Young women are seldom taught to focus on their health, so if you’re looking to get your first ever pap smear, good job! You should be proud of yourself for making this decision, because it takes a lot of courage to prioritize yourself and your health, especially with the kind of mystery and misunderstanding around women’s health.

A pap smear isn’t as scary as it’s made out to be. In fact, it’s a simple routine test that gynaecologists recommend women between the ages of 21 and 65 get, every three years. Pap smears play an important role in your long-term health. If you’re a parent, or an individual looking to schedule an appointment, you have nothing to worry about.

Here are some things that are worth knowing to better prepare yourself for the physical exam and test:  

What happens during a pap smear?

Your pap smear can be a part of an overall physical examination or a separate test you opt for.

After your doctor or a nurse take yu history and biodata, including age, sexual activity, medical conditions and other vital information, you will be asked to lay back while the doctor gently scrapes cell samples from your cervix.

The samples are collected using a small spatula, or other medical tools like brushes.

The entire procedure lasts between 3 and 5 minutes, and while it’s normal to feel shy, awkward, embarrassed, and uneasy, it’s nothing to be worried about. It’s pretty normal, and hundreds of other women and girls have been right where you have. You should never hesitate to ask your women’s healthcare specialist about any concerns, queries, or express discomfort.

What are they looking out for?

While tests are recommended at the age of 21, if you’ve been sexually active before that, or experience symptoms such as discharge, pain, missed periods, intense cramps, you should consult your doctor. These could be signs that something is wrong and allow your doctor to rule out HPV or cervical cancer in the process.  

Some women who’ve been vaccinated for HPV may not need a pap smear, but it is recommended to test for other concerns such as abnormal cell division and masses. Different factors such as age and medical procedures like hysterectomies, and childbirth and other infections can affect when and if you need the test. Sometimes, for women over 30, these tests can be in combination with HPC screenings.  

How I schedule my appointment?

To schedule an appointment at our Sacramento clinic, you can contact us here. We also have other health services and experts, including immunization specialists who could help you with HPV vaccines. Learn more about our women’s health work here.