What Is A Pap Smear & What Happens During A Pap Test?

Yikes! It's no where as bad as this looks! | ShutterStock

Yikes! It’s no where as bad as this looks! | ShutterStock

What is a pap smear? What actually happens during a Pap test?

ChickRx expert Evelyn Resh, Certified Sexuality Counselor & Nurse Midwife says:

Great questions and I’m really glad you asked them.

Going to the gynecologist can be a scary thing if you don’t know what to expect. But once you know the info, it’s far less scary. And once you actually go, you’ll realize that it’s not scary at all.

After your doctor has checked your thyroid gland in your neck, listened to your lungs and heart, done a breast exam and an abdominal exam, he or she will have you remain laying down and then get ready to do your Pap smear.

The first step is to get you into position. There are stirrup-like foot rests on either side of the exam table that you will put your feet into. Your buttocks will need to be at the very edge of the exam table to do this. Your legs have to be spread apart for the exam. As weird as stirrups look, do your best to relax. The exam is much more comfortable if you’re relaxed.

Now that you’re in position, your doctor will first simply look at your external genitals to see if their appearance is normal. Then, a vaginal speculum (a devise designed to open the vagina) will be inserted into your vagina and opened. This will allow your doc to view the inside of the vagina and take a collection of cells from your cervix. This collection of cells is the actual Pap smear.

Most women have very little sensation in their cervix and don’t really feel their Pap smear being done. And even if you do feel it, it isn’t painful. After this, the speculum is closed and pulled out.

The cells collected from the Pap smear will be tested for any abnormalities. This test can help catch the problem cells that lead to cervical cancer.

After the Pap smear, two well lubricated fingers are inserted into your vagina while placing the opposite hand on your lower abdomen and pushing down. This enables the examiner to feel the shape and size of your uterus and to make sure there are no abnormalities on your ovaries and Fallopian tubes.

Once that’s over, that’s it! That’s your entire pelvic exam, Pap smear at all.

I suggest you make a point of telling your doctor that this is your first exam and ask him or her to let you know everything he or she is doing to do BEFORE it’s done. This is a totally normal request for a first timer to the gynecologist.

Got more questions? Post them in the comments below or head on over to ChickRx.com.

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  • Jennifer

    You do not need a pap smear until you are 21 years old (whether you are sexually active or not) OR 3 years after you DO become sexually active (ie: if you start having sex at 15, you should get your first pap at 18). I had my first one at 21, and just had my second one a few weeks ago. Mine feels like a sharp pinch while the exam is happening, but luckily thats only 10 seconds tops before its over with. My doctor is really good and quick. Just do your research on drs in your area – I go to the same gyno my mom goes to.

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  • LovelyStars

    Will the doctors tell my mum if im a virgin or not?

  • Grace

    I have been getting pap smears and exams since I was 18. It is a little awkward the first few times, but each time it gets easier and easier! Also, pap smears don’t hurt. Sometimes there is some discomfort, but not actual pain. Sometimes, the OB/GYN can accidentally pinch you inside with the speculum. Just make sure you ask around and go to a OB/GYN with an outstanding reputation. Being a virgin doesn’t change anything. And there is no pain afterwards, just a slight embarrassed feeling the first few times you get one. DON’T put off getting checked out because you are nervous! I had a friend who did even though she was sexually active, and ended up losing an ovary because she had cysts that went undiagnosed for far too long! Try to relax and take deep breaths! The whole exam literally lasts 10 minutes! No biggie!

  • jay

    it hurt me. And the worst part of all was that I was on my period which is supposed the be a “great time to get pap smears. Ha

  • JustDMarie

    I feel so self conscious about my body “Down There” I honestly don’t wanna have my gyno exam till I’m at least 16, 17 or maybe even 18. Cause I know you need to have it before ur 20… but still… I don’t even like the idea of Masturbation, let alone THIS!….

  • Megan

    I know this is pointless info but when I was 12 (still am) my 16 year old cousin raped me. My mum took me to the doctors because she was worried if something bad could happen because I haven’t had my period. Eventually my doctor said I needed to be examined and have a pap smear I was so scared but it did hurt a little I’m not going to lie I think it’s because I’m still not used to the feeling (not even tampons YUCK!) and I think it’s supposed to get wider the more things are put up it

  • Ana

    Does it hurt after?!

  • abcdaqua

    Will it hurt if you’re a virgin? Because I am one…

  • Tayylove96

    Pap smears do hurt! If you relax and take deep breaths and think about something other than someone invading your goods it will be over before you know it!