A pap smear is recommended for women every few years (or more, for those who have had abnormal pap smear results in the past); the purpose of a pap smear is to test for any abnormal cells that could indicate anything from a sexually transmitted infection to cervical cancer. If you're going to have a pap smear done in the near future, there are a few things you should and shouldn't do in preparation for your appointment.
DO Avoid Intercourse
First of all, try to avoid sexual intercourse for the couple of days leading up to your gynecologist appointment. The reasoning behind this is that, in some cases, vaginal intercourse and the presence of semen or other bodily fluids could end up interfering with the test results. Specifically, abnormal cells may not be detected. The same goes for many products commonly used during intercourse, such as spermicidal creams, jellies, and foams (along with spermicide found on some condoms).
DO Avoid Vaginal Medicines
In the days before a pap smear, you should also refrain from using any vaginal medicines that haven't been specifically prescribed by your doctor or gynecologist. For example, if you douche every so often, try not to do so right before your appointment, as douching can wash away abnormal cells around the cervix, possibly rendering your pap smear results inaccurate. If you are using any vaginal creams, such as one for controlling the symptoms of a yeast infection, speak to your gynecologist before your appointment to find out if he or she would prefer you to come in on another day instead.
DON'T Schedule During Your Period
Finally, while it is possible to have a pap smear done on your period if absolutely necessary, most gynecologists will recommend that you wait until after your period has ended. This not only makes their jobs easier, but also makes your results easier to read and reduces the risk of any abnormal cells from being obscured. If you have an irregular period and weren't anticipating starting before your appointment, most clinics will allow you to reschedule up to 24 hours before your appointment with no penalty. However, each OBGYN office is different, so be sure to check before cancelling or rescheduling.
By keeping these dos and don'ts in mind, you'll be able to adequately prepare for your upcoming pap smear and ensure that your results are as accurate as possible. Contact a professional health center, like Contemporary Health Care for Women, with any additional questions.