Pap Smear 101 - What to Expect During and After

There are various routine health exams women must do to ensure that their bodies are free from cancers or other abnormal conditions. These types of tests are very important so that you can maintain good health, and a Pap smear or Pap test is no different. This gynecological pelvic test screens for cervical cancer and HPV (human papillomavirus). A Pap smear may seem scary to think about, especially if it’s your first one! But it is usually very quick and may only be mildly uncomfortable. Once women turn 21 years of age, a Pap smear test becomes routine during your annual gynecology exam. Keep reading to learn what to expect during and after your Pap test and why this exam is so important for your health. 

Why Do You Need a Pap Smear?

A Pap smear is done in conjunction with a pelvic exam, and it is recommended that every woman receives this test every one to three years after the age of 21 – even if you are not sexually active. You may need more frequent tests if you are HIV-positive or have a weakened immune system from undergoing chemotherapy or an organ transplant. Cervical cancer screening is critical for receiving an early diagnosis of cervical cancer. With an early diagnosis, adequate treatment is usually possible. This exam not only detects if cancer cells have already developed- it can also indicate if someone is at risk for developing abnormal cells in the future. This may require further testing. 

What to Expect During a Pap Smear

While you are in the proper gynecological pelvic exam position, with your legs in stirrups, your doctor will insert a tool called a speculum into the vagina to examine the cervix. A sample of your cervical cells will be taken with a brush or spatula, which then will be sent to a lab for testing. This test is done very quickly and you may feel a slight push, irritation, or scraping that feels similar to a period cramp. It’s ideal to avoid having a Pap smear during your menstrual period, especially if your flow is heavy. Menstrual periods can affect the results of the test, so it is best to discuss this with your doctor prior to your appointment if it is your time of the month.

After the Exam and The Results 

After your cervical exam, you may experience a cramping feeling throughout the rest of the day. Although rare, you also might show some spotting up to 24 hours after. If your Pap smear results are normal or “negative,” this means that your test showed no abnormal cells – so you do not have to think about this exam for another year or three! If you have an abnormal Pap smear, this does not mean you have cancer. This often indicates that there are some precancerous cells on the cervix. Your doctor may want to do further testing, such as a Colposcopy. A colposcopy is a further examination of the vagina, cervix, and vulva with a magnified view to locate and determine the extent of abnormal cells.

Put Your Cervical Exam Nerves at Ease With Dr. Quartell in Livingston NJ

If you are looking to schedule a Pap smear exam with a top board-certified OB/GYN in Livingston, NJ, then look no further than Anthony C. Quartell, MD. and Associates. Dr. Quartell and his staff have been treating patients for over 40 years in the field of Obstetrics and Gynecology, specializing in minimally invasive gynecological surgeries. With Dr. Quartell, you will have access to tests and services that are extremely beneficial for your long term health and well-being. For more information about Pap smears or the various services we provide and conditions we treat, be sure to contact us today to schedule your appointment!

  • Dr. Anthony C. Quartell has been recognized by New York Magazine and New Jersey Monthly numerous times in the category ‘Best Doctors’. In addition, he was rated and awarded ‘The Patients’ Choice Award’ by his patients!


  • Dr. Anthony C. Quartell was rated and awarded ‘The Patients’ Choice Award’ by his patients!



The practice of Anthony C. Quartell, M.D. & Associates is dedicated to providing for the special health needs of women of all ages.

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