- July 7, 2020
- Rai Cornell
- Posted in Resources
Stirrups, speculums, and cervix swabs: Pap tests give us plenty to shudder about. But this routine gynecological exam is an important part of women's health. You may be surprised to learn that a Pap test is essential enough that you will have one during pregnancy, too.
So what is a Pap test? Why should pregnant women have one? When will your OB perform the test?
We'll cover the above questions and more to help you learn all about the routine Pap test and what it can tell you about your pregnancy.
What Is a Pap Test?
A Pap test, also known as a Pap smear, is a test where your physician checks your cervix for any abnormalities that may indicate precancerous or cancerous cells. "Precancerous" is the term medical professionals use for abnormal cells that may be caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).
HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can go away on its own. In some cases, though, HPV can lead to cervical cancer. A Pap test and a test for HPV are usually performed at the same time.
To perform the Pap test, your physician will use a speculum: a tool that is inserted through your vagina and helps the physician see your cervix. Your physician will then use a swab or soft brush to collect cells from your cervix. The procedure is uncomfortable but not usually painful.
When Should I Get a Pap Test?
Usually, your OB will perform a Pap test during your very first prenatal visit. This is because he or she will want to know right away if there are any abnormal cells. If there are, your OB may need to perform a colposcopy.
A colposcopy is where your OB takes a small biopsy of any abnormal cells on your cervix. This procedure is safe to perform during pregnancy, but any further procedures are typically delayed until after your baby is born.
Physicians perform Pap tests during pregnancy up until 24 weeks. After that, your cervix will be too sensitive in preparation for birth, as a result of increased blood flow to your cervix.
Why Do I Need a Pap Test During Pregnancy?
Physicians perform Pap tests during pregnancy up until 24 weeks. After that, your cervix will be too sensitive in preparation for birth as a result of increased blood flow to your cervix. his is also a good time to check for vaginal infections or STIs.
STIs can usually be treated with antibiotics during pregnancy, so don't panic if your OB diagnoses you with one.
Will a Pap Test Harm My Baby?
You may, naturally, feel concerned about any procedure you might need to undergo during pregnancy, even routine ones. A Pap test is completely safe during pregnancy and will not hurt your baby.
What If My Pap Test Is Abnormal During Pregnancy?
The most important thing to know is that an abnormal Pap test does not mean you have cancer. In fact, pregnancy can cause you to have an abnormal Pap test and does not pose a risk to your baby.
Aside from the colposcopy, your OB will likely not do anything at all about an abnormal Pap test until after the baby is born. When you are a few months postpartum, your OB will likely repeat the Pap test to see if the abnormal cells remain.
If a vaginal infection or STI is the cause of the abnormal cells, you'll receive treatment to clear up the infection.
A Pap test is an important part of women's health and a routine exam during pregnancy. This test is safe for both you and your baby.
Remember, your OB is there to answer any of your questions and concerns. Don't be afraid to ask him or her about Pap tests.
- Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. (2016). STD Facts: STDs & pregnancy. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/std/pregnancy/stdfact-pregnancy.htm
- Connolly, T., & Evans, A.C. (2005). Atypical Papanicolaou Smear in Pregnancy. Clinical Medicine & Research, 3(1), 13-18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1142102/
- Monteiro, P.B., et al. (2017). Cytology-Based Screening During Antenatal Care as a Method for Preventing Cervical Cancer. Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, 18(9), 2513-2518. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5720659/
- Penn, D., & Berenson, A.B. (2017). Pap and HPV tests. US Department of Health & Human Services. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/pap-hpv-tests
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2015). Colposcopy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Colposcopy?IsMobileSet=false
The information provided represents the general opinions of NTD Eurofins and is not intended to be used as specific advice for any one individual. Individuals should always consult with a physician to obtain specific advice and to receive answers to any and all questions or concerns related to health, wellness, pregnancy, and birth.
Pursuant to applicable federal and/or state laboratory requirements, Eurofins NTD, LLC has established and verified the accuracy and precision of its testing services. Tests are developed and performance characteristics determined by Eurofins NTD, LLC. The methods and performance characteristics have been reviewed and approved by the New York State Department of Health.