Pap smears are medical tests used to check the health of the cervix. While many women get pap smears as part of their regular wellness exams, your doctor may also perform this test as part of your pregnancy and prenatal workup. Bleeding during pregnancy may also indicate the need for a thorough investigation, including a pap smear.
Pap smears are gynecological exams usually performed on women by the age of 21 years or within three years of becoming sexually active. Your doctor may recommend you get a Pap smear once each year for three years and every three years thereafter, as long as your results are normal. During the exam, your doctor will use a small tool to remove numerous cells from the area of your cervix. A laboratory can then examine the sample under a microscope to detect any unusual changes in the cells.
A Pap smear looks for changes in cervical cells that may indicate the presence of cancer or precancerous conditions. This test can detect about 95 percent of cervical cancers. While these tests don’t specifically look for other disorders, they can help uncover the presence of conditions that may cause pelvic pain or vaginal bleeding. According to the American Pregnancy Association, Pap smears during pregnancy pose no danger to your developing baby.
The results of your Pap smear will be either negative or positive. A negative result means that the cervical cells were normal. A positive result indicates the presence of abnormal cells. A positive result does not mean you have cancer or a precancerous condition. Positive results require further testing to determine the cause of your abnormal cervical cells.
A number of factors can cause positive results from Pap smears. Conditions that may lead to a positive reading include, yeast infections, herpes, inflammation, infections, herpes and the human papilloma virus.
Your doctor may want to perform additional Pap smears during your pregnancy. Common medical procedures used to follow up on cervical abnormalities include a cervical biopsy or a colposcopy. During these procedures, you may experience slight bleeding from the outer part of your cervix, a condition that does not pose a risk to your developing baby. An internal biopsy of the tissue inside your endocervical canal is a more aggressive procedure that may pose a slight risk to your pregnancy. Discuss any concerns with your doctor, including the possibility of delaying further tests until after the birth of your baby.