Taking the Fear and Anxiety out of Your Pap Smear

Most women-especially younger women-experience a great deal of anxiety before undergoing a pap smear, and some women even end up canceling the appointment out of fear. Most of the fears and anxieties associated with a pap smear can be alleviated with a little bit of education and information. There are certain websites on the Internet that will show in exact detail how a pap smear is performed, and can offer information about this relatively routine screening tool which can detect cervical cancer cells. All women over the age of 18 should definitely have a yearly pap smear, and while it is not painful, it can be uncomfortable. It's important to have a gynecologist with whom you can talk openly about your concerns, although most doctors will explain to you what will happen during the procedure, especially if it is your first time. Most of us have female relatives or close friends who can also offer a firsthand perspective on what it's like to have a pap smear performed. Probably the majority of them will tell you that while getting their yearly pap smear is far from their favorite activity, it is nonetheless a fairly simple, generally painless procedure which is essential for your health.

Deep Breathing Exercises

If your fear seems to be getting the better of you on the day of your pap smear, try some deep breathing exercises. Push out your stomach while inhaling deeply through your nose, filling your lungs to capacity. Hold this breath in for a second or two, then exhale slowly and deliberately. Try these deep breathing exercises immediately prior to your pap smear, and you may be pleasantly surprised at how calm and in control you feel.

When-and How--to Have Your Pap Smear

Schedule your pap smear for a time when you are not on your period-the best time is from 10 to 20 days following your menstrual cycle. Avoid having sex for at least 24 hours prior to your schedule pap smear-forty-eight is even better. Don't use any type of vaginal cream prior to your pap smear, and don't douche ahead of time either. For women who are sexually active, you should have a pap smear performed at least once per year. You will be put into an examination room, and asked to disrobe. You will be given a paper gown that truly fits no one, then will wait for the doctor. The doctor will have a nurse in the room during your pap smear, and will have you lie on your back, place your feet in the "stirrups" at the end of the table, and spread your legs apart. Your physician will insert a speculum into the vaginal canal to enable the cervix to be clearly viewed. Any cervical mucus will be cleared away, then a cervical brush will be inserted and twirled around to collect the necessary cells. Cells are gathered from the cervix, then smeared on a microscope slide and examined for any precancerous or cancerous cells. It takes hardly any time at all, and although it is potentially embarrassing and probably uncomfortable, it is over quickly.

Other Reasons to Schedule a Pap Smear

If your period has stopped and you don't know why, if you have not yet had a period and are older than fifteen, or if you are having unexplained bleeding or spotting between periods, it is a good idea to have a pap smear done, even if it's not time for your annual exam. If you've had itching, sores or swelling, pelvic pain, or any kid of odd discharge or odor, again, it is time to see the gynecologist and have a pap smear done to reassure yourself there are no cancerous cells present. While some women feel very strongly about having a female doctor or nurse-practitioner perform the pap smear, others really have no preference. If you have strong feelings about it, make sure you voice them, and have your request honored. Be sure to ask when the results will be back and whether you will have to call for the results of your pap smear or if they will call you or mail you the results. Think of your pap smear as simply one more thing to check off your "to-do" list and try not to stress about it, and it will be over and done before you know it.

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