Many ladies are nervous before their first pap but the most common thing I hear after we are done is: “that’s it?” The first time does deserve a walkthrough as it is an odd, uncomfortable experience that takes getting used to but as you will see it’s easy-peasy.
1. The other 21st birthday present. Your first pap generally happens at age 21. This is the recommendation of The American Cancer Society and The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. If you have not yet been sexually active talk to your doctor as you may not need one.
2. The Napkin. A newbie patient of mine asked me why we place a “napkin” over her lap if she’s already in a gown. It’s a great question and the paper drape looks like a large napkin which will be draped over you for additional privacy while you are in stirrups.
3. The clicking sound. Plastic speculums have a light inserted inside of them making them more popular than the older metal speculums. The plastic speculum makes a clicking sound when it is opened inside of the vagina to visualize the cervix and as another newbie of mine summed up perfectly “is that a staple gun?” Nope, it’s the clicking sound of the plastic speculum.
4. Frog legs. The most uncomfortable and unnatural part of the pap is having your legs spread open with your knees flopping to the side. It’s a frog legged position you will be in and it’s just awkward but you’ll get used to it.
5. The stirrups with socks on them. The covers on the stirrups look like socks with rubber pads on the bottom of them, you will place your feet in there and the look of them will make you laugh.
6. What you feel? The cervix has very few nerve endings so is not sensitive to ordinary touch. The sample taken from the outside of your cervix will feel just like light pressure, the endocervical sample (the canal from the opening of the cervix to the uterus) may cause a very slight cramping but should not cause pain.
7. Spotting. You may have slight spotting after your pap and that’s normal. Don’t worry if you see a drop or two of bright red blood on your underwear after your pap. The cervix can bleed easily and that’s not scary.
8. The wait. It’s 1.5 - 3 weeks before the results of your pap and HPV testing (if it was done as well) are back as a cytotechnologist and/or pathologist has to look at the cells under the microscope.
9. How often. One of the sweeping changes in medicine over the last few years has been the loosening of the recommendation for how often you need a pap. For most folks it is every 3 years and for some it can be every 5 years you will ask your doctor which one you are.
10. Wipe after done. The gel used on the speculum will feel goopy so your doc may give you a box of tissues or a wipe to use to wipe that gel away.
See, it wasn’t so bad right?
- Dr. O
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