steps into perspective if there is an abnormal result. If all of the other paps were normal and there are no specific cervical concerns, your doctor may not postpone the test.
If for any reason you have concerns, your doctor may want to reschedule your appointment or have a follow-up Pap smear if you didn’t have sex before the exam.
It’s not recommended to have sex the night before a pap smear.
As with sex right before a Pap smear, sex can inflame the tissues or cause a discharge, which can lead to an abnormal test result.
Sex with a condom or other barrier method is also not recommended before a Pap smear.
Sex, with or without the barrier method, can cause inflammation of vaginal tissues or irritation, potentially leading to an abnormal outcome.
Any sexual activity is not recommended, including oral sex.
It’s probably best to avoid penetrating masturbation as well, even with a barrier method like a condom. Penetrative masturbation can still cause trauma to the cells on the cervix and affect your results.
However, some doctors may have different opinions. Call your doctor if you have any questions.
The answers vary, but the consensus is not to have sex 24 to 48 hours before a Pap smear. This will give time for any inflammation to resolve and any discharge to be expelled.
In most cases, you don’t need to do anything to prepare for a pap smear.
When you come to the appointment, tell your doctor about any medications and supplements you may be taking. If you are pregnant or suspect you may be pregnant, please let them know.
In addition to not having sex before a pap smear, do not use 2 to 3 days before your appointment:
- vaginal medication
- spermicidal foams or jellies
- have a shower
If you have your period on the day of your Pap smear, call your doctor’s office. Due to improvements in the processing of Pap tests, it is possible that unless there is a significant amount of blood, an insufficient sample will not result.
But it’s best to leave it to the doctor. You may want to reschedule as the results may be less accurate.
A pap smear can be a little uncomfortable, but it’s not painful and goes over pretty quickly. You lie on your back on an examination table with your feet in stirrups.
Your doctor will insert a speculum into your vagina. This tool holds the vaginal walls open and lets your doctor get to your cervix. You will then take a sample of cells from your cervix. The sample will be sent to a laboratory to check for abnormal cells.
If you get an abnormal Pap test result, don’t panic. It doesn’t automatically mean you have cancer. There can’t even be anything wrong.
A “normal” Pap smear means there are no signs of abnormal cells and nothing else needs to be done until the next Pap smear.
An ambiguous test result is sometimes referred to as ASC-US, or atypical cells of undetermined significance. This simply means that the cells are not normal, but they are not actually abnormal either. Sometimes a bad cell sample can cause this, like if you recently had sex or had a shower.
An abnormal result means there are changes in the cells of the cervix, but that does not automatically mean cancer. Reasons for an abnormal result can be:
Depending on how the cells look under a microscope, your doctor may want to do a cervical biopsy or a follow-up Pap smear. Your doctor will discuss all the details of your results and discuss the next steps with you.
If you do not understand the results or have any questions about them, ask your doctor for more information. Sometimes the test results are
While there isn’t generally much prep for a pap smear, it’s best to avoid sex 24 to 48 hours before your appointment.
This will give your doctor the best chance to get accurate cell samples and reduce the risk of an abnormal Pap due to inflammation or discharge.
If you have sexual intercourse before the Pap test, tell your doctor. You can pass this information on to the person reading the test to take this into account.
If the results of the test or previous test results are abnormal, this would determine whether you reschedule the appointment or need more testing.