A pap smear is a procedure done by a health care professional, often an ob/gyn or a women’s health nurse. During a pap smear, a group of cervical cells are collected for examination. These cells are examined microscopically to help determine if a woman has cervical cancer or if she is at risk of developing cervical cancer. A pap smear is a fast test, and is, for the most part, painless. The accuracy of the pap smear is relatively high, which means that very few women who have a regular pap smear will have cervical cancer.
When a woman first becomes sexually active, or no later than the age of 21, her health care provider will probably recommend a pap smear be done every year for two or three years. In general, most women should have a pap smear somewhere between every two and three years. Some health care providers will recommend a pap smear every year.
During pregnancy, it is likely that your health care provider will want to do a pap smear. A pap smear is considered routine for a pregnant woman. A pap smear does not create any risks to you or to your fetus. If your pap smear comes back with an abnormal result during pregnancy, your health care provider will probably discuss possible treatment options that are safe for you during pregnancy, or discuss the possibility of delaying any treatments until after you have your baby. If there are serious problems, it is possible that your health care provider might want to do an internal biopsy. This type of procedure does present some risk of pregnancy complications, and you should discuss these risks with your health care provider.
A pap smear that indicates no abnormalities is called a normal” or “negative” pap smear. A pap smear that indicates cancerous or pre-cancerous cells is called “positive” or “abnormal.” A variety of things can interfere with the results of a pap smear. Having intercourse, using vaginal creams or suppositories, or using spermicide within two days of having the pap smear can cause an abnormal result.”