Pap Smear

Topic: What To Know About Getting A Pap Smear During Pregnancy

If you’ve been getting your annual well visits at the gyno (as you should be), you’re likely well familiar with Pap smears, which look for abnormal changes on your cervix and can indicate a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, pre-cancerous cells, or even cervical cancer.

If you’re pregnant, you may be wondering if it’s safe to get Pap smears during pregnancy as part of your OB visits, especially if you’ve come across conflicting information online. Here are all the facts on Paps during pregnancy.

Is a Pap smear a routine procedure during pregnancy?

Current American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist guidelines recommend women ages between the ages of 21 and 29 have a Pap smear every three years. Women ages 30 to 65 should have a Pap smear and HPV test every five years, or a Pap test alone every three years.

If you’ve previously had an abnormal result from a cervical screening test, or haven’t had a screening test in the last three to five years, you may need to have a screening test while pregnant, says Jodie Horton, MD, an ob-gyn in Oakton, Virginia, and chief wellness advisor for Love Wellness. This will usually happen at your first prenatal visit, along with other prenatal labs and blood tests. However, it is otherwise not a standard practice to get one during the first trimester. “Your doctor will follow the same cervical screening test guidelines regardless if you are pregnant or not,” she says.

If needed, the Pap test will normally be done early in pregnancy because it is a way to help detect any abnormal cells and if they are found early on, they can be treated, adds Jessica Shepherd, MD, a minimally invasive gynecologist in Dallas.

“Pap tests don’t cause any harm to a fetus and are a normal part of the gynecological visits for pregnant women,” she says.

How is a Pap smear during pregnancy done?

Whether you’re pregnant or not, a Pap test is performed when your health care provider puts a metal or plastic instrument called a speculum into your vagina, separating its walls so that they can get to your cervix. They then use a small spatula or brush (also called a sampler) to gently swab cells from your cervix, which are later sent to a lab to be tested. If you’re over 30, your doctor will also sample cells to test for the most common high-risk types of HPV that are responsible for abnormal cell changes and cervical cancer.

Topic Discussed: What To Know About Getting A Pap Smear During Pregnancy

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